In March, the Center for an Urban Future released “Breaking Through: Harnessing the Economic Potential of Women Entrepreneurs” — a comprehensive report that explores the impact women-led companies have had on economies across the United States, while also outlining ways we can empower and inspire the future growth of women-led businesses. The report was made possible with support from Capital One’s Future Edge initiative, a five-year, $150 million effort to help more American workers and entrepreneurs get the skills, tools and resources they need to succeed in the 21st century. In previous Inc.com posts, I’ve shared insights from the report, specifically, how New York City’s economy stands to benefit from the growing number of women-owned businesses.
When I learned Capital One was bringing this conversation to The Dallas Entrepreneur Center in early May, I jumped at the opportunity — eager to learn more about the impact women business owners are having in the local Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) market. Why is a conversation about women entrepreneurship important in DFW? According to the report, women entrepreneurs and business owners in North Texas are leading the way:
- Dallas ranks first in average sales per women-owned businesses ($198K), as well as fifth in the growth of women-owned firms (58 percent) and the total number of women-owned businesses (52,789).
- Fort Worth ranks third in average sales per women-owned businesses ($186K), second in the growth of women-owned firms (78 percent) and sixteenth in the total number of women-owned businesses (29,425).
At the #StartedByHer panel discussion held at The DEC, housed in Dallas’ historic district build in 1891 known as the West End, I had the opportunity to sit down with Chandra Dhandapani, SVP of Technology and CIO of the Financial Services Division at Capital One. Chandra has been a Dallas resident for 19 years, working at Capital One for 18 of those years, and she is married to an entrepreneur.
One of Chandra’s areas of responsibility is The Garage — Capital One’s innovation lab in Dallas, a physical “maker” space, where cross-functional teams drive new innovation all the way from rapid prototyping to in-market launch of new products. The Garage houses product managers, software engineers, designers and other subject matter experts, all working together in a collaborative fashion and dedicated to innovations in lending.
But The Garage is not only experimenting ways of collaborating internally, it is constantly looking for ways to collaborate externally with the entrepreneur community. For instance, to celebrate the opening of The Garage, Capital One hosted a hackathon for college students, where finalists had the opportunity to present their ideas to Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple. The reason? According to Chandra, corporations like Capital One can’t simply be “guests” in the community they seek to serve; rather, they need to help strengthen the entrepreneurial community by making meaningful and ongoing contributions.
While the Center for an Urban Future and Capital One study illustrates the advances women entrepreneurs are making in DFW, according to Chandra, Dallas still has the reputation for being the place for big business. She says we certainly have a lot to celebrate, but underscores the community must stay committed to building a connected ecosystem for small businesses. From corporations to banks, community leaders and consumers, everyone contributes to the success of local businesses in one way or another.
Her parting advice to new and aspiring small business owners? Know that there is an ecosystem that can help connect you with other small business owners. You don’t have to feel lonely — connect with resources offered by organizations such as The Dallas Entrepreneur Center, research your financing options, seek out guidance and mentorship and most of all, don’t lose faith in your big idea.