Red Bird Mall is a ghost of its former self. The once popular South Dallas shopping destination has seen most of its major retailers close in recent years. From the outside, it looks like just another of the thousands of failed malls dotting America’s urban centers. Despite the fate of many of these former shrines to air conditioning and consumerism, Red Bird doesn’t have a date with a wrecking ball.
An investor, with the support of the city, purchased much of the mall and the surrounding area beginning in September 2015 with plans for revitalization. His intention is to make Red Bird a focal point in the community again. It won’t strictly be a retail destination, however.
Along with shopping and a hotel, the mall will also house a branch of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center, which focuses on helping “entrepreneurs start, build and grow their businesses,” center leader Michelle Williams told KERA. It won’t be the first entrepreneurial incubator in the area, though. Across the street, students are already getting a jump start on the skills they’ll need for future success.
On a recent Friday afternoon, the students of KIPP Destiny Middle School received a visit from Dallas Mavericks guard Seth Curry. Curry was there to help launch the Venture - Entrepreneurial Expedition Program along with his foundation and the Dallas Mavericks. The digital course is designed to teach students to think entrepreneurially about business and life through case studies, interactive business simulations, and personal development activities.
When athletes get involved and give back to their communities, entrepreneurial programs aren’t necessarily the first things that jump to mind. That’s exactly what drew Curry to the unique opportunity.
“I was looking for different things to do in the community,” Curry said. “Me and [the Seth Curry Foundation], we were just thinking of ways we can give back and get out there and get invested in the city of Dallas and in the youth and the kids. I’ve been running a [basketball] camp for a couple of years now, and I just feel like we could grow a little bit and do some different things. I had the opportunity with the Mavs and with EVERFI to do this venture right here and it just made sense for all of us.”
The students were using software developed by EVERFI, an educational technology company, to create, design, and implement a business model for their own food trucks in a classroom lined with computers. As they worked, Curry walked around, talking with the kids about their projects. He came away impressed with what he saw.
“It was dope. It was cool, man,” Curry said. “I was going by, looking at some of the stuff and reading it and having them explain what they were learning and it seemed like they were interested in it, they were invested in it. It’s a great program and stuff that you actually need and want growing up. I’m sure it will benefit these kids a great amount. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
After working on their food trucks, a few students spoke about the lessons they are learning from the program. They hope to translate the knowledge they are gaining into future careers. While the afternoon was a mostly scripted affair, it was apparent that the students were enthusiastic about the program.
During a Q&A, Curry spoke with the students about the importance of setting and achieving goals despite adversity. He used his path to becoming an NBA player as an example.
“It’s tough,” Curry told the students. “People tell you you can’t do anything when you get cut or something like that. It’s going to hurt a little bit. It’s tough. But, for me, I knew what I could do, who I was as a player and what I could bring to the table so it didn’t really shake my confidence in that sense. I set a very high goal for myself and I thought about that every day. So, it’s easy for me to get up the next day and keep working harder and want to get better and get a chance to prove that the next time I got an opportunity.”
Investment usually comes slow, if at all, to South Dallas. But along this stretch of Camp Wisdom Road, revitalization is a reality thanks to the programs at KIPP Destiny and the future Red Bird Entrepreneur Center. Now, it’s the students who have an opportunity to not only achieve the goals they set for themselves but to also help improve their community.