Incubators Signal Entrepreneurial Groundswell in Southern Dallas

The Red Bird Entrepreneur Center will be in an office building across the parking lot from the Southwest Center Mall.

Southern

Southern Dallas’ need for a business incubator is well exemplified by Sweet Thangs by Lo, operated by cake baker Lauren Rodgers out of her 1,200-square-foot condo in Southern Dallas.

“I operate under Texas Cottage Law, which allows me to operate in my home,” she said. “It caps maximum revenue at $50,000, but the biggest hindrance is the capital for a store front.”

Rather than meeting clients in her home or in coffee shops, she meets them in her condo’s community room, which she says, isn’t often the most conducive setting to doing business.

When her friend, B. Michelle Williams, told her about an initiative by The Dallas Entrepreneur Center (The DEC), to open a business incubator space near Southwest Center Mall, Rodgers rejoiced.

MULTIMILLION RENOVATION PLANNED AT MALL

Through the DEC’s Red Bird Entrepreneur Center, she could not only have office space and someone to take her calls while she’s baking cakes (Rodgers specializes in elaborate, custom-made, layered, Southern Style cakes that serve between 175 and 500 people), she could also collaborate with fellow entrepreneurs, and consult with the mentors who already have launched their own businesses.

The future site of the Red Bird Entrepreneur Center.

On Saturday, developers and city leaders announced that the mall is slated for a multimillion-dollar renovation. The mall will be transformed into a new mixed-use development that will include retail and restaurants, an office building and hotel, a park, and apartments.  The name Southwest Center Mall also will be retired and the area will return to being called Red Bird.

The Red Bird Entrepreneur Center, expected to open by May, first will be in an office building at 7222 S. Westmoreland Road, just across the parking lot from the mall. It will move into the new mixed-use development once it is completed. The Red Bird location also will serve as the hub for DEC’s Southern Dallas Entrepreneur Network, which will include satellite offices at Paul Quinn College and the University of North Texas Dallas. The university locations will be faculty-led and are expected to open in the fall.

While exactly what will go into the Red Bird entrepreneur space is still in flux, business programming and services will be based on the community’s needs, said Williams, who will serve as the regional director for the nonprofit DEC’s Southern Dallas locations.

Williams, president of the Dallas-Fort Worth Urban League Young Professionals, said Rodgers is just one of many entrepreneurs who want to branch out in Southern Dallas. (Just a few other examples include a landscaping and horticulture and management consultant businesses.)

“There’s definitely that kind of energy, and they’re trying to figure out how to get multiple streams of income.”
B. Michelle Williams

“There’s definitely that kind of energy, and they’re trying to figure out how to get multiple streams of income,” said Williams, adding that the Urban League Young Professionals group alone has a large number of aspiring entrepreneurs who could take advantage of such a space.

Southwest Center Mall owner Peter Brodsky said after he bought Southwest Center, he heard strong demand for start-up space in Southern Dallas.

“Over the last year since I acquired Southwest Center Mall, I have met extensively with members of the surrounding community to find out what they want to see in the redevelopment,” said Brodsky, a private equity investor who bought the mall in 2015 for its redevelopment. “An incubator space has been in the top five requests. There is a terrific entrepreneurial spirit in southern Dallas and I am excited that this fabulous resource for entrepreneurs will be available to this community to help Southern Dallas create business and jobs.”

This Red Bird Entrepreneur Center at 7222 S. Westmoreland Road will serve entrepreneurs and startups in Oak Cliff and Duncanville, Cedar Hill, DeSoto, Lancaster, Glenn Heights, Red Oak, and other communities in Southern Dallas County.

The opening of these locations closely aligns with the work already underway with Mayor Mike Rawlings GrowSouth initiative.

“The expansion of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center into the Education Corridor is one that I am incredibly excited about,” said Christie Myers, a general manager of NeighborUp Dallas, a nonprofit organization working with GrowSouth to improve the Southern Dallas economy. “Having space at both UNT Dallas and Paul Quinn College will grant both students and residents opportunities to think outside of the box and begin to turn their entrepreneur dreams into realities.”

“The expansion of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center into the Education Corridor is one that I am incredibly excited about.”
Christy Myers

All three locations in Southern Dallas are expected to serve entrepreneurs and startups in the surrounding cities such as Duncanville, Cedar Hill, DeSoto, Lancaster, Glenn Heights, Red Oak and other communities in Southern Dallas County.

The Zip Code Connection is working within The DEC’s entrepreneurial framework in establishing The District, to boost the economy in one of Dallas County’s lowest-income ZIP codes.

The DEC is also expanding its mission to the Fair Park neighborhood, assisting in the opening of an office with The Zip Code Connection, an organization whose mission includes bolstering the economy in the Fair Park neighborhood. The space, located at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and South Malcolm X Boulevard, will be operated by the Zip Code Connection, on The DEC’s philosophy of serving entrepreneurs. The 5,000 square-foot office will be dubbed the Fair Park District Entrepreneur Center (or, The District).

The Zip Code Connection’s director for South Dallas/Fair Park, George Battle III, said that for years, he’s been working with South Dallas groups, including the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, to eradicate poverty in the area located in South Dallas/Fair Park.

“Our collective, main goal was to identify or create trained people, living and working in places, who are in livable career path jobs within the South Dallas Fair Park District,” Battle wrote in an email, describing the work. “An incubator for business and development needs became the first outcome from all the activities our ‘Boots on the Ground’ team did.”

Those openings will mark The DEC’s first ventures into Southern Dallas. The DEC already has launched five spinoff locations across Texas, creating more than 1,000 jobs and raising more than $115 million in investments.

 “An incubator for business and development needs became the first outcome from all the activities our ‘Boots on the Ground’ team did.”
George Battle III

All told, in the past week, there have been announcements involving five new business incubators being established in Southern Dallas to provide entrepreneurs with three key ingredients for success: good locations; workspaces/places of business where utilities, certificates for occupancy, etc., are already established; and, perhaps most importantly, collaborative environments where creative minds can develop and advance their businesses, and work with mentors who have successfully launched their own ventures.

The Southern Dallas entrepreneur ecosystem includes new facilities supported by the Dallas Entrepreneur Center at Red Bird mall, UNT Dallas, Paul Quinn College and South Dallas/Fair Park.

Elsewhere, in Oak Cliff, the $4 million acquisition, renovation and launch of Tyler Station, a 125,000-square-foot former Dixie Wax Paper Co. manufacturing plant that is expected to employ about 100 entrepreneurs, from brewmasters, to interior designers, to dance and movement instructors and students.

And in the Cedars, Goodwork plans to open a 60,000 square foot coworking space in a refurbished warehouse at 1808 S. Good Latimer Expressway. These new initiatives join Common Desk and the Kessler Co-Op, already operating in Southern Dallas.


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