Much like the ever-expanding restaurant scene, Dallas is also being saturated with co-working spaces. It seems like each month companies such as WeWork are growing, smaller spots like CityCentral are cropping up and spaces like The Riveter are creating places for women to get together and get things done. However, there’s a constant lack of diverse representation when it comes to membership and ownership of these spots. Ro Simmons wants to be the much-needed change in the world of co-working with Business Lounge Dallas, a co-working, event and workshop space with an intentional focus on elevating businesses for people of color.
Business Lounge Dallas, on 13740 Midway Road in Farmers Branch, is a historical first, not only for Simmons, but for Texas — as the first black-owned, woman-owned co-working space in the Lone Star State. And it was imperative for Simmons’ co-working members to receive all of the support and nurturing they needed to go out and compete. But before Business Lounge Dallas was a thought, Simmons’ career involved competing in the physical form.
“I was in the fitness industry since 2011,” Simmons says. “I had a fitness studio that I opened up to other fitness instructors. It started out good, but it didn’t turn out how I hoped it would.”
Simmons quickly realized that a common need for entrepreneurs included more than finding a space to do business, but help running their businesses in general. So she used the very same fitness studio and turned it into the lounge, offering business workshops and other tools to help folks fine-tune their services.
“I do vision execution sessions,” Simmons says. “Helping people that don’t know the steps, but are ready to do the work. Everything from getting their social media in order, to their website, to reaching out to clients correctly. We also use local expert entrepreneurs. It was important for me to add the educational elements."
As inspiring as it all sounds, creating and executing the brand was no easy feat. When Business Lounge Dallas started, many people thought it was just an event space.
Simmons’ wide range of customers includes everything from personal stylists and photographers, to travel agents and caterers.
“I’m in full support of the African American entrepreneur; my competition only has us sprinkled throughout,” she says of other co-working spaces.
Simmons’ competition is also having a hard time keeping discrimination to a minimum. Case in point, co-working spaces like The Wing, which recently made headlines for an alleged racist incident that took place in the parking lot of the company’s West Hollywood location. Two black members, one of which was Asha Grant, the director of the Free Black Women’s Library of Los Angeles, claimed they were accused of stealing a white member’s parking spot and were harassed by her.
According to Zora.com, when Grant approached management about it, the member accused of harassing Grant was not reprimanded, and Grant was offered a free meal. While the incident is alleged to have taken place in May, and even reported on in August, members didn’t receive an email from the owners addressing the situation until September. Grant and her counterparts quit the co-working space, and the accused harasser’s membership was later terminated.
As for Business Lounge Dallas — which Simmons describes as the Chick-fil-A of event spaces and the Beyoncé of Business Lounges — there are big things in store.
“My ultimate goal is to go to different cities,” Simmons says. “Right now I’m leasing, but I want to have my own building for the Dallas headquarters first before expanding.”
Business Lounge Dallas offers 6-hour day passes for co-working for $30, which can be utilized during office hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monthly passes start at $275, and event space rentals start at $350 for 2 hours. “Nothing at the lounge is free, because nothing in business is free,” Simmons says with a laugh.
Regardless of whether you stop by Business Lounge Dallas, Simmons does have a tidbit of free advice for those looking to start, or those who are in the beginning stages of their business. “Treat your business like it’s a baby,” she says. “When a baby is born, you have to give it all your attention. If you do that, the people will last a lot longer. It’s the little things you do that help you build and grow.”