Last year, the [email protected] helped launch the B.U.I.L.D. Collaborative’s Small Business Grant Program to provide economic relief to those struggling amidst the economic downfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since then, The [email protected]—an extension of The DEC Network that exclusively focuses on resources, tools, and partnerships that support entrepreneurs in Southern Dallas—has deployed two cycles of microgrants and coaching to more than 50 small business owners. The microgrants were up to $3,500 and the coaching included topics on technology, funding, capacity building, and more.
That success led to Bank of America providing $200,000 in funding to the B.U.I.L.D. program to continue propelling its impact.
“Bank of America’s support is an urgently needed investment in the community that will allow us to continue the important work of assisting Southern Dallas’ small business owners of color and women business owners,” Demetra Brown, senior director of The DEC Network, said in a statement.
“This program serves as a catalyst to the success of small business owners, who desperately need the microgrants Bank of America’s funding will supply.”
B.U.I.L.D. focuses on underserved entrepreneurs
The generation behind Broadening Urban Investment to Leverage Dallas (B.U.I.L.D.) comes from the City of Dallas’ small business strategy.
The collaborative was developed to specifically back female founders, entrepreneurs of color, and underrepresented small business owners who continually face obstacles in securing vital funding or resources for their ventures. The [email protected] and B.U.I.L.D. partners recognized that this group, including those in Southern Dallas, often experienced a more difficult, time-consuming process.
Awardees from the Small Business Grant Program’s first two cycles of support were 80.4% women and 82.6% entrepreneurs of color. Less than one-third had previously received professional business advising. Most were in the startup or growth stage of their business.
One recipient was Denishea Williams, the owner of Unkom Enterprises, a provider of notary public and loan signing services throughout Dallas-Fort Worth. Through B.U.I.L.D., Williams was able to access capital that ultimately allowed Unkom to stabilize during COVID.
“Being able to access the grant allowed me to stop, breathe, and finally ask experts how to proceed with my business,” Williams said. “I left with a clear mission, vision, and funds to upgrade my systems and computer so I can be accessible to my new clients and hopeful employees.”
More than 200 Dallas County business service orgs formed B.U.I.L.D.
The City of Dallas and The [email protected] formed B.U.I.L.D. in collaboration with more than 200 business organizations in Dallas County.
The first-of-its-kind small business ecosystem was meant for small- and medium-sized women- and minority-owned businesses to “unify the wealth of resources and initiatives across Dallas County to provide a centralized resource for small businesses at every stage of the business-cycle.”
It was spearheaded by a number of Dallas leaders: Michelle Williams, The [email protected]; Brian K. Marshal, BCL of Texas; Benjamin Vann, Impact Ventures; and DeNita Lacking-Quinn, City of Dallas’ Office of Business Diversity.
At the time, Zarin Gracey, who is part of the City of Dallas’ Office of Business Diversity, said it was the first resource developed of its kind, one that would directly impact small businesses in Dallas.
Bank of America steps in
The B.U.I.L.D. investment aligns with Bank of America’s mission to advance racial equality and economic opportunity in the communities it serves, according to the company.
It aligns with the bank’s broader five-year, $1.25 billion commitment to boosting areas where systemic, long-term gaps have existed—and “where significant change is required to achieve sustainable progress.” Through that initiative, Bank of America focuses on health, jobs and reskilling, affordable housing, and small business programs.
“For many years, Bank of America has worked with nonprofit partners and other leaders across public and private sectors in DFW to help drive economic mobility for underrepresented populations,” Jennifer Chandler, president of Bank of America Dallas, said in a statement. “Through the B.U.I.L.D. program, The DEC Network is doing incredible work to help strengthen our community’s vitality by addressing needs related to small business and entrepreneurship.”
This isn’t the first alliance between the two. When The [email protected] opened in 2018, the location was awarded $200,000 from Bank of America’s Neighborhood Builders grant.
The DEC, a nonprofit that drives innovation and economic impact for emerging startups and founders in the region, partnered with Reimagine Redbird, which has a mission to bring greater business opportunities and collaboration to Southern Dallas, for The [email protected] launch.
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