Veggie burgers get noticed
Jersey City business wins third place in state-wide contest
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Dec 08, 2013 | 6462 views | 0 0 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A WINNER APPEAL – Elizabeth Migliore delivers her winning pitch.
view slideshow (3 images)

Elizabeth Migliore, owner of Jersey City Veggie Burgers, finished third in Rising Tide Capital’s sixth annual Global Entrepreneurship Week Celebration in November.

Migliore won the $5,000 third prize at the Grand Finale of the Start Something Challenge Business Pitch Competition in Jersey City. Her store creates wholesome, locally-sourced, hand-crafted veggie burgers, and she is a graduate of Rising Tide Capital’s Community Business Academy.

“Winning cash prize for my business in the Challenge feels awesome!” she said. “I am very excited to be able to update my kitchen, work more efficiently, and expand to take my business to the next step. I would advise aspiring entrepreneurs to be patient and learn and grow from small failures along the way.”

The idea behind the contest is to promote small business and people who come up with innovative ideas, and to help them find the resources they need to grow.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop welcomed all of the 10 finalist entrepreneurs to Jersey City, and presented them with a proclamation to mark the occasion.
“Most of job creation comes from small business and local start ups.” – Alfa Demmellash
“The Start Something Challenge takes people’s natural inspiration, and helps them create a structure to support it. It is really difficult to take something from scratch and turn it into a viable business,” said Alfa Demmellash, CEO and co-founder of Rising Tide Capital, a statewide not for profit that helps small businesses and entrepreneurs get the resources they need to grow.

“As an entrepreneur, you need knowledge, social, and, ultimately, financial capital to turn your idea into a successful business. Pitching in front of a large audience challenged all ten finalists to demonstrate their knowledge, build social capital and have an opportunity to gain financing. What better way to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week than to support committed entrepreneurs who want to start something?”

Pitching to the judges

More than 80 people gathered in Pope Hall at Saint Peter’s University to hear each of the 10 finalists pitch their ideas head-to-head in hopes of winning the grand prize. They each made a four minute business pitch followed by a two minute question and answer session with the judges. Some used props to illustrate their business and they all showed their 30-section online commercial that helped them reach the finals of the competition.

The Challenge was underwritten by JPMorgan Chase, the Sheri Sobrato Fund, the Tori Burch Foundation, the Citi Foundation, Wells Fargo and the Provident Bank Foundation, as part of their commitment to small businesses and entrepreneurship in New Jersey.

This phase of the competition was judged by business leaders and representatives from the sponsoring organizations: Robert Weiss, market president, JPMorgan Chase; Carlos Medina, president and CEO, Robinson Aerial Surveys, Inc. and president of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Dawn Fitch, founder and creator, POOKA; Ruthie Ackerman, senior program manager, Tory Burch Foundation; Stacey Flanagan, director of health and human services, City of Jersey City; Cristina DeVito, SVP of new event development, Tough Mudder; Jeff Handler, VP of enrollment management and marketing, Saint Peter’s University; James Johnson-Piett, principal/CEO, Urbane Development, LLC, and Elnardo J Webster, Ed.D., former superintendent, 21st Century Learning Center.

One hundred and seven entrepreneurs from 38 cities and towns throughout New Jersey entered the Challenge, with 30 advancing to the semifinals of the competition on Oct. 23. The semifinalists used various online and offline marketing tools to drive traffic to view and vote for their videos on the Start Something Challenge website. Two entrepreneurs from each of the five Challenge business sectors advanced to the finals of the competition to pitch for the life changing opportunity to finance their business.

The idea behind the competition was to help entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground, said Demmellash, who said this is usually one of the more difficult stages people face.

The idea is to share their ideas and to attract investors, partners, and customers.

“Most of job creation comes from small business and local start ups,” she said. “But these businesses often have a hard time getting access to the resources they need, potential investors and grow their customer base.”

Developing skills

The not for profit organization helps entrepreneurs get the skills they need, and manage their resources better and so their businesses can get stronger, hire others, get investors and customers and deliver their products.

Some of the things the not for profit helps them with can be as simple as developing a solid business plan that looks at what customers need, at competition and their edge, at the product they offer, and whether or not the needs of the local community are being met in a certain area and how to best meet these needs.

Initiatives such as Small Business Saturday play a role in helping draw attention to the impact mom and pop stores have on the local economy, she said, especially around the holidays when many people benefit from the more direct impact these business have.

“When people shop in these stores, they provide the stores with revenue to hire locally,” she said. “Often young people or senior citizens get jobs and shopping in these stores has a ripple effect in the local economy greater than shopping in larger malls. Much more of the money spent stays local.”

Entrepreneurs play a huge role in maintaining a local community, and are part of the solution for restoring the health of the national economy.

“Many people look at the solution as from the top down,” she said. “But it is the small business that is the solution.”

Al Sullivan may be reached at

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