Tag Archive: Small business

  1. Donations

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    At Build Institute, we break barriers and provide self-empowerment by fostering confidence, validating ideas and preparing entrepreneurs to launch their ideas.

    With over 1500 graduates, more than 500 businesses, and nearly 1000 jobs created, we are dedicated to making Detroit the leader in equitable entrepreneurship. 

    Core to our mission is keeping our programs accessible to everyone. With your help, we can continue to provide affordable education and support to both aspiring and established entrepreneurs. Help us impact more people who dream of owning their own business and support us in uplifting neighborhood enterprises.

    Build with us by making a donation today!

    Donate Now

    Please make checks payable to Build Institute. 
    Checks should be sent to 2701 Bagley Ave, Detroit, MI 48216


  2. Limited Edition Holiday Build Box 2017



    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.

    Included in each box: Motor City Popcorn, Sfumato Fragrances, Motor City Soap Company, The D. The Jewelry, Natural Red Essentials, Simple Supple Foods, Paisley Paper Company, Boro Resale, and Pastel.

    Build Box 2017

    *Shipping will begin in November.

  3. The Importance of Financial Literacy for Micro-Businesses

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    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!

  4. Build Institute Honored by Bank of America



    Build Institute is honored to be selected as a 2016 Neighborhood Builder from Bank of America. The recognition awards high-performing nonprofits that have made a significant impact in the community working in the bank’s priority funding areas of housing, jobs and hunger relief. The Neighborhood Builder program is a strategic investment that pairs leadership training with a $200,000 unrestricted grant over two years so leaders gain valuable skills while applying funding where it is most needed.

    Build Institute has been recognized for its work in improving financial lives through entrepreneurship and its alignment to Bank of America’s work to address issues fundamental to economic mobility in order to build thriving communities

    For Build Institute, the funding will be used to build up the organization’s technical assistance program for entrepreneurs, allow for the hiring of an on-staff small business advisor to offer one-on-one consulting, and provide funds for its micro-lending program.

    “This is a game changer for Build Institute. To be recognized by Bank of America and be among such distinguished company is truly humbling,” said April Jones Boyle, Founder and Executive Director, Build Institute. “This support will help us reach more aspiring and experienced small business owners as we further our mission to make Detroit the global leader in equitable entrepreneurship.”

    Since 2004, through Neighborhood Builders, Bank of America has helped nonprofits create greater impact in their communities and better prepare for the future by providing the tools and resources they need to develop stronger strategic plans, chart a succession plan, navigate through tough economic times, and enhance their funding opportunities. Since the program’s inception, Bank of America has invested more than $180 million in 900 nonprofit organizations across the country, providing leadership resources to nearly 2,000 nonprofit leaders, and the program has been recognized as the nation’s largest philanthropic investment in nonprofit leadership development.

    Thank you Bank of America for your support of Build Institute and entrepreneurs in Detroit.

  5. Kiva Zip Detroit Update

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    We’re delighted to announce that after four years of exciting growth and inspiring impact in and around Detroit, Kiva Zip is graduating out of beta! This means that our Kiva Zip loans will be moving to the main Kiva.org website. Merging Kiva Zip into the main Kiva website will make it possible for us to expand Kiva’s impact in communities across metro Detroit, while continuing to grow our international network of borrowers and lenders.

    There are several reasons for this change, but mainly, it is to streamline the application process. Currently Kiva Zip lenders have separate Kiva Zip and Kiva.org accounts. This can create confusion and hassle for these lenders. When Kiva Zip loans move to Kiva.org, accounts will be combined into one, and Kiva lenders will be able to seamlessly support entrepreneurs across the street, or the other side of the planet.

    Additionally, one of the most dynamic aspects of Kiva is the 38,000 lending teams that allow lenders with shared interests to come together in support of Kiva’s community of entrepreneurs. To date, lenders have not been able to associate their Kiva Zip loans with lending teams, but after we merge this will become possible. We expect to see a surge of local lending teams develop among lenders who are excited about creating economic opportunities in and around Detroit.

    If you are interested in learning more, contact the Kiva Detroit small business advisor, Razi Jafri, at kiva@buildinstitute.org or visit Kiva Detroit on our website for more information.

    Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 4.38.10 PM

    View funded loans from Build Institute here!

  6. 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.

  7. 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!)


  8. Welcome Yolanda: Registration Manager

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    We’re so excited to welcome Build graduate and Etsy class facilitator Yolanda Curry to our Build team as our new Registration and Recruitment Coordinator! She will manage all the registration process for our Build classes as well as outreach to more aspiring and established entrepreneurs. Get to know Yolanda a little bit more in this Q&A.


    Where were you born and raised?

    The D baby! I’m proud to be from Detroit, MI.

    What made you want the position of Registration Manager at Build Institute?

    I love working with people and business ownership is near and dear to me. I share as many resources as I can with aspiring entrepreneurs; people should succeed in living their dreams. Life is too short to settle!

    What do you like most about your current job at Build?

    Helping people fulfill their business goals, connecting the dots to opportunities, and facilitating collaboration between businesses.

    What is your education background?

    At the University of Michigan, School of Art and Design, I merged my love of science and art to create jewelry. I graduated with dual degrees in Industrial Design and Jewelry Design, and adopted the title of Metalsmith. I also studied gemology at the Gemological Institute of America, and added diamonds and colored gemstones to my palate. Since then I’ve always been making jewelry, teaching it, or selling it, though I never studied education, those opportunities always seem to find me!

    Do you own a small business?

    Of course! Don’t we all? The D. The Jewelry.  pays homage to my hometown. I’ve been making jewelry for the past 15 years, and creating my Detroit themed jewelry for the last 9 years, supplying to select boutiques around town and online

    What do you like to do in your spare time?

    I’m an avid bike rider. I love the outdoors, traveling, reading, and writing. My two lovely children keep my very busy as well! We’re always enjoying events around town!

    What do you love so much about Detroit?

    The history, talent, and innovation! Most of my friends and associates are entrepreneurs, doing great things in the city. The economic landscape is really evolving, and it’s amazing to see so much change in just the last 15 years!

    What is your favorite business-related quote or piece of advice?

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

    Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

    What do you think makes a successful leader?

    Constant personal development, humility, and a commitment to help others succeed. Servant leadership and collaboration underlies many successful organizations. No one can do it alone.

    What are some of your next big goals with Build, your own business, and your personal life?

    Contributing to real economic impact in the neighborhoods! Many neighborhoods once had thriving business sectors; communities were self-sufficient. There are a lot of organizations currently working to revive that energy, and Build is definitely a strong part of that ecosystem. I will forever be an entrepreneur, and raising my children to do the same.

  9. Welcome Madalyn: Brand Strategy Manager


    We’re so thrilled to welcome fellow Build graduate Madalyn Knebel to our Build team as our Brand Strategy Manager! She will handle all design, marketing, and social media needs for our organization to keep us looking our best. Get to know Madalyn a little bit more in this Q&A.


    Where were you born and raised?

    I was born in California, raised in Michigan, but I’ve grown the most in Detroit.

    What made you want the position of Brand Strategy Manager at Build Institute?

    Five years ago when I moved to Detroit I discovered D:hive and loved how friendly and helpful the organization was. I wanted to produce design work for them as soon as they were on my radar. I thrive in alternative education and since childhood I wanted my own design firm, so when Build Institute developed within D:hive I couldn’t wait to take a class. The thrill of my work serving a greater purpose of strengthening the community is an honor to be a part of.

    What do you like most about your current job at Build?

    There are so many things I love about my job at Build, and I’ve only just officially started! I am very thankful to have the opportunity to grow everyday personally and professionally, independently and within our evolving team.

    Madalyn arranging food for a photoshoot. Photo by FYT Productions

    What is your design background?

    I’ve been creative since I was young and initially had aspirations of being a fine artist, but that field is intimidating. Architecture sparked my interest because of its impact on the human experience so I initially pursued that at Lawrence Technological University. While studying at LTU I explored graphic design, film photography, and sustainable design. After a few years I stepped back from those studies to shift my gears towards Product Design at College for Creative Studies, but again ultimately wasn’t satisfied with that path. I realized I loved typography and graphic design and started independently educating myself and taking on small projects. Then about two years ago I started diving into set, prop, and food styling for commercial photography. Like graphic design it allows me to use my eye to compose compelling stories and share information. No matter what medium I use I’ve always desired to honor both form and function through design.

    Do you own a small business?

    Absolutely! I am the one-woman show at Madalyn Knebel Design – a boutique creative consulting and brand identity firm. I help small businesses and organizations tell stories through graphic design and photography. Though my business is comprised of only me, I am fortunate to have a network of creatives I collaborate with for client and portfolio-building projects.

    Madalyn’s food styling for her Chromatic Cornucopia series. Photo by FYT Productions

    What do you like to do in your spare time?

    I am passionate about quite a few things… organic gardening, food and mixology, swing dancing, ballet, yoga, visiting museums, cruising on my bicycle, hunting for vintage treasures, and exploring Detroit’s underground music scene.

    What do you love so much about Detroit?

    This city has allowed me to challenge myself independently in so many ways. I am curious by nature, and I’ve been able to engage with new cultures, experiences, political issues, and more that has shaped my worldview. I value diversity, culture, and history – Detroit encompasses all of that and allows us the opportunity to assess those topics and challenges so we may be a global model of a successful, inclusive urban environment.

    Madalyn and the rest of her Build 37 class

    What is your favorite business-related quote or piece of advice?

    F | false
    E | evidence
    A | appearing
    R | real

    This doesn’t sound like business advice, but let’s be honest; we all struggle with fears and their sometimes crippling effects. Keeping this in mind has helped me re-train my brain when self-doubt, unhealthy comparison, and other negative thought patterns have plagued me personally and professionally.

    What are some of your big goals for 2016 with Build?

    I look forward to further developing and refining Build’s brand identity, internally and publicly. Fellow Build grad Andy Kopietz of Good Done Daily did an astounding job with the initial branding. Mastering the art of Build’s social media campaigns to grow our network and impact the community is very important – I’m not simply after collecting more likes and followers that don’t yield true results. Though I love Build’s website, I would like to work on making it more consistent and mobile-friendly. One of the biggest projects this year will be gaining national and global press for our organization and graduates and I look forward to the challenge!

  10. Get to Know Nikki: Alumni Coordinator

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    Though she’s been assisting us since 2015, we’re thrilled to officially welcome Build graduate Nikki Pardo to our Build team as the Alumni Coordinator! She will manage communications with Build graduates to keep them engaged in our community. Get to know Nikki a little bit more in this Q&A.


    Where were you born and raised?

    I was born in Detroit and raised in Lathrup Village, Michigan. However, my heart will always be with Southwest Detroit, where I lived for several years.

    What made you want the position of Registration and Recruitment Coordinator at Build Institute?

    I wanted the position as the Alumni Coordinator because having been a Build graduate, I remember the day after graduation, thinking, “Ok, so what’s next?” So it was a natural progression that I throw my hat in the ring. I knew it would be a perfect fit because I wanted to be able to provide resources, support, and help empower my fellow small business owners while on their journeys as well.

    What specifically brought you to Build?

    A friend who participated in one of the first classes told me about the Build Institute, and I am forever grateful to her. The entrepreneurship world can be pretty lonely, and it was also the first time I felt comfortable actually saying, “Hey, I’m an entrepreneur!”

    What is your education background?

    I have a Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice, a Masters in the Science of Administration (International Administration), and a Masters in Business Administration (Leadership Development). I am such a nerd.

    Do you own a small business, if so, tell me about it and your motivation for starting it?

    I am the very proud owner of Global Alliance Solutions, a diversity training and consulting company. I worked for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) for almost eight years, and investigated over 350 allegations of discrimination. After leaving the MDCR, I worked for a company that actually discriminated against me. The irony, huh? After going through the EEOC mediation process and settling, I vowed I would dedicate the rest of professional career educating companies and people on ways to avoid discrimination-related lawsuits, grievances, EEOC federal and state charges, etc.

    Any recent accomplishments?

    Working for the Build Institute! I also recently secured another amazing contract with an agency in Detroit as the Organizational Development Consultant, and helping them build a social/human program. I have several diversity trainings coming up, including one at Build Institute this month. I also returned to my law enforcement roots and assembled a focus group as I currently work on my Cultural Awareness Training for Law Enforcement for sworn officers.

    What do you like to do in your spare time?

    Spare time……hmmmmm. What in the heck is that?

    What do you love so much about Detroit?

    I love the resilience of Detroiters. After the recession of 2008, thinking about the revitalization of the city gives me goose bumps just thinking about it! I love that Detroit rebound from the collapse and now talent and small business are helping drive the city’s recovery and resurgence right now. I never thought I would see this type of Detroit, and us not be automotive-industry driven.

    What are your goals for the future?

    Right now there are way too many oars in the water to mention. Stay tuned!