SourceLinkDallas is the new one-stop shop for Dallas entrepreneurs and small business owners. The program brings together resources from dozens of organizations and makes them available to the small business community. Though the program is for all Dallas small businesses, it was born from the Small Business Team under the Mayor’s Southern Dallas Task Force during Tom Leppert’s tenure. This group of community leaders considered several ideas for a larger small business commitment from the City of Dallas. Jim Reid, a former Dallas Assistant City manager and long-time proponent of small businesses introduced the Source Link program to the Task Force in a white paper commissioned by the City. The idea was well received at the time, but the top priority then was additional funding for small businesses. The City contributed $1M to a revolving loan fund managed by the Southern Dallas Development Corporation.
A new mayor and a new southern Dallas initiative was the next opportunity to launch SourceLink in Dallas. In 2011, Mayor Mike Rawlings campaigned on a platform to maintain the public safety budget, rally community support for Dallas public schools and to bring more economic development to southern Dallas. The GrowSouth campaign was crafted to address that third point. The program recognized two important realities of community development. It is a long-term process, and each neighborhood is unique and needs a unique approach. GrowSouth focused on seven distinct areas in southern Dallas and identified multiple tools to apply in each area at once. City staff recommended a small business component be included in GrowSouth. The Mayor became an immediate supporter of the SourceLink idea and even took personal time to meet with the program’s creators in Kansas City. SourceLinkDallas became the Dallas incarnation of a program that has successfully strengthened the entrepreneurial ecosystem in almost two-dozen cities and states.
In March this year, the Dallas City Council directed staff to create the SourceLinkDallas program. Most City-funded development programs, which focus on big business recruitment and retention, tend to be funding tools. SourceLinkDallas provides information, connectivity and coordination rather than direct funding for businesses. Any business can access the resources made available on the website. SourceLinkDallas has two main functions. First, www.sourcelinkdallas.org and 855-SLDallas is the public interface with the business community. Dallas entrepreneurs can use these links to find business counseling and training, networking opportunities and funding resources. Features like a matching tool and an event calendar connect them to our partners. Second, SourceLinkDallas works with likeminded organizations that have a mission to make Dallas a more supportive city for entrepreneurs. By providing liaison and networking opportunities SourceLinkDallas helps strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The program was officially launched by the Mayor in Pleasant Grove on October 2nd. A new community engagement process is being developed in that area because it is representative of southern Dallas overall. It is a racially, ethnically and commercially diverse community of neighborhoods. There are many types of entrepreneurs there and almost 4,100 micro businesses – firms with an owner and up to four employees. The marketing and community engagement ideas developed in Pleasant Grove will be applied throughout southern Dallas in the coming months. As we look for strategic long-term partnerships throughout the city, SourceLinkDallas will focus its marketing activities on the seven GrowSouth focus areas. In future posts we will outline the mission and vision for the program and speculate on how SourceLinkDallas may change entrepreneurship in Dallas.
We spent much of the summer identifying and meeting with organizations in Dallas and recruiting them into the SourceLinkDallas network. The number of partners is approaching five dozen and there are many more groups that we have not had a chance to meet with. Recruitment is an ongoing process. So if you know of a nonprofit or government agency that has something to offer Dallas’ small business and entrepreneurial communities let us know at [email protected].