The DEC Network is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary as a nonprofit entrepreneurship ecosystem builder in Dallas-Fort Worth. But instead of just throwing a party, it’s launching even more innovation hubs to help entrepreneurs start, build, and grow their businesses.
The DEC has announced the launch of “a groundbreaking initiative” with the construction of a new, 20,000-square-foot Innovation Center at The Shops at RedBird in South Dallas.
Known as The DEC Network’s RedBird Innovation Center, the facility will be developed alongside the recently announced Tom Thumb grocery store, marking a significant step in the revitalization of the former Southwest Center Mall.
A public ceremony will be held at the RedBird site from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 12 to coincide with The DEC Network’s 10th anniversary. The event will offer an opportunity for the public to join The DEC Network in celebrating its achievements, with staff members leading informative hard hat tours of the new center.
More space for innovation, co-working, The DEC’s HQ, and more
The RedBird Innovation Center project is being led by Dallas developer Russell Glen Co.
“The DEC Network at RedBird has been a great resource and place for entrepreneurs in the Oak Cliff/ RedBird community to gather, share, and grow,” Russell Glen CEO Terrence G. Maiden said in a statement. “The DEC Network’s new and much larger space will only enhance its impact with a broader reach.”
The center is slated to open in late December or January. In addition to offering plentiful co-working space, the center will house The DEC Network’s headquarters, provide business incubation, accelerator programs, and podcasting rooms, and offer an expansive event space.
The project has received support from partners PepsiCo and Dell for Startups, DEC Network said.
Much-needed resources for entrepreneurs in Southern Dallas
The DEC Network said that The Shops at RedBird and its surrounding Southern Dallas areas lack adequate entrepreneurial resources, making The DEC Network’s RedBird Innovation Center a much-needed hub for entrepreneurs in the region.
The DEC’s $2.1 million investment aims to double the space for entrepreneurs in the South Oak Cliff/RedBird area, fostering an environment conducive to innovation, collaboration, and growth.
“Success is not a solitary journey; it’s a collective effort,” Branden Williams, a Dallas entrepreneur who benefits from The DEC Network’s co-working space, said in a statement. “The DEC Network’s RedBird Innovation Center will be instrumental in creating a thriving ecosystem for entrepreneurs in the South Oak Cliff community. Their unwavering support, through programming, funding, and networking opportunities, has accelerated the growth of my business and that of many others.”
Tarsha Hearns, senior director and project lead at The DEC Network, said the project is key for the area.
“Southern Dallas is known to be an under-resourced area. Our expanded facility will bring much-needed entrepreneurial resources and necessary tools to overcome barriers to access quality training and capital required to start, grow, and scale a business,” Hearns said.
Located near the growing presence of new companies, hospitals, and multifamily units, The DEC’s RedBird Innovation Center is well positioned to support the entrepreneurial growth of Oak Cliff.
The DEC Co-founder Trey Bowles reflects on nonprofit’s 10-year journey
In March, The DEC Co-founder Trey Bowles reflected on the nonprofit’s journey during his keynote speech at the State of Entrepreneurship event.
“We started The DEC with the idea that we wanted to create a collaborative ecosystem in North Texas,” Bowles said, “bringing together all the amazing accelerators, incubators, academic institutions, all the people doing awesome things are on their way to come together and support them.”
The DEC Network was established with a vision to create a collaborative ecosystem that unites accelerators, incubators, academic institutions, and individuals who are driving remarkable ventures. Bowles acknowledged the pivotal role played by the co-founders and service organizations, namely Jennifer Connelly and Jeremy Vickers, whose tireless efforts were instrumental in shaping the DEC Network’s foundation. “None of this would have been possible without the co-founders of our service organization,” he said.
Bowles looked back at the challenges faced in the early days of the initiative, when skeptics questioned the viability of such an endeavor in Texas. Undeterred, the DEC Network embarked on a mission to raise funds, convince stakeholders, and gather support for their vision.
“Think about it: The DEC was an entrepreneurial initiative,” Bowles said. “We had to start it; we had to go raise money. We had to convince people that it was going to work—and I cannot tell you how many people said there’s no way it would work. They said something like that will never happen in North Texas.”
The DRC emerged as a key ally
The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) emerged as a key ally, providing credibility, influence, and invaluable assistance in realizing the DEC Network’s goals, Bowles said.
Bowles lauded the DRC for its involvement and leadership throughout The DEC’s journey. The inaugural corporate sponsorship came from EY, represented by ecosystem champion Deborah von Storch. (The longtime EY Partner and Americas Entrepreneur Of The Year Leader retired, or as she put it, rewired, in 2020.)
The DEC Network’s growth and success over the past decade were further attributed to exceptional board members, passionate employees, and a robust network of supporters. “You’ve created an organization, and now it’s very intentional,” he said.
Bowles highlighted the entrepreneurial accomplishments witnessed within the network, including founders who started and exited companies, real estate agents turned venture capitalists, and even the rise of unique ventures such as a comic book-inspired NFT token platform generating significant revenue.
“The companies that we have here, this ecosystem that we’ve gone through in 10 years, we’ve got founders who come in and started companies, we’ve had founders who have exited companies,” Bowles said. “We’ve had founders that have sold their same company twice.”
Praising the collaborative spirit and supportive nature of the Texas ecosystem, Bowles emphasized that The DEC Network had evolved into a sustainable organization under the leadership of current CEO Bill Chinn.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to go and see what other people are doing across the country,” he said. But, “I have never seen a more collaborative or supportive or amazing ecosystem than the one that we have here in Texas,” Bowles said.
Catalyst for economic growth and innovation in Dallas and Fort Worth
The DEC Network said it continues to make great strides in fostering inclusive entrepreneurship and providing critical support to businesses in Dallas-Fort Worth. The Innovation Center project could redefine the entrepreneurial landscape of the South Oak Cliff community and serve as a catalyst for economic growth and innovation, the DEC Network said.
In addition, The DEC Network announced that beginning in August, it will operate a new center in Fort Worth aimed at helping to support small business owners and startups.
According to the Fort Worth Report, the Fort Worth Local Development Corp. approved $500,000 over two years to create the Fort Worth Entrepreneurship Center, which will be operated by The DEC Network.
You can read more about the Fort Worth center in our story here.
Get on the list.
Dallas Innovates, every day.
Sign up to keep your eye on what’s new and next in Dallas-Fort Worth, every day.