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From Community Banking to Community Building: Empowering South Dallas Entrepreneurs
A version of this story originally appeared in
There are stark racial and gender disparities in the small-business landscape of Dallas County, Texas. This inequality impacts the financial trajectories and quality of life of individual entrepreneurs—such as their ability to keep their businesses open and pay for personal needs, including housing and groceries—as well as the fate of whole communities.
Take South Dallas, which is collectively about 84 percent Black, Hispanic, and Latino. The area’s unemployment and poverty rates are over twice the Dallas County average.
To help bridge the access gap, a Chase Community Center branch opened in March 2021 in South Dallas’ Oak Cliff. The branch acts as a connector in the neighborhood, ensuring that resources are shared and relationships built between small businesses, community leaders, and nonprofit partners, so that they can uplift one another. The branch’s offerings include a business pop-up zone where local entrepreneurs who may not have storefronts can showcase their goods, as well as complimentary workshops with Chase small-business consultants to help those entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.
This approach aims to ensure that wealth is built in the community—and that it stays there. As the branch’s community manager, Terri Thomas, says, “We’re going from community banking to community building.”
Chase business consultants are also part of the area’s small-business ecosystem and work with local groups to extend their reach and support more entrepreneurs.
One such partner is the Dallas Entrepreneur Center Network (The DEC Network), a nonprofit that supports entrepreneurs in building and growing their businesses. In 2020, the DEC Network intervened to change the course of small-business growth in South Dallas—and united a broad range of partners in a mission to foster economic equality.
Those partners formed the B.U.I.L.D. Collaborative, a small-business ecosystem. The DEC Network, the lead partner, works in conjunction with the City of Dallas Small Business Center on this effort. The ecosystem is designed to respond directly to the economic disparities that Black, Hispanic, Latino, and women-owned small businesses face, which were identified in a 2019 assessment of the small-business landscape in Dallas that was funded by JPMorgan Chase.
The ecosystem acts as a support network, and includes entrepreneurs, education partners, civic and government institutions, nonprofits, and other public entities.
The idea is to pool all of the community’s resources into one structure, creating pathways for coordination and information sharing. It also builds opportunities for financial education, small-business “boot camps,” and mentorship across organizations, with the aim of closing the capital gap for emerging entrepreneurs in underserved communities. As Demetra Brown, senior director of The DEC Network, explains, expanding access to these resources in South Dallas is a matter of equity.
Local small-business ecosystems, such as The DEC Network, and their community partners, such as the Chase Oak Cliff Community Center, work together to understand and address the unique needs of residents. Through collaboration, they can provide local resources that help communities thrive.