Build Institute is proud to introduce to you a carefully curated box of exciting goodies from Detroit-based small businesses. Shipped directly to your door in time for your holiday gatherings, our Build Box features a wonderful selection of products from our graduates. The box makes a perfect gift for friends, family or clients and supports local entrepreneurs and Detroit’s economy. Numbers are limited so order a box or two for yourself and a friend today!
Support Local! Get a Build Box this holiday season!
After paying our Build grads for their amazing products, proceeds are donated to Build Institute.
The need for financial literacy is clear in both our personal lives and in business, but perhaps the highest stakes for personal financial adeptness is in micro-business. Build Institute defines a micro-business as a small company, usually made up of less than five employees. These ultra-small operations often rely on one or two key individuals to make decisions that affect every aspect of the business.
With that, micro-business entrepreneurs have to know their business and it’s financials inside and out. Unfortunately, too many of them are operating with poor or incomplete numbers, or even worse — operating in the dark.
It sounds incredible, but it is common for business owners to rely on an external bookkeeper or accounting professional during tax season, while lacking a personal understanding of the business’s financial health. Until a company is large enough to hire a chief financial officer, the owners should assume that role to the fullest.
Once an entrepreneur understands the finances as well as an accounting professional, the right time to inject working capital into the operation will become clear. Sometimes that cushion is needed when sales are taking off and there just isn’t enough inventory or staff to meet demand. Other times unexpected or unfortunate events (which are part of the process) may decrease sales, require costly legal help, or can otherwise rain on your money-making parade.
Regardless of the reason for a cushion, a business owner that’s comfortable diving into financial statements, unit economics, and projections will be prepared to make the difficult financial decisions that drive their business forward.
When the time comes to inject cash, entrepreneurs should consider all of their options. For some micro-business owners, Kiva is a great place to start. Kiva offers crowdfunded micro-loans of up to $10k with 0% interest, no fees, and reasonable repayment terms. The process for applying and borrowing through Kiva is far less complicated than dealing with traditional means of financing and the often prohibitive requirements that leave so many small businesses to fend for themselves.
Regardless if Kiva is the right fit for your business, the point is that micro-business entrepreneurs must be financially adept. They must know the health of their business in order to know when outside help is needed. When it is time for help, they have to evaluate every opportunity against the reality within their operation. The future of the business depends on it!
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, 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.’”
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.”
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:
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.