When 26-year old Britney Duke moved to Fort Worth in September 2021, she quickly found that working remotely from her home could be lonely and boring.

As an entrepreneur, the designer behind Solkri Design began looking for a community to connect with but most networking events she attended were very professional and did not cater toward young people, she said. 

Instead, Duke decided to create a more casual space for young women to meet and build real connections. She started hosting coworking sessions at local coffee shops and holding small meet-ups. From there, Fort Worth Business Gals was created: a space for women entrepreneurs to connect and share their work. 

Today, about 15 to 20 people on average attend her events. 

“That’s what I was craving, and that’s kind of what I’ve been angling for my events,” Duke said. “It is more centered around friendship and connecting with people. I want it to be casual, and I want it to be fun for people to come to.”

Duke was raised in California and studied business at Boise State University in Idaho before moving to the Lone Star State with her husband, Michael. 

“I checked out Fort Worth, and I was like, ‘OK, I really like it here.’ It’s pretty cool,” she said.

Since starting to host events, Duke said she has found a real passion in running the social media page where she spotlights local female entrepreneurs and shares upcoming events. At the in-person events, people can meet fellow female entrepreneurs. Some can get their professional headshot taken or get pampered while networking.

“I have definitely been hearing good feedback from other people who are in a similar position as I am. You might not work in an office or have a traditional job,” Duke said. “But we also have traditional career (people), too, that come and hang out, make friends. And I’m totally down for that.”

According to a 2020 report from SmartAsset, the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area ranked in the top 10 best cities for women entrepreneurs. Although there is a high number of women-owned businesses in the area, only 79.42% break even. That puts the metroplex at 44th out of 50 in the study, the report shows. 

When Duke sets up her networking events, she takes the opportunity to also promote the business she is partnering with. After all, she said, the goal of Fort Worth Business Gals is to support women-owned businesses. 

“When I partner up with people for events, I make sure that I’m pretty much promoting their business and their events,” Duke said. “I want to make sure when we’re having events, it’s at a place that’s a local woman-owned business.”

Kim Flores, 40, known as the Hemp Housewife, is on a mission to end the stigma around cannabis usage for medical and health reasons as part of her own line of products. She met Duke while at Thrive Apothecary, which is planning on selling her brand there. Duke helps with the marketing of the apothecary. 

That’s when Flores found out about the Fort Worth Business Gals meet-ups. While attending the events, Flores met people of different, dynamic backgrounds, from different industries. 

This space allows her to be authentically herself, she said. “Everybody’s talking to you. Everybody’s really excited to hear about your business and help you grow if there’s a way for them to do that.”

As a female entrepreneur, Duke has managed to juggle the networking group, her own marketing company and the work she does for the cannabis apothecary, Flores said. 

“She’s got a lot on her plate, but she still holds it together and executes all of her events. You wouldn’t even know that she has so much going on in the background,” she said.

Business shaped Duke’s childhood, too. Her grandparents started the Piedmont Moving Company in San Jose, California, 40 years ago. Today, her parents are in charge of running the business. 

The success of her family members and their company gave Duke the confidence to find her own business path.  

“Everyone’s scared of failure. But I know that if I’m not taking the risk, then what’s the point and, if I’m not doing what I like doing, then what’s the point of all this?” she said. “And so I really take after them and just go for it — figure it out, go for it.”

Among her biggest inspirations is her father, Mark Beltramo, 57.

Beltramo described his daughter as someone with an eye for design, even when she was a child. And since announcing that she was taking the road of self-employment, she has been successful, he said. 

“Both her mom and I are super proud of her, and who wouldn’t be? She’s really smart. And she’s known what she’s wanted to do for a long time,” her father said.

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“She’s figured out how to bring people anywhere in life that are similarly minded, got good ideas, and you can learn from each other. I think she just kind of likes feeding off the energy of other people, too, what they’ve got going. What’s the expression of ‘Show me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are,’ right? So surround yourself with people who are like-minded and then you’re probably going to do pretty well on that.”

As Fort Worth Business Gals continues to grow alongside her personal business, Duke launched a website and newsletter product. She has also hired her first part-time employee to help her run the networking group, alongside her personal marketing business. 

“I’ve always been too scared. Because I want to have full control over things. And so that was hard to just take the jump to be like, ‘OK, I need to hire someone to help me,’” she said. 

Most importantly, Duke hopes she can build something of her own to look back on in the future.

“The moving business has been such a blessing for all of us in our lives. And I see how it’s going to continue to bless our family going forward. That gives me inspiration to build something of my own as well, something that can not just only bless me, but bless my children and hopefully after that as well,” she said. 

Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at sandra.sadek@fortworthreport.org or on Twitter at @ssadek19

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

BRITNEY DUKE’S BIOGRAPHY

Birthplace – Santa Clara, California

Moved to Fort Worth – September 2021

Family – Have one brother in California and one sister in Boise. Her parents and grandparents all live in California. Her grandparents started a Mayflower trucking branch in California over 40 years ago, so she says she continues to learn a lot about business from them.

Education – Graduated from Boise State University in 2018 with a general business degree and a minor in marketing.

Work experience – Worked at a doctor’s office in Boise (Center for Lifetime Health) after graduating college from 2018-2020 as its marketing coordinator and a receptionist. She went on to freelance after that and started her own business, Britney Designs, doing brand and website design. She started Solkri Design late 2021 with her husband, offering a full range of marketing services including website management, social media management, design, and copywriting services. Her clients are all small businesses and come from an array of industries like the cannabis industry, medical care, creatives in the wedding space and now the real estate industry.

Volunteer experience – In college she was the social coordinator for her sorority for a year, planning formals and events with other organizations, developing her passion for event planning.  

First job – Worked at the family business when she was in high school. She helped her mother with marketing and answering phones. She describes her mother and grandmother as powerhouse saleswomen in the trucking industry.

Advice for someone learning to be a leader – “Continue to be your authentic self. There is room for everyone to be successful, you must find your lane and be confident in that! Even if you are doubting your skills and experience, show up confidently, ask questions, and keep moving forward.”

Best advice ever received – “Go big or go home. That’s what my dad would always say and that’s really how I live my life. I’m not afraid to do the bold thing and step out on my own!”

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Sandra Sadek

Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. Originally from Houston, she graduated from Texas State University where she studied journalism and international...