Many people falsely believe impact investing is strictly international in scope without the opportunity to invest in and help "their neighbor."

The Rising Tide Exchange 2.0 proves just how wrong those people are.

The Rising Tide Exchange is a new online platform designed to streamline the connections between underserved N.J. entrepreneurs and micro-lenders. Considering the battering that Superstorm Sandy gave New Jersey, and the outpouring of goodwill, the exchange seems particularly well-positioned to make a positive impact on the community.

Here's how it works: The exchange features local entrepreneurs, exhibits their profiles, and facilitates the ability to connect and invest. It trains entrepreneurs through a 12-week course. (Check out It's pretty straightforward and simple. And it works.

Last year, by leveraging a $150,000 investment from Citi Community Development Fund, Rising Tide Capital—the Jersey City, N.J.-based microbusiness development nonprofit behind the exchange—86 entrepreneurs graduated from its Community Business Academy.

Rising Tide Capital estimates 6,400 individuals in New Jersey have turned to entrepreneurship to supplement their incomes, and that 75,000 people in the state struggle with financial self-sufficiency because of unemployment, under-employment and the proliferation of low-wage jobs. Moreover, businesses with five employees or less often find it difficult to get loans. According to Accion, an international microfinance organization, nearly 11 million micro-enterprises in the U.S. are not able to acquire loans through traditional means.

The process of finding the right match is daunting for first-time borrowers, says Alfa Demmellash, CEO of Rising Tide Capital.

This is where impact investments can fill the void.

"The Rising Tide Exchange 2.0 is a clearinghouse for online entrepreneur business profiles which reflect the criteria of multiple micro-lenders. The platform will provide entrepreneurs with choices and micro-lenders with a steady stream of qualified entrepreneurs," Demmellash says.

The initial version of the Exchange platform was launched in 2012, and was also underwritten by Citi Community Development funding. To date, Rising Tide Capital has graduated more than 560 entrepreneurs from its three-month Community Business Academy Program. It also supports more than 300 entrepreneurs yearly with follow-up services through its Business Acceleration Services program.

Who says impact investing can't be global, meaning taking into account local entrepreneurs, too?

Calvert, Citi, SJF Ventures and other financial institutions also know what works overseas works here just as well. Grameen Bank has even opened branches in the U.S. to service the growing micro-lending opportunities.  

To be sure, impact investing has proved its long reach around the world into suffering communities. But let's not forget the opportunities to help and invest in others shorter distances away; some even in our own backyards.

The Rising Tide Exchange 2.0 reminds us.