Jersey City Entrepreneur, Alex Sartoga, wins the 2018 Start Something Challenge
At some point, you may have heard politicians, economists, and community advocates talk about the importance of small business and entrepreneurship to local communities and their economies. We hear words like “job creation” and “increasing tax base” thrown around, but what does local entrepreneurship look like in practice?
Meet Alexandra Sartoga, our 2018 Start Something Challenge Grand Champion. A Jersey City resident, Alex is the owner of Garden Steaks–a local catering company–and is currently looking to open a storefront in The Junction at 743 Grand Street in the Bergen-Lafayette area of Jersey City.
The Steak Shack will capitalize on the diverse audience in the area, offering breakfast to local firemen or police officers, and dinner to a younger customer looking for a hip place to eat on evenings. However, while The Steak Shack would bring new food options to a place that is a food desert, these kinds of customers are not the primary reason that Alex is opening this new business.
Living across from Lincoln High School, she noticed that the students at the high school would frequently patronize the same fast food restaurants over and over again. Through the Steak Shack, she wants to provide fast, low-cost lunch options for these kids, giving them something healthy to eat at a price they can afford.
“When we open, we’d like to offer incentives for local students to get free lunches for academic excellence. For me, it’s bigger than just bringing business to the neighborhood; we love the community — we live and work here.”
Alex, a Rising Tide Entrepreneur and member of our inaugural EarthRISE 50, is one of 118 Community Business Academy Graduates that entered this year’s Start Something Challenge, the largest competition to date. The EarthRISE Edition of the competition culminated at The Start Something Summit, where 15 of the EarthRISE 50 Entrepreneurs pitched live in front of a panel of judges for a chance to win $5,000 in their sector. Alex not only won in the Food Sector, but she pitched head-to-head a second time against 4 other sector winners, and won an additional $5,000 as the competition grand prize winner, bringing her winnings to $10,000.
“I am overwhelmed with gratitude to RTC for this opportunity. I have always had a fear of public speaking, but this year I decided to put my fears aside and enter the challenge. I thought it would be a great way to try and overcome my fear. I worked hard to refine my pitch, but ultimately I decided to speak from the heart about my journey as an entrepreneur, and I was so grateful that everyone could hear my message.” Alex said.
“Alex is not simply a talented, trained chef, she is also someone who has worked in this community for over ten years, and has a passion for bringing everyone in this community together around good, healthy food,” said Alfa Demmellash, CEO and co-founder of Rising Tide Capital. “Whether she is mentoring young people to start a career in food services, or feeding the homeless during the holidays, Alex is truly a local leader within her community. She exemplifies the earthrise principles of deep collaboration, interdependence, and long-term thinking.”
The Steak Shack is still working towards a grand opening. In her pitch, Alex talked about the need for much-needed repairs and equipment, such as a convection oven, a new grill, some new lighting, and outdoor furniture.
“Winning for me is a tremendous opportunity. I’ve had much difficulty to open the Steak Shack, and this competition gave me the encouragement and empowerment I needed to see this through and get the doors open and improve accessibility in my neighborhood.”