Archive: May 2016

  1. Hundreds Learn About Launching a Social Enterprise in Detroit


    “Doing well while doing good.”

    “Profit with a purpose.”

    These were the type of phrases bantered about on Wednesday, May 5, at Social Entrepreneur Day, part of Detroit Entrepreneur Week, May 2-7, 2016. The day was presented in partnership with Build Institute, which is a strong advocate for social enterprise and small business support.

    For the 120 Social Entrepreneur Day attendees, who filled a spacious room at TechTown Detroit, the day started off with an overview of social entrepreneurship (the pursuit of a social mission using commercial means). Marcus Harris, Build’s facilitator of Build Social, small business taskmaster, and one of social entrepreneurship’s most vocal champions quickly captivated the audience with his wisdom.

    Shaka Senghor sharing his story with the audience.
    Shaka Senghor sharing his story with the audience.

    Shaka Senghor, a New York Times best-selling author, presented next. With the story of his personal turnaround, triggered by an epiphany inside a prison solitary confinement cell, he spoke of his journey into crime and drugs, through his 19-year incarceration, and out into the world to become an author, social entrepreneur, and change maker. The Detroit native’s current work focuses on mentoring youth, eradicating gun violence, and getting more books into prisons.

    Senghor’s entrepreneurial challenges were greater than most: out of prison for second-degree murder with little chance of finding a job, he sold his books from the trunk of an old Honda Civic and drove from school to school talking to kids and telling them his story.

    “I realized I had no work history,” recalls Senghor, having been in prison since he was 19. “But had a dynamic skill set.” Senghor had been selling drugs since he was 14 and ran black market stores in prison. “I took that skill set and said ‘I’m going to start a publishing company.’”

    He wrote, slowly gained notoriety, and started a mentoring program for at-risk youth. He presented one of the top TED Talks of 2014, and was awarded fellowships with M.I.T. Media Lab and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

    As Senghor spoke of achieving one of his long-time pursuits, to meet Opra, he advised the crowd, “As you’re working on your business, be intentional about what you want to manifest.” He cautioned against becoming “socially invested and financially broke.”

    Marcus Harris, Build Social facilitator shares the COSTARTERS business model canvas with the crowd.
    Marcus Harris, Build Social facilitator shares the COSTARTERS business model canvas with the crowd.

    Following Senghor’s motivating words, was a social entrepreneurship ideation session that lead participants through a visual map, a CO.STARTERS CanvasTM (an entrepreneur training curriculum Build brought to Detroit) that helps entrepreneurs better understand, define, organize, and test their business ideas.

    Led by Harris, the session further defined items on the placemat-sized canvas, such as identifying customers, defining a solution, and outlining benefits and start-up costs. As participants scribbled their ideas onto their own maps, Harris cautioned: “This ain’t your business plan. It’s more of a pre-plan. You can use this model as a foundation.”

    Social Entrepreneur Day participants had a chance to learn from the doers as part of the last session of the morning, “Meet the Social Entrepreneurs,” a panel discussion with successful social entrepreneurs, social impact investors, and representatives from organizations that offer training and support. The panel was populated by:

    Delphia Simmons, Build Basics facilitator, speaking on the “Meet the Social Entrepreneurs" panel.
    Delphia Simmons, Build Basics facilitator, speaking on the “Meet the Social Entrepreneurs” panel.

    The group answered questions about their early inspirations, handling competition, balancing money issues with social purpose, and dealing with doubt.

    When asked about challenges specific to Detroit’s social enterprise movement, many panelists voiced concern over the absence of resources in Detroit – good schools, lack of money, subpar city services – but also recognized that Detroiters have the drive and grit to keep going.

    Fr. Phillip Cooke, who moved to Detroit after doing social enterprise work in Santa Clara, Calif., recently conducted his first program at UDM CSE on writing business plans with a triple bottom line (social, environmental and financial). “The energy in the room was fantastic,” says Cooke. “It was energy that I had not seen in my life. All that Detroit is missing is resources.”

    For Detroit entrepreneurs knowledge is just one piece of getting a business going. Capital is still a huge challenge, which is why programs such as Kiva are vital. Therefore, it made sense to culminate Social Entrepreneurship Day with an activity focused on pitching ideas and giving away money for startups.

  2. Welcome Wayne: Alumni Manager

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    We’re very excited to welcome Wayne Ramocan to our Build team as our new Alumni Manager! He’s a fellow 2013 Build graduate and a man of many talents who will strengthen our growing community of Builders. Get to know Wayne a bit more in this Q&A.


    Where were you born and raised?
    I was born in Baltimore, Maryland and raised in Detroit.

    What made you want the position of Alumni Manager at Build Institute?
    There is a lot of small business activity in the city right now. Build plays an important role in preparing entrepreneurs to take their next step and it’s an honor to be a part of that.

    What specifically brought you to Build

    I graduated from Build Basics is 2013 and have been connected to the organization since then. I am interested in seeing how entrepreneurs are taking a side hustle and transforming it into their main gig. At the moment, Build has 800 graduates from its programs and I’ve gotten to know a number of them before taking the position. Being here gives me the opportunity to meet many more tenacious people and make a contribution to their growth.

    What is your education background?
    My parents were my first teachers. The city of Detroit has been the training ground. My formal education was at Wayne State University, where I majored in Communications Studies.

    Do you own a small business?
    Contributing to the culture of Detroit is my passion. In 2015 a fellow artist and I started The 48HR Experience to support early-career Detroit artists. During the 48 hours, artists are locked into an art gallery to create and express their craft alongside other artists. The 48HR Experience addresses a few concerns; limited resources for artist collaboration, spotlighting fresh talent within the city, and sustaining the culture of Detroit. The goal is to support artists in accessing their highest potential under extraordinary circumstances.

    48hrWhat do you like to do in your spare time? You can find me at a music performance, art show, or on the west riverfront catching good vibes off the water.

    What do you love about Detroit?
    I appreciate the southern feel of this city. Detroiters have personable characteristics like southerners and the terminology they use sometimes overlaps. Also the one to two degrees of separation between people means you’re not too far from crossing paths with someone.

    What is your favorite business-related quote or piece of advice?
    Keeping the phrase “Done is better than perfect.” in mind has really shaped my life.

    What do you think makes a successful leader?
    I would say having a good team behind you and knowing what your weaknesses are are vital.

    What are some of your goals for the future?
    To spend Detroit winters somewhere else. (We feel you Wayne!)