Media Contact: Debra Dennis;
For immediate release — Jan. 25, 2023
(DALLAS) — A new space at Dallas College’s Bill J. Priest Center is being made available for workforce training, meetings, engagements and other events solely for the community, having already helped Dallas entrepreneurs like Monisha Clifton, who eventually launched her own baking and catering company while accessing Dallas College resources.
Cornerstone Baptist Church is the start of many good memories for Clifton. The South Dallas church is where she expanded her love for baking into her own company — Moe’s Delights — a bakery business that she launched during the pandemic.
“I purchased a home the month before the social distance mandate was ordered. As a way to get to know my neighbors, I baked and delivered pies using my mother’s recipe. As the pandemic went on, I kept giving out pies,” said Clifton. A former alternative high school teacher, she counts her vegan sweet potato pies among her top sellers. Among her success stories, she baked 100 pecan pies that were specially ordered by a family that supplied their own recipe.
By summer 2021, Clifton began baking in her church’s huge commercial kitchen that also served low-income members of the community — and word about her business caught on.
But she needed professional guidance if she was going to sustain it.
Through the church’s Cornerstone Center for Economic Opportunity Partnership, Clifton learned about workshops offered by the Dallas Collaborative for Equitable Development (DCED). This coworking lab provides job training, development and support for business leaders who need training in banking and other areas. Funded by a $6 million investment from JPMorgan Chase, it supports efforts to build wealth through job creation and business ownership.
Housed in Dallas College’s Bill J. Priest Center (BJP), DCED is a collaborative effort led by TREC Community Investors and includes Dallas College and LiftFund. This collaborative was established in 2020 to create opportunities for business owners like Clifton to meet investors, develop plans and grow their companies.
“When we founded DCED alongside Dallas College and LiftFund, we envisioned supporting these kinds of entrepreneurial endeavors that, in turn, spark community revitalization and growth,” said Senior Director of Community Investment Felicia Pierson. “At TREC Community Investors, we have repeatedly witnessed that the surest path to success is through collaborative partnership that have a lasting, positive impact on a community and its residents.”
Networking and forming relationships through accelerator programs are critical to the success of Moe’s Delights, Clifton said. She also learned marketing tips and time management skills.
“As a business owner, you don’t know what you don’t know,” said Cristin Thomas, executive director of small business and entrepreneur innovation at Dallas College. “We’re teaching them how to compete. Small business owners are passionate, and they put everything on the line. Our job is to ensure that every entrepreneur receives the education, training and guidance they need to be competitive.”
Additionally, DCED hosts a speaker series that brings a variety of business leaders to talk about their challenges. And a boot camp provides one-on-one sessions with instructors in specialized areas such as QuickBooks, taxes and financing.
The BJP facility also provides students a chance to enhance their skills in other areas, such as a podcasting program for beginners. Students can build their networks and raise their platforms as business owners. The podcast room provides tools for business owners and is open to the community.
“Podcasting has become a very common practice for small business owners. These resources will help entrepreneurs learn to share their products and services to the customers they serve,” Thomas said.
Clifton is especially grateful for the classes, workshops and coaching she received at the center. She recently won $10,000 in a pitch competition where she talked about the genesis of Moe’s Delights and how she plans to launch a full-time business.
“That grant allows me to do much-needed research about packaging, postage and delivery. In addition to our current pickup option, I’m adding back local delivery and domestic shipping. That means that next year, I can ship across the nation,” Clifton said. “I’m grateful for the success.
“I could not have done this by myself,” said Clifton, who is currently enrolled in the Dallas College Culinary, Pastry and Hospitality program. “I could not have done this without the support of my family and my church. I have learned that I can do this business — not just to support my family but to create jobs and hire others.”
James Fortenberry, a plumber and general contractor, says boot camps at the Bill J. Priest Center have helped him put a business plan in place and expand his business relationships.
James Fortenberry started plumbing in 1979. At 61, he, too, wants to expand his business that combines his skills as a plumber with his finesse as a general contractor. He credits boot camps at BJP with helping him put a business plan in place, set goals and reach them. This initiative also helped Fortenberry expand his business relationships.
“This program gives me a road map. That’s what keeps me consistent,” said Fortenberry, who plans to take the state Master Plumber examination. This certification, he said, would allow him to expand his business and hire other workers.
“I can be the boss man. Building a business is more than just a great ambition,” said Fortenberry, who is also a minister. “There’s a whole lot of networking. Word of mouth is the best advertising there is. But I’m also going to build a website. That’s one of the things I’ve been introduced to, and I think that will help my profile.“
His company, Sweetie Speedy General Contractor, LLC, is not just a slogan on his card. His service is fair and quick, said Fortenberry, who also took advantage of the speaker series. Boot camps, he said, allowed him to work one on one with instructors in specialized areas such as taxes and financing.
Dallas College applauds workforce efforts like these because they are crucial to growing a diverse, qualified and often underserved community, said Dallas College Chancellor Justin Lonon.
“Our vision was to design a space — open to the community — where folks can bring their ideas, product or skills, and we provide the tools and resources to help them take their craft to the next level,” Dr. Lonon said. “Just think about it. An aspiring business owner can use the computers in this space to take QuickBooks classes — which we know are key to success as a business owner. From the webinar booth to the podcast room, this is truly a crowning achievement of the work that our team has been engaged in over the past three years.”
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