Community NavigatorWomen of Innovation
[ August 3, 2022 by Emma Barnhouse 0 Comments ]

Danica Hershberger

Nikka is a purpose-inspired leader and operational strategist who thrives on elevating businesses, professionals, and entrepreneurs to new levels of performance, vision, and mission.  

Proven track record of building customer centric organizations, collaborative and nimble cultures, implementing operational and systemic growth initiatives.  Innovative in approach and thought, Nikka excels in moving highly conceptual ideas into executable and thriving initiatives. 

Professionally, Nikka is currently the Managing Director at Dallas College Bill J Priest Institute.  Her main project is bringing an accessible, future-focused, and technologically advanced Innovation Hub to the DFW Community that drives long-term economic success for the area.  The Innovation Hub will serve as a central point for small businesses, workforce, corporations, and higher education to collaborate and engage.  She is also involved in sustainability initiatives at the college and creating sustainable, renewable, and agricultural programs and labs as part of the Innovation Hub offering.

Prior, Nikka worked with entrepreneurs and small business owners, as a Business Strategist and Consultant, helping them from ideation to realization, launching one company and moving another into development. She was the Director of Operations at Republic Elite, a countertop and cabinet Multifamily Construction company (post-merger) and Chief Business Officer of Elite Surface Innovations (pre-merger).  There she created, implemented, and managed the operating infrastructure for the start-up company, and helped the company grow from start-up to $8M in revenue in 4 years, and supported the company through merger and acquisition.  She was instrumental in developing a culture focused on project profitability, quality installation, and customer service.  She gained a solid foundation in consulting and business engagement while working with Arthur Andersen Business Consulting in New York City.

She has an MBA from Wake Forest University.  She was an active member of Junior League of Dallas, Toastmasters International, and all things fun!  She is also a Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming and has been blessed to journey with sacred teachers. 

Community Engagement

  • Speaker – Guest on Local & Thriving Podcast, 2020
  • Speaker – GridNEXT 2019
  • Panelist – Alternative Funding Resources at The Capital Factory, 2019

Community Navigator
[ August 1, 2022 by Emma Barnhouse 0 Comments ]

VR Small

VR Small, is the founder and chief executive officer, for the Veteran Women’s Enterprise Center (VWEC), a national initiative, launched in southern Dallas, to empower entrepreneur women associated with the military to scale for success. VR testified for the original House Bill to make June 12, Women Veterans Day in Texas. In 2020, she led the launched of the first annual, statewide Women Veterans Day Pitch Competition, highlighting the innovations, and economic impact of current/potential women veteran entrepreneurs. VR also participated in the Texas “I Am Not Invisible” Campaign. VR serves on the Advisory Committee for TWU’s Center for Women Entrepreneurs, and is a fellow of SMU’s Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity—Inclusive Economy, Dallas Public Voices, the Bush Institute Stand-to-Veteran Leadership Program, and is featured in Dallas Innovates 2020: The Future 50 North Texans. VR is the SBA’s DFW District 2020 Veteran Small Business Advocate of the Year, serves on the 30th Congressional District Veteran Advisory Committee, is a Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), Center for Women Veterans (CWV), 2021 Trailblazer “Women Veterans Leading the Way” and was recently announced as a Dallas Business Journal’s 2021 Women in Business Awardee. Most importantly, VR is a Navy Veteran, proud stepdaughter, and sister to U.S. Army Retired Vietnam & Iraq Veterans, respectively. Living her personal slogan “Changing the way we see the world and do business,” as a motivational speakers, moderator, educator, and dedicated advocate, specifically for women veteran, as well as women, and small businesses in general—driving social, and economic change across our nation.

Community Navigator
[ August 1, 2022 by Emma Barnhouse 0 Comments ]

LaShaunda Rene

LaShaunda P. René (LPR), Vice President, Texas Market for TruFund Financial Services a National, US Treasury-Certified, Non-profit, Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI).

LaShaunda isresponsible for leading market operations and expansion, including being a brand ambassador, partnership and funder cultivation, resource and business development in the Texas Region.

LPR has over 18 years professional experience in the non-profit and government sectors. During her tenue with TruFund, LaShaunda has supported small, rural, minority and women-owned businesses in disaster recovery, business resilience, and capacity building for growth and scalability. LPR is a strategic thought partner within the small business ecosystem and advocates for small business, in partnership with elected official, government, and community leaders.

She is a graduate of International Business and French Studies from Dillard University and Master of Public Administration from Walden University. LaShaunda is a member of the Houston Business Ecosystem Alliance for Minority and Women Owned Businesses (BEAM-W).

Community Navigator
[ August 1, 2022 by Emma Barnhouse 0 Comments ]

Maria Hall

Maria Hall is a Business Development Officer with the LiftFund, the largest micro-lender in the United States. In this capacity, she serves as a resource for small business owners by providing business advising services and guiding them through LiftFund’s lending programs and development services. She works closely
with key referral partners and community organizations to provide financial educational business support and identify business clients lending needs.

A business veteran with more than 30 years’ experience, Maria has extensive experience in economic development focusing on small business development and finance. Prior to joining the LiftFund, she served as a business advisor at the UH SBDC where her areas of expertise were strategic planning, sales, financial analysis, and leadership management.

She has started two businesses, including an insurance agency, and has worked as a consultant, business coach, trainer, and a chamber executive. A graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Business Administration and a minor in Marketing, she is a Professional Path Certified Coach, Licensed Trainer, National Training Team Member, and a Certified Startup Expert-Top 6 Business Coach. Maria lives in Euless, Texas with her husband Michael and puppy, Coco. She is a proud Abuela to Madeline, enjoys reading business books, yoga, and everything beach.

Community Navigator
[ August 1, 2022 by Emma Barnhouse 0 Comments ]

Daria Offord

Bio coming soon…

Community Navigator
[ August 1, 2022 by Emma Barnhouse 0 Comments ]

Brian K. Marshall

Brian is responsible for all BCL of Texas statewide Entrepreneurship programming, staff and facility resources related to small and micro business development for women and minorities. Services offered include one on one entrepreneurial consulting, financial readiness and alternative access to capital sessions. Programming also includes incubator/accelerator tenant memberships along with instructor/facilitator group training and speaker series events. Mr. Marshall is also charged to manage the BCL business assistance center under contracts with the City of Dallas and the City of Austin.  His team explores new ways to serve the needs of Start-up, Emerging and Established Businesses owners in Austin, Dallas and the surrounding 110 counties along the Texas I-35 corridor with special focus on Biotechnology, IT, Financial, Manufacturing, Transportation and the Arts industries. Brian has extensive knowledge and experience with local, state and national SBE, MBE/WBE, and DBE certification agencies, along with private and public purchasing policies, initiatives and programs.

A 15 year former Dell, Inc. senior business development manager, Brian worked on national and regional sales initiatives to engage small, minority, women and veteran business markets. He also held positions in procurement operations as part of the Global Supplier Diversity Team and helped the company to achieve the elite Billion Dollar Round Table status, an accomplishment only eclipsed by the top companies who spend $1Billion or more with minority small businesses in the United States. 

Brian is the 2015 Small & Diverse Business Advocate of the Year for the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce and the former Co-Chair of the Austin Black Chamber’s Entrepreneur and Small Business Development Committee where he developed and implemented programming related to supplier diversity, small & diverse business development, access to capital, technology, workforce and marketplace issues that impact the local community and surrounding counties. 

Community Navigator
[ August 1, 2022 by Emma Barnhouse 0 Comments ]

Tarsha Hearns

Tarsha Polk Hearns is an experienced professional with over 20 years of combined marketing, sales, corporate training and entrepreneurial expertise. She currently serves as the Senior Director of The DEC Network. As Sr. Director, Tarsha leads a team that provides support and guidance to entrepreneurs seeking to start or grow their businesses, and connect them to additional business and financial resources in their community.

Tarsha is an engage member of the local business community and has received numerous awards including Dallas StartUp Week’s Entrepreneur Evangelist of the Year, 40 Under 40 in Collin County, Women in the Media Award and the Leadership Award from National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). She is an advocate for women and minority businesses and uses her gifts and talents to make an impact in the community. She has served as president of NAWBO’s Dallas chapter, served as a member of the Dallas Independent School District’s Minority and Women Business Enterprise Advisory Committee and was a founding board member of the Collin County Black Chamber of Commerce. 

As an entrepreneur, author, business coach and international speaker, she is passionate about empowering others to succeed in business and life. Tarsha lists winning a contract with the National Football League for Super Bowl XLV as her biggest career defining moment to date. 

In her free time, she volunteers with organizations helping high school students learn about entrepreneurship.  

Community Navigator
[ August 1, 2022 by Emma Barnhouse 0 Comments ]

Kayla Nimer

A great asset to any team, willing to go above and beyond to contribute to company success. Dedicated and motivated to maintain customer satisfaction, and very results-driven with proven ability to establish rapport and develop long-term clients. I believe in working hard, and strive everyday to be the best at any and every thing I put my mind to. It is my goal to leave an impact, no matter how great or small, on every person I meet.