Owning a small business is as American as apple pie, and in Dallas, entrepreneurship is a way of life. With innovation leaders who nurture the startup spirit and do their part to stoke the fire, Big D is one of the best places for small businesses to thrive.
And this entrepreneurial drive isn’t limited to only a handful of industries. The local startup scene’s unbelievable diversity — and our willingness to embrace just about any good new idea — means we have a lot of budding businesses to make us proud.
Here’s a sampling of the most exciting startups in Dallas right now:
Block Party Suites
Spend any time around SMU and you’ll run into Block Party Suites. The company is responsible for the pop-up village where SMU fans gathered before home games last fall, and its popularity has quickly spread throughout the state. Offering portable hospitality suites — think swanky stadium suites but on-the-go — Block Party Suites has made appearances at the Dallas Untapped Festival and the Cotton Bowl for the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Satellite television, reserved spots that put guests right at the heart of the best tailgating action, premium sound, comfortable furniture, and the ability to customize each suite make the pop-up model a quick favorite. This year, founders Adam Ward and Steve Gilman look forward to providing a VIP lounge for the Red Bull and Tissot Watches racing teams at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, and even more block parties at SMU and TCU for the 2016 season.
Companies are more interested than ever in developing relationships with customers, and gamification is a natural result of that desire to connect with users on a more entertaining and personal level. CEO Todd McGee explains that CataBoom is a behavioral marketing engagement platform based on Pavlov’s theories that a rewarded behavior is more likely to be repeated.
Companies hire CataBoom to create games that reward behavior and bring consumers back again and again. From surveys for fashion companies to skill games for major motion picture promotions or ticket sales organizations, CataBoom is behind some of the coolest new games that companies use to reward their customers.
Circle Seven Five
Billed as a private social club for women, Circle Seven Five is a new way to meet like-minded ladies about town. The organization founded by Dallasite Cassidy Fischer sponsors activities that put women in touch with their future coworkers, collaborators, mentors, and best friends by curating more than 15 events each month.
From adventures like rock climbing and movie-viewing parties to educational seminars, career development workshops, and exclusive previews at local shops, Circle Seven Five helps young women do the things they always talk about doing, by helping them live better lives.
Keep an eye out for iuzeit, a new “catchall” website for product ratings and reviews. Launched at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco last fall, iuzeit, pronouced “I use it,” is currently in beta testing, but founder Yogi Patel says the platform will launch to the public this spring. Once launched, users will be able to access product reviews from multiple sources all in one place, making shopping online easier than ever before.
Patel came up with the idea when he was attempting to make a purchase online. Jumping from site to site and sifting through dozens of product reviews was incredibly frustrating. So he created iuzeit, which promises to take the hassle out of online shopping. The service will allow users to compare information about each product across retailers so they can find the best prices available.
Think of Leaseful as Airbnb for college sublets. Boasting ease of use and security, the Dallas-based company connects college students who need someone to cover their rent or sublease a room with other students who need a place to crash.
The site verifies that guests are who they say they are, and it offers full transparency to its users. College students simply post an open room or apartment on Leaseful, other students book and pay for the room via a secure platform, and voila! It almost makes you want to be a college student again.
Founders Chad Kehoe and Alexander Prince launched a private beta in May 2015 at SMU and FSU, and within three weeks they secured investments from Motive, Dallas’ own real estate accelerator. Leaseful officially launched in Austin and Dallas this February, and the service will soon be available in Houston.
Make Your Life Sweeter
A few years ago, SMU grad Yasmeen Tadia left corporate America and started a business that took the sweet snack world by storm. Fluffpop cotton candy and HotPoppin gourmet popcorn quickly gained attention from companies and celebs across the nation, and their parent company, Make Your Life Sweeter, continues to grow.
Based in Dallas, Make Your Life Sweeter has recently launched two new lines: Sugaire, an organic, gluten-free, vegan, handspun gourmet cotton candy, and ModChocolate, an artisanal collection of fine chocolates in chic packaging.
The brands have wowed diners from Facebook corporate to the White House Correspondence Dinner, but Tadia and team are in talks with some local favorites — hello, Hotel ZaZa! — to feature exclusive cotton candy-infused menu items this year. Be on the lookout for these delectable treats in select Dallas-Fort Worth retailers in the coming months.
North Texas is such a hub for small businesses that entrepreneurs are founding startups specifically to support mom-and-pop companies. Visage Payroll is one such startup concentrated on helping small companies grow and thrive, by offering free payroll services to companies of 50 or fewer employees.
Before Visage, these small companies spent hundreds of dollars each year on payroll and accounting. Visage blends the appeal of social media with the ease of modern banking platforms to provide small companies with free payroll services.
Local partners and investors in the real estate business, insurance, banking, and others industries have lined up to help Visage Payroll provide these services. Dallas founder Craig Lewis sees his passion for free payroll for small businesses as an integral part of fueling the economy and encouraging growth and expansion.