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.
In March 2017, Build was invited by Michigan House to speak on the panel about equity and inclusion in communities. Exploring the strategies employed by Michigan’s communities to build an inclusive future that encourages opportunity for all.
April Boyle of Build Institute
Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss James Chapman of Rock Ventures LLC Pamela Lewis of New Economy Initiative
South By Southwest (SXSW) dedicates itself to helping creative people achieve their goals. Founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, SXSW is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. The event, an essential destination for global professionals, features sessions, showcases, screenings, exhibitions, and a variety of networking opportunities. SXSW proves that the most unexpected discoveries happen when diverse topics and people come together.
Photo Credit: Shutter Sam
Build alum Beaubien Fine Foods (jams, Molly O’Meara & Noelle Lothamer) featured in the “Back to Our Roots” brunch with special guests including the mayor of Grand Rapids, Rosalynn Bliss and New Economy Initiative, Director, Pam Lewis among others. Build alum Firebrand Candles (Quinn Hamilton) featured during South by Southwest.
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.
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. MergingKiva 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Kiva Detroit on our website for more information.
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.
I’m a relative newcomer to Detroit, having moved here in 2012 to teach elementary school on the west side of the city. When I tell my friends and family on the east coast why this city is so special to me, the spirit of Detroiters always stands out in my mind. Everyone I meet is passionate and involved in something to create a stronger Detroit – whether it’s working with youth, rehabbing a home, starting a business, organizing a block club, volunteering in spare time, and much more. Doing all these things is not the unique part, but it’s the underlying purpose – contributing to something greater – that sets Detroit apart.
With all the challenges Detroiters have faced in the past and present, those who have chosen to stay and those who are moving here now share a common passion for making Detroit a better place. It’s an infectious spirit that has always made me want to play my part.
Roughly one year ago, I left my job as an elementary school teacher to start a new social venture, Detroit Horse Power. We plan to open a new urban equestrian center that repurposes vacant land and provides year-round programming for local children, helping them develop critical skills that set them up for future success. We have achieved a lot in one year: incorporating as a nonprofit, receiving tax-exempt status from the IRS, raising an initial budget of $6,000, organizing two successful pilot programs in June and August reaching a total of 18 kids, The vision was mine, but I can’t do this work alone and I am deeply grateful to all the different people and organizations that have helped Detroit Horse Power get where it is today.
It’s this trend that makes me most hopeful about our city. By unlocking the brilliance across Detroit, we have the talent and resources to achieve incredible things. Synergy will multiply our achievements – with potential partnerships like locally sourced hay for horses to eat, recycling dumped tires to create synthetic footing for our arenas, and composting horse manure to fertilize urban gardens. We are stronger together; Detroiters know this implicitly. Lifting each other up is the only way we can move forward because our collective success is tied to the fate of each individual. And if we have the power to help someone realize their dreams, we will all be better off as a result.
So as I reflect on a successful first year of Detroit Horse Power, I would like to honor many of those that have helped me along this first step in this journey. There are many to recognize and I’m likely forgetting a few. I hope this goes to show that your efforts are deeply appreciated and to let others know of these wonderful folks and the larger spirit they embody.
The Build Institute has been tremendous to my development as a social entrepreneur between the Build Social class as well as events and networking with Build alumni and fantastic resources. After going through Build Social, I got to work with Eastern Michigan’s Center for Advancing Social Entrepreneurship, who generously donated their time to give me guidance, feedback, and connect me with critical resources. And Gingras Global LLC has worked with me one-on-one to put in place systems to document our finances and social impact.
There are several other organizations that have taken an interest in our social mission and helped lift up what we are doing. Detroit Future City has been a great supporter of our plans for innovative land use and helped connect to valuable expertise and resources. Michigan Community Resources has a terrific pro bono legal services program along with valuable events. Two Wayne State programs – the Community/Business Law Clinic and Blackstone Launchpad have been great opportunities to get initial legal support and further develop our business plan, pitching in front of investors and Detroit stakeholders for grant funding. Lawyers from Jaffe Raitt Heuer & Weiss and Olson Bzdok & Howard have also patiently answered many questions to support our strategic planning.
Detroit Horse Power’s community partners in our first two pilot programs were Alternatives For Girls and Burns Elementary/Middle School, which both took a leap of faith on a new organization, entrusting me to successfully deliver on the program I had in my head.
Those camps would not have been possible without our generous hosts at the Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Center and Equinox Farm. These gracious folks made their facility and their wonderful horses available for our kids to have amazing experiences this summer. In order to get our kids to the second camp, Summer in the City gave us a sweet deal on using one of their 15-person vans.
We had an amazing group of volunteers from across southeast Michigan (and even one from Indiana!) who gave their time and skills to make this program a success for our participants. A big thanks to the United States Pony Club, and FCA’s Motor Citizens Program (which also led to a grant opportunity). We also had guest speakers from different equine professions give up time in their busy schedules to spend time with our kids!
I’d also like to thank Nancy Kotting who took the time to write a terrific piece about Detroit Horse Power in our early stages, which was published in the Huffington Post. Additionally, Kecia Freed has patiently worked through a half dozen iterations of our soon-to-be released logo. Kate Sumbler has been so generous with her time in working up our new website (also launching soon). Then there are dozens of individuals, family, and friends from around the country that have offered advice and perspective at various points in this journey.
Thank you to all who have lifted Detroit Horse Power closer to our goals through your generous contributions. The best way I know to honor your acts of kindness is to pay it forward. I know this collective spirit will lift Detroit to new heights.
We’re so fortunate to work with Duke University hosting 2 summer interns, Liz and Ryan, as part of the Duke Engage Fellowship program. You can read about their experience living, working, and playing in Detroit here.
Check out the interview Liz did with our executive director April Boyle here.
Check out the interview Ryan did with our director of programs Jessica Meyer here.
Left-Handed Branded creates custom clothing using sustainable fabrics and fashion accessories that are made from up-cycled materials such as 35 mm film. Our motto is “Make a big statement, leave a small carbon footprint!”
Left-Handed Branded just cleared a year in Hamtramck after being in NYC for the past 6 years. So much has happened in those 6 years in Detroit for small business. I happened intoD:Hive my first month back in Detroit and found out about the Build Institute. I started out going to Build Sponsored events like Open City and various lectures around town. Every small business owner I met in Detroit was a Build Graduate. After attending The Build Institute’s 2 Year Anniversary Party in Southwest Detroit, I decided to apply for the Spring 2015 Build Basics Entrepreneurship Program. I was accepted and as a now recent graduate I understand the hype. Thank you, Build Institute!
The New Year has been good to Left-Handed Branded. I got a website back up in April and keeping with the theme of putting myself out there I was accepted into the Eastern Market’s Sunday Street Market for the 2015 Season. It has only been two weeks, but more has happened for Left-Handed Branded in the first two weeks of the Eastern Market Season than an entire Michigan winter (and I thought the winter was good to me).
I tend to stay in my studio and make things most of my time and getting myself and my ideas out there has been a great way to get the feedback and sales numbers I needed to finish my business plan. I brought a New Yorker to Detroit with me and she is loving Hamtramck/Detroit too. If you want to see what Left-Handed Branded is up to, please come by Shed 3 at the Eastern Market (my space is right below the Huge Shinola Watch). I am trying to have new products on display every week.