A new center to support small business owners and startups opened its doors and is looking for tenants to fill its space. 

The center, called Create Fort Worth, is operated by The DEC Network, a Dallas nonprofit that aims to grow and support new businesses. The space will hold coworking spaces, events and mentors to help businesses grow. 

The organization is located inside 400 Bryan Ave. in the Near Southside, the same building as Roots Coffeehouse. The Fort Worth Local Development Corporation approved $500,000 across two years to start Create Fort Worth. The hope is the center will create more businesses in Fort Worth. 

City officials and local businesses celebrated a soft opening Aug. 1, and an official grand opening event is Nov. 8.

The curriculum around business, mentorship and events is free. Memberships for the coworking space range from $100-$1,800. 

The Fort Worth Techstars Physical Health Accelerator is one of the first tenants of the center, where 30 startups from around the world will spend three months perfecting their pitch and receiving mentorship. The managing director for that program, Trey Bowles, also sits on the city’s entrepreneurship and innovation committee and is a chairman emeritus at the DEC Network. Co.Starters, a company that helps aspiring business owners, will also be in the building. 

Bill Chinn, the DEC Network’s CEO, said Create Fort Worth is “building to a crescendo” before its grand opening, to attract more organizations that support businesses and tenants and organize events. 

While 30 tech businesses will be the first ones to use the space upstairs, Chinn said the organization is open to all kinds of businesses.

“We found that some of the highest growth companies we’ve ever dealt with have been outside the tech sector,” Chinn said. “So we’re agnostic.”

Chinn wants to see nonprofits and individuals who have been working within the Fort Worth business community to move to the building. Create Fort Worth will also collaborate with the city-operated Devoyd Jennings Business Assistance Center less than two miles away.

“It feels like there’s a lot of pent up demand here,” Chinn said. “And it’s not because there hasn’t been some great work done. In fact, it’s because there’s been some great work.” 

Caroline McKnight is the community coordinator for Create Fort Worth. Her job is to greet guests and help them connect to the right resources and onboarding for new tenants.

“I want them to leave with something,” McKnight said. “If they come in and they can’t afford to run out of office space, that’s OK. I want to send them down the street to the (Business Assistance Center) or Hispanic chamber or Black chamber and find other resources or any other coworking space in the Fort Worth area.” 

A group of 16 community members came up with the name of the organization, after going through a list of about 70 different names, Marco Johnson, network builder at Sparkyard, said. The dots in the logo represent the community members that came up with the name for the center, Johnson said. He hopes Create Fort Worth can be a resource for anyone who wants to start a business.

“This place is not just a coworking space,” Johnson said. “It really is supposed to be like, I’m an entrepreneur. I don’t know where to go and what to do. Here’s a place where I can come to get help.” 

The DEC Network opened a similar center in Addison called the Addison Treehouse in 2014, but it closed in May. Addison is a small unincorporated town in Dallas County with a population of 17,000. 

Jonathan Morrison, president of be-leveraged LLC, attended the soft opening. Morrison, who lives in the Stop Six neighborhood of Fort Worth, hopes the model of creating the center can be replicated in other areas of Fort Worth that are underserved. Morrison thinks the center could be a catalyst for conversation across the city and Tarrant County to identify practitioners and capital partners to create more spaces similar to the new center.

“So that we create more opportunities for more entrepreneurs, and continue to enhance the ecosystem by giving more entrepreneurs from diverse groups across the city, whether it’s LGBTQ, Hispanic, African American, male, female, whatever it is, more opportunity,” Morrison said.  

Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at seth.bodine@fortworthreport.org and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.

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Seth Bodine is the business reporter for the Fort Worth Report. He previously covered agriculture and rural issues in Oklahoma for the public radio station, KOSU, as a Report for America corps member....