Investing in Diverse Founders: Launching an Entrepreneur of Color Fund – A Conversation with Tarsha Hearns

In this episode, Host, David Ponraj is joined by Tarsha Hearns, Sr. Director at The DEC Network in Dallas, TX. Together, they shared the progress of our exciting, collaborative initiative to support underrepresented founders in Dallas. The Dallas-based Entrepreneur of Color Credit Enhancement Fund study was launched in 2023 with an anticipated fund implementation in the fall of 2024. This fund is a partnership between The DEC Network and Economic Impact Catalyst, with generous support from JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Kellogg’s Foundation, and TD Jakes Foundation. 

Tarsha Hearns knows these challenges all too well. As an entrepreneur of color herself, she has lived the same struggle to access capital holding back so many others. During a recent conference session, Hearns provided raw insight into how DEC is working to change the status quo for diverse founders in Dallas. As Hearns explains, DEC undertook extensive research to unpack why so many minority and women entrepreneurs in the city could not access loans or investments. They conducted focus groups, surveys, and outreach to both business owners and the ecosystem meant to serve them.

The findings revealed a complex web of disconnects that contribute to capital gaps in Dallas’s historically underserved neighborhoods. Many local community development financial institutions (CDFIs), despite a mission to provide equitable funding access, were still rejecting minority applicants at concerning rates. This is often tied to issues like low credit scores or lack of traditional collateral -systemic barriers that disproportionately impact entrepreneurs of color.

Faced with this reality, The DEC spearheaded the creation of a novel, ecosystem-based solution: the Inclusive Entrepreneurial Capital Initiative. Recognizing the need for alignment, this initiative brought CDFIs and banks together with small business support organizations on the front lines in underserved neighborhoods.

The fund plays a crucial role in promoting equitable access to funding by offering tailored lending, products, and programs that address the unique capital access gaps that exist for entrepreneurs of color, while recognizing the specific needs and concerns of the Dallas entrepreneurial community. The Dallas Entrepreneur of Color Credit Enhancement Fund is at work to shape the next generation of diverse entrepreneurs.

The DEC website: 

Recent Press about the Fund: 

Connect with Tarsha Hearns:


About Breaking Down Barriers
This podcast explores the opportunity to build wealth in local, regional, and national economies through entrepreneurship-led economic development. Episodes feature changemakers with innovative approaches to empowering people to start businesses that create wealth for their families and improve outcomes for their communities. Conversations highlight work being done in communities across the U.S. to break down barriers to entrepreneurial opportunity in underserved and underrepresented communities. In this series, we share authentic stories about the impact that entrepreneurship-led economic development has on the local economy and connect a global network of passionate economic developers. 

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Breaking Down Barriers is a presentation of Economic Impact Catalyst and is hosted by David Ponraj with production and editing by Jacqui Dietrich and Lauren Bernard with voice talent by Antoine Long. Please rate, review, and subscribe to Breaking Down Barriers, available for free wherever you listen to your podcasts!

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