Growing entrepreneurs in southern Dallas County is the goal behind a new business venture for the city of DeSoto.
The city is looking for more aspiring business owners with unique ideas who just need a little help in starting their own businesses.
James McGee stood by his smoothie machine, pouring fresh ingredients for a fruit smoothie.
McGee thinks he’s found the recipe for success.
“It feels great,” he said with a big smile. “I don’t think there’s a better feeling.”
The 26-year-old Army veteran and DeSoto native never thought he’d be an entrepreneur.
“Thought I was going to be working for the rest of my life for somebody else, so it feels pretty good to have our own company that we’re building towards,” said McGee.
His dream has been made reality after opening Peace.Love.&Eatz Smoothie Bar.
The shop has vegan options as well.
It’s one of seven restaurants and 20 retail stores inside the new: Grow DeSoto Marketplace along East Belt Line Road.
It is a business incubator that is years in the making.
“We’ve got people all over the United States watching this program believe it or not,” said Joe Newman, CEO of DeSoto Economic Development Corporation. “There’s not many of these around.”
Newman said it’s about opening doors for first-time business owners.
“The people that maybe have a business idea or are working out of their garage and now they can come in for very low rent and have all utilities paid,” he said.
The corporation and the city chipped in to set up in a 26,000-square-foot vacant building that used to be a hardware store.
“And we have transformed this place into something that we think that’s going to grow future entrepreneurs,” he said.
The city of DeSoto put $125,000 and the DeSoto Economic Development Corp. put $260,000, according to Newman.
He said there is a 10-year commitment to the program which officially opened in June.
The incubator houses everything from artists to clothing boutiques and skin care product shops.
There are also cubicles for those needing a small space to work out of.
The goal is for businesses to stay two to three years, getting business and marketing help along the way and becoming successful enough to move on to a bigger space.
“We’re looking for the unusual. We want to make sure it’s not something we can get in any mall,” said Newman walking around the shops.
He hopes to have 50 businesses in all up and running by summer’s end.
There is space for one more restaurant.
“Instead of us having to go get a huge loan, not knowing if we’re going to be able to pay it back, getting into debt I’m happy to be able to come into a small area and open up,” said McGee. “It was a void that needed to be filled in DeSoto.”
Grow DeSoto Marketplace holds what’s called ‘Pitch Monday’s’ on Mondays where aspiring entrepreneurs come in, pitch their idea and see if they will be allowed to set up shop.