Woman working in hat shop

Joining forces to boost local entrepreneurs

A coalition of Dallas business organizations is providing startups with microgrants and access to support services

Small businesses have the potential to revitalize neighborhoods and create jobs, yet minority and women entrepreneurs often lack the resources and capital needed to successfully launch and grow a business. In Dallas, a 2019 study found that 20% of local small businesses were owned by women, and only 12% of business owners were Black and Hispanic-Latino, with revenues at those minority-owned firms just a fraction of what the city’s white-owned small businesses brought in.footnote1

In 2020, those findings brought together more than 40 business organizations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to form the B.U.I.L.D. Collaborative, short for Broadening Urban Investments to Leverage Dallas. By providing access to flexible funding options, technical assistance, support services and other resources, B.U.I.L.D. aims to promote and support equitable and inclusive entrepreneurial growth in the city. The Dallas Entrepreneur Center (DEC), a nonprofit membership organization that offers educational programs and networking opportunities, connects coalition members and administers the program. “Not only are we trying to get these founders more access to capital, but also to make sure that we’re creating a sense of community,” says Alexis Puente, manager of programs and engagement at the DEC.

The B.U.I.L.D. Collaborative also provides direct financial support to small-business owners with grants averaging $2,000, which can help with immediate needs such as staffing, materials or technology. “This money gives owners the opportunity to take their business to the next level,” says Bill Chinn, CEO of the DEC. To date, awardees have been mostly in the startup or growth stage of their businesses, with 80% of them women and 83% minorities. Along with the direct financial assistance, grant recipients receive business coaching and technical assistance from the B.U.I.L.D. ecosystem of organizations. The microgrant program is supported by funding from Bank of America. “There’s a huge disparity in investment in founders of color and women founders,” says Chinn. “That’s why we joined forces with Bank of America, which supports entrepreneurs of color in significant ways.”

Denishea Williams, a Dallas entrepreneur who owns UnKom Notary Services, was a grant recipient during the 2020 pilot phase of the program. “Being able to access the grant allowed me to stop, breathe and finally ask experts how to proceed with my business,” she says. “I left with a clear mission, vision and funds to upgrade my systems and computer so I can be accessible to my new clients.”

The support for the B.U.I.L.D. Collaborative is an example of Bank of America’s commitment to help advance racial equality and economic opportunity in local neighborhoods around the country. From entrepreneur funding and expanding home ownership to professional skills training and healthcare access, Bank of America continues to partner with innovative leaders to help communities implement solutions to society’s biggest challenges.