Tarsha Polk Hearns has dedicated herself to helping people from all backgrounds become successful entrepreneurs. In 2018, the Plano native was tabbed to lead the first LiftFund Women’s Business Center in North Texas. In this role, she helps women and minorities secure funding for their small businesses. She also serves as an advocate for them, providing training and other technical assistance.
“There are several obstacles that can prevent people in underserved communities or people that are disadvantaged from becoming successful entrepreneurs,” she says.
LiftFund is one of the largest microlenders in the country. Through a partnership with the Small Business Administration, it can provide loans to those who may otherwise have trouble getting the financial backing they need.
Oftentimes, women and minorities face greater obstacles getting access to that funding. As Hearns points out, it’s only been since 1988 that women in the United States were able to get a loan in all 50 states without having a male co-sign for them.
“Thirty-three years is not that long ago,” she says. “It takes a long time for progress to happen, and it takes a long time for change to happen. Even when a woman tries to go to a traditional financial institution, there are still some unconscious biases.”
Hearns has confronted some of those biases. While working in the corporate world, she often felt disadvantaged because of her gender and race. After being passed over for a lateral promotion she was more than qualified for, she left and decided to start her own media company.
“That kind of woke me up to the fact that whatever I did, someone else was going to be in control of how I progressed,” she recalls.
As she became successful in her business, she began to think of ways she could help others facing similar obstacles. Hearns was a founding board member of the Collin County Black Chamber of Commerce. Her experience there was the beginning of her increased advocacy for minority-owned businesses. After she became involved with the National Association of Women Business Owners, she felt a calling to do more for them as well.
Access to capital is just one challenge many minority and female business owners face. Hearns also works to ensure they have access to networks where many deals and relationships are made.
She believes there has been some progress in the aftermath of the 2020 George Floyd murder. Hearns says many corporations, associations and groups that have been traditionally dominated by white men are at least becoming aware of the need for more diversity. She hopes this leads to more inclusion that better represents the views of a wider community, adding that people are inspired when they see someone who looks like them succeeding. Hearns is hopeful her efforts will help other females and minorities find success with their own callings.
“I know in my core that my life’s purpose is to inspire people to live their dreams through entrepreneurship,” she says. “I know that is what I have been led on this earth to do, and the path that has been laid out for me, everything has led up to that.”