How This Woman's Remarkable Life Helped Her Demystify Business for Underserved Entrepreneurs

Alfa Demmellash survived a brutal dictatorship in Ethiopia, was abducted by her father, came to the U.S. without knowing a lick of English and attended Harvard. Now, she wants to help others.
How This Woman's Remarkable Life Helped Her Demystify Business for Underserved Entrepreneurs
Image credit: Rising Tide Capital

Franchise Your Business

Schedule a FREE one-on-one session with one of our Franchise Advisors today and we’ll help you start building your franchise organization.
3 min read

How Success Happens is a podcast featuring polar explorers, authors, ultra marathoners, artists and more to better understand what connects dreaming and doing. Linda Lacina,'s managing editor, guides these chats so anyone can understand the traits that underpin achievement and what fuels the decisions to push us forward. Listen below or click here to read more shownotes.

Every life is precious. Every life has purpose.

These are lessons Alfa Demmellash learned from her mother who fled her native Ethiopia after the Red Terror, living first in a refugee camp and later in Boston. There, her mother would waitress in the mornings and sew gowns in the evenings -- a small business she’d founded to create extra income so she could one day bring her young daughter to live with her.

Related: Hear How This Woman Coached Herself Through a Near-Death Experience to Become a One-Person Fitness Brand

And they are lessons Demmellash -- surprisingly -- also learned from her father, a man who abducted her as a young girl. Estranged from the family and long divorced from her mother, he subjected her daily to abuse and threats on her life for close to a year. And despite this treatment, she eventually realized she didn’t wish him harm. When he finally let her go, she was forced to hitchhike her way to safety at just 9 years of age. 

These experiences gave her a deep belief that anything is possible and an appreciation for hardworking underserved communities. That understanding drove her to found Rising Tide Capital, a non-profit in New Jersey that has helped build more than 1,000 active, operative businesses by providing much-needed education, training and support. Says Demmellash, “There is a lot of dreaming and a lot of creativity that is often overlooked.”

In this week’s podcast of How Success Happens, she’ll share more of her incredible story, including how she arrived in the United States without knowing a word of English and found herself attending Harvard five years later.

Related: Podcast: Why This Leadership Expert and Former Aviator Says 'Courage is Just Fear That Held On One Minute Longer'

She’ll also explain how understanding the importance of purpose helped her build a model for new entrepreneurs that focuses on the experiential, rather than jargon and terminology.

When you have your why, when you have a sense of your purpose, it is the most resilience-inducing thing you can possibly find,” says Demmellash. “Entrepreneurs who are clear about their why are just breathing a lot better.”

Related: Podcast: When PowerPoints Weren't Working, This Powerful Exec Passed Out Comic Books Instead

To subscribe to this podcast,  find us on the following platforms: SoundCloud, Stitcher, iTunes, Google Play.

More from Entrepreneur
Entrepreneur Select: A Fund For Entrepreneurs, By Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs require more than just money, which is why we aim to empower you, as well as act as a catalyst for value creation.

Discover the franchise that’s right for you by answering some quick questions about
  • Which industry you’re interested in
  • Why you want to buy a franchise
  • What your financial needs are
  • Where you’re located
  • And more
Try a risk-free trial of Entrepreneur’s BIZ PLANNING PLUS powered by LivePlan for 60 days:
  • Get step-by-step guidance for writing your plan
  • Gain inspiration from 500+ sample plans
  • Utilize business and legal templates
  • And much more

Latest on Entrepreneur