For many vendors at the Re-Imagine RedBird Pop-Up Market, the blossoming revitalization and investment in the region, spearheaded by the Dallas Regional Chamber, Dallas Entrepreneur Center and the Red Bird Mall redevelopment team, is bringing much-needed excitement and interest in Southern Dallas.
“I grew up in the RedBird area, and the mall was the place to be,” said Brandie Burkhalter of Identity Jewelry Company. Brandie launched her first jewelry company, Subtle Eccentricities, in 2013; Identity Jewelry Company has been in business for six months. After a friend tagged her on Facebook about the Pop-Up Market, Brandie booked a table for her hand-stamped jewelry and accessories.
Alana Sutton Watkins, founder and curator of Yara Imani, was also alerted by a friend about the Market. Watkins primarily sells her African apparel and accessories online and at pop-up markets, and appreciated the opportunity to connect with the southern sector.
“I have many friends who grew up and still live in the area,” Watkins said. “They often have to travel far to find events like this, so it’s great to have it at RedBird.”
The brains behind the Pop-Up Market and executive director, southern region at the Dallas Entrepreneur Center, Michelle Williams, was pleased to see the turnout at the event both for vendor interest and customer engagement.
“One question that I always get asked is ‘What does entrepreneurship look like in the southern sector?’ and that question always frustrates me because it assumes a deficit,” Williams explained. “For us to see more interest than we could accommodate is an amazing thing. I think it dispels the unspoken myth behind that question that entrepreneurship doesn’t exist in the southern sector.”
The 20 businesses represented ranged from Baldo’s, an independent ice cream shop, and Melanin Origins, a children’s book publisher, to The Belle Pantry, which offers custom blend spices, and Recipe, a plantbased restaurant and juice shop located in Oak Cliff. 77 percent of the companies were female-owned and 59 percent were based in the southern sector.
Williams continues: “Banks will see an entrepreneur from a zip code in the southern sector that may have just as little money as someone in a different zip code, but the first person will be seen as more risky because of the part of town they live in. So when we’re talking about mitigating risk, there is a sense of where you live and what the perception of that area is, and it’s unfair. It’s a lack of access to resources.”
When asked if events like the Pop-Up Market are part of brand building to change perceptions of the lack of entrepreneurship in the southern sector, Williams readily agrees. “100 percent, that’s exactly how it works. In order to show the need for the opportunity, we have to first show there is activity here. By doing an event like this and having all these entrepreneurs respond…I don’t have to make a case, tell a story. I can take a picture and say ‘This is who we’re supporting.’”
Overall, the greatest response that Williams received from vendors was “gratitude,” which turns her slightly emotional.
“People are so gracious…you’re telling me thank you for giving you a platform for your business? That means that no one else, in large numbers, has done that for them. It’s because it is a platform in their community. There is a sense of excitement, and that’s a good feeling.”
What’s next for the Southern Dallas Entrepreneur Network, the larger project under which Red Bird Entrepreneur Center exists?
- The Red Bird Entrepreneur Center construction will hopefully start construction in Jan. 2018; in the meantime, Michelle and team are planning Lunch and Learn events as well as speed mentorship events.
- Mentors will be sourced from the DEC and among leaders in the southern sector.
- The UNT Dallas satellite location will open in February 2018, with Paul Quinn satellite following shortly thereafter.