Build Institute trains entrepreneurs in Hazel Park

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published January 17, 2020


HAZEL PARK — About a dozen aspiring business owners recently completed a program in Hazel Park that gave them fresh insights into the entrepreneurial experience.

April Boyle, founder and executive director of the Build Institute, described the nonprofit as an “idea activator and small business accelerator.” Headquartered in Detroit, the Build Institute has grown to include programming in Hazel Park, Ferndale and Pontiac, as well as Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The nonprofit assists people in turning their project or business ideas into actual operations. This is achieved by educating them on owning and operating a business, as well as providing tools and a support network to get started.

The Build Institute has been helping launch small businesses now for eight years and in more than 100 ZIP codes. The participants are 70% women and 60% people of color. To date, there have been 19,500 graduates through the program, resulting in more than 550 businesses and 1,200 jobs created or retained. For 10 years, the Build Institute has run well-attended networking forums with thousands of attendees. The group also recently acquired Detroit SOUP, a micro-granting dinner that has raised more than $140,000 to support over 150 community projects.

The Hazel Park program launched last fall at Frame — located behind Joebar on John R Road, south of East Woodward Heights Boulevard, in Hazel Park — meeting each Tuesday for eight weeks. The first class graduated in December.

Currently, the nonprofit is gauging interest levels in a second class. The group is also looking to launch other programs in the city, including an open panel discussion and networking event, and a Hazel Park version of SOUP that would benefit local initiatives.

“The (Build Institute) program is for anyone with an idea that needs help with a business or project plan,” Boyle said. “We believe local, independently owned small businesses are the backbone of our city. They create jobs, keep wealth and ownership in our community, redevelop commercial corridors and neighborhoods, and preserve our culture.

“If you have an idea and need some support to get started, or want to get connected into a community of like-minded doers, then Build is the right place for you,” she added. “We meet people where they are in their journey, and are part of a vast network of business support organizations to help meet your needs.”

There is a cost to attend that runs on a sliding scale based on income and family size.

“We have better outcomes when there is some skin in the game,” Boyle explained. “And as a nonprofit we still need money for operations like paying our facilitator, binders and curriculum, supplies, marketing, registration and other costs.”  

The Build Institute got involved in Hazel Park when Mike McFall reached out to its leaders in 2018 to meet with him and city administrators. McFall was elected to the City Council in November 2019.

“I worked hard to bring this program to Hazel Park because I wanted to help create opportunities for our residents and attract new businesses to our city,” McFall said. “We have many residents with a strong entrepreneurial spirit who need that additional knowledge to take their business to the next level. Creating an entrepreneur pipeline is a positive step towards filling the empty buildings along John R.”

He said the Build Institute is one way to accomplish this.

“The city of Hazel Park is looking to help get your business off the ground. If you’re looking to start a business or learn how to better run your existing one, this program is for you,” McFall said. “Hazel Park is working to be as business friendly as we possibly can. Encouraging and properly preparing our entrepreneurial residents to succeed is a positive step for the city.”  

Boyle said her group is eager to keep the collaboration going.

“Build is super excited to be working in Hazel Park,” Boyle said. “There is already so much going on, and we are here to support and accelerate that great work.”

For more information on the Build Institute, visit