Formed in January 2012 as a pilot project of D:hive, Build Institute, an entrepreneurial program, began as a welcome center and resource located on Woodward Avenue in the current Nike Detroit Community Store space.
The welcome center included tours, provided by what is now Detroit Experience Factory (DXF), located on Monroe Avenue.
“The concept was proven successful, both for DXF’s tours and Build’s entrepreneurial education classes. Both of us have continued on independently,” explains Christianne Sims, the program manager at Build Institute.
Sims is part of a small staff of four individuals, managing operations, events, marketing support, strategy, fundraising and grants.
“We are all facilitators and entrepreneurs,” said Sims. “We really live, breathe and help teach entrepreneurship. We all understand the struggles and the rewards that come through entrepreneurship.”
Since the first class in spring of 2012, Build has had over 1,000 graduates, including some familiar Detroit names like Sister Pie, Détrot is The New Black, and Coffee and (…) Out of the 1,000 graduates, 350 have started or sustained a business, a statistic above the national average, says Sims.
Currently, Build resides on Bagley Avenue, sharing a space with Repair the World, a Jewish non-profit focused on food and economic justice.
Classes are held in their Bagley location, expanding throughout areas like downtown Detroit, Hamtramck, Livernois and Grandmont Rosedale
Sims suggests that there are typically five reasons why people come to Build: they have an idea, a part-time business, a hobby business unregistered with the state, need a business plan in order to qualify for funding or just simply want to network with like-minded individuals.
To accommodate the different levels of need in the entrepreneurial community, Build provides different classes based on the unique level of business development.
The Co.Starter program is a nine-week business development program that allows entrepreneurs the opportunity to flesh out their ideas using a business model canvas plan. This includes identifying their customer, business plan, start-up costs and learning marketing skills.
Once they’ve graduated from Co-Starters, they can attend Build Basics, an eight-week business and project planning class. They have the opportunity to work through their numbers and deep-dive into marketing and things that are needed to officially launch and take their business to the next level if they’re currently in operation. They graduate from the class with a draft business plan, a cohort of fellow entrepreneurs in Detroit, and a network of over a 1,000 alumni for support. According to Sims, a majority of entrepreneurs come through the Build Basics Program.
Grow Roundtables are a series of 12 meetings for business owners and CEOs who have been in business for a year or two. The roundtable atmosphere consists of peers or small business owners who give insight, share struggles, and offer solutions.
“This gives our alumni another support team in order to help take them to the next level of business. We really push the “it takes a village” aspect and encourage others to help out,” says Sims.
According to a recent alumni survey, Sims explains that over 50% of Build alumni collaborate with each other and see increased profits and revenue due to the partnership.
“Build was one of the founders of creating this entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Detroit and really one of the first entrepreneurial training programs in main street business,” says Sims.
Sims also explains their incorporation of “in-trepreneurialship,” teaching the entrepreneurial mindset to those who might not be their own boss yet. By creating this culture of in-trepreneurialship within companies, they are prompting innovation within their current roles, according to Sims.
“This is how cities and towns are built: your local entrepreneurs and commercial corridors,” explains Sims. “We are really populating and getting people interested in their small businesses again; it comes back full circle on how our city was created in the first place.”
Build is located at 2701 Bagley Ave. Upcoming events include Open City, a forum for Detroit’s entrepreneurs and small business owners to network and discuss small business topics. The next Open City is February 20 from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at Cliff Bells, 2030 Park Ave.