Entrepreneur event to launch Accelerate DFW Foundation
Accelerate DFW Foundation
Annual Fundraising Gala
Fort Worth Club
Featuring John Paul DeJoria, founder of Paul Mitchell Hair Systems and Patron Tequila
Paul Mitchell Hair Systems and Patron Tequila co-founder, John Paul DeJoria is the first of many entrepreneurs that Accelerate DFW will honor at its annual fundraiser.
DeJoria, will dine at the Fort Worth Club and speak with Fort Worth’s successful entrepreneurs, Oct. 3, to celebrate entrepreneurship and launch the Accelerate DFW Foundation’s annual fundraising gala. The gala will recognize successful entrepreneurs who are passionate about giving back. Hats off to RIDE TV for making this happen!
Twenty-plus years ago the Fort Worth Business Assistance Center (BAC) at the James Guinn Campus at Interstate 35 and Rosedale was formed with assistance from a 501(c)(3), the BAC Education Foundation. The foundation facilitated in raising money to supplement the City of Fort Worth’s workshops and counselors at the BAC targeted to start-up businesses, as well as to support the city’s annual Entrepreneur Expo (the last Entrepreneur Expo was April 2009).
In October 2011, the board of the BAC Education Foundation helped Fort Worth launch the annual Fort Worth Business Plan Competition. The competition is now in its eighth year, and three finalists will present their business plans to an independent panel of judges on Oct. 25. Total prizes in cash and services exceed $50,000.
In 2013, seeing the evolution of TECH Fort Worth — a 501(c)(3) on the Guinn Campus that received start-up funding from the City of Fort Worth and the University of North Texas Health Science Center — the board of the BAC Education Foundation developed a new program, IDEA Works FW, a multi-industry, micro-business incubator located at 600 E. Rosedale St. on the Guinn campus. IDEA Works FW micro-business incubator had its grand opening on Feb. 5, 2014. Its first hire, Hayden Blackburn, was recently named executive director at TECH Fort Worth.
At the start of 2017, the BAC Education Foundation board was at a crossroads. It began the process of reviewing its vision and mission. Concurrently, both the City of Fort Worth and the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce had embarked on separate economic development plans. Given that, the board decided to wait to align with the potential direction and desired outcomes of the economic development plans.
While in this holding period, the foundation’s all-volunteer board and its entrepreneurs-in-residence:
– Continued providing workshops, coaching and mentoring to existing and new IDEA Works clients, for example Brasovan Electric and Drone Innovations Inc. (Di2), who both graduated in the summer of 2018;
– Began to strengthen and diversify its board to represent the larger North Texas community. The number of board members doubled to 22 with new members representing companies and institutions such as Alcon, Texas Christian University’s Neeley Entrepreneurship Center, Texas Wesleyan University School of Business, the University of Texas at Arlington School of Business, UNT Health Science Center, Tarrant County College dean for Business and Innovation, American Airlines, Fort Worth-based RIDE TV, BBVA Compass Bank, Haggar, the Rising Tide Initiative, BNSF, and an existing IDEA Works client (Mel/Arch Architectural Studio);
– Collaborated again with the Fort Worth Business Press to hold the second Entrepreneurial Summit;
– Continued its support of the City of Fort Worth’s annual Business Plan Competition;
– Solicited funding from new, first-time sources, for example BNSF (for website development), the Amon Carter Foundation (for securing internships) and BBVA Compass (for operational funds); and
– Invested in a cloud-based, “entrepreneur coaching connections platform” that provided vetted subject matter experts to North Texas entrepreneurs.
The expanded BAC Education Foundation board leadership saw that its mission, as outlined in its 501(c)(3) Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws, was independent and more expansive than working only in the City of Fort Worth. As the board grew impatient waiting to see where it and its program/service offerings might align with the not-yet-finalized economic development plans of the Fort Worth City and chamber, there was a growing sentiment from new board members to see the foundation as an objective, unaligned, neutral entity willing to assist – to the best of its human capacity and financial resources — any entrepreneur from the region and state, and to assist in facilitating the collaboration of a North Texas regional entrepreneurial ecosystem.
In late fall 2017, before the integrated Fort Worth City and chamber’s economic development plans had been unveiled and integrated, the foundation’s board decided it could wait no longer. It hired two consultants with backgrounds in entrepreneur start-ups and international ecosystem development. Their charge was to interview local individuals involved in entrepreneurship and economic development leadership positions to gauge the regional entrepreneur lay-of-the-land and to assess what high-priority gaps the BAC Education Foundation board and its IDEA Works incubator might fill.
At the January 2018 annual meeting of the BAC Education Foundation, board members received a final report from the two consultants as to the state of entrepreneurship in Fort Worth and the North Texas region. The consultants’s report:
– examined what the individuals interviewed knew or perceived of the role of the BAC Education Foundation in the community or its IDEA Works incubator program;
– assessed the resources currently available to regional entrepreneurs;
– identified significant resource access gaps not available to regional entrepreneurs; and
– laid out the challenges that regional entities had been unable to overcome in their attempt to foster an effective, collaborative, regional entrepreneurial ecosystem. Without a collaborative entrepreneurial ecosystem as part of their organizational mission it was not a focus.
As a result, at the annual meeting the board decided to:
– rebrand the BAC Education Foundation to “Accelerate DFW Foundation;”
– reposition the foundation’s role in and offerings to the North Texas entrepreneur ecosystem;
– and engage the two consultants – Walker Lutringer and Marco Johnson – its two new staff members, to undertake the positioning and redirection of the Accelerate DFW Foundation in Fort Worth and beyond.
The inaugural gala of the Accelerate DFW Foundation will be held Oct. 3 at the Fort Worth Club, where leaders and successful and aspiring entrepreneurs can meet and hear from John Paul DeJoria. The foundation will also launch what it believes to be the first-ever philanthropic hall of fame dedicated solely to individual entrepreneurs who share their successes through giving back.
My next article will describe how the Accelerate DFW Foundation is unique among regional organization serving entrepreneurs. I will cover: 1) details on the new program-service offerings in the Accelerate DFW Foundation portfolio; 2) how the new offerings will be delivered to entrepreneurs beyond IDEA Works and Guinn campus; 3) where the foundation collaborates with others who also recognize the economic-multiplier impact benefits from having a more cohesive, integrated entrepreneur ecosystem in North Texas; and 4) identify coming events – such as Start-up Weekend and Global Entrepreneur Week – open for area entrepreneurs to participate and network with others. Space-permitting, I will address near-term challenges facing the foundation in achieving its mission to serve entrepreneurs across the region. Stay tuned.
Ed Riefenstahl is the director of experiential learning in the TCU Neeley School of Business’s MBA program. He is a former director in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneurial Services practice and a Global Alliance director for KPMG Consulting. He and his spouse, Valerie, founded The Alternative Board in Fort Worth. He serves on the board of directors of the Accelerate DFW Foundation. firstname.lastname@example.org