In 1999, an idea was generated on the west coast of the United States by Suzanne McKechnie Klahr on how to help people achieve success in business through entrepreneurship. The idea was constructed and became known as BUILD.
BUILD has since expanded to five cities including Boston with the office in the Massachusetts capital opening in 2011. BUILD has nine full-time employees at their Boston office, which is situated on Atlantic Avenue.
Edward Wilson has been with the non-profit since 2016 and currently serves as the Director of Philanthropy at BUILD Greater Boston. His role primarily revolves around fundraising and finding businesses that are willing to provide a donation that may in the long-term benefit them as more young people attain entrepreneurship skills that can be utilised at these companies.
Businesses that are interested in donating to BUILD Greater Boston can do so in five different ways. They range from being a seed funder of $5,000 a year all the way up to a catalyst sponsor of $100,000 yearly.
In the academic year just gone by, BUILD Greater Boston worked with students from freshman to senior year in seven high schools in Charlestown, Roxbury, Dorchester and Hyde Park. That number will fall to six for the 2018/2019 school year.
“We’re going deeper in the ones that are our best partners. We’re also looking to do more licensed partnerships which is expanding beyond the city. We are very interested in expanding our program to the Gateway Cities,” says Edward.
The non-profit organization places the greatest emphasis on students in their freshman year in high school. “The freshman year is the biggest growth,” Edward informs. “That’s an intense yearlong program. After that, it moves into an after-school program.”
Last year, BUILD Greater Boston were able to call upon 165 mentors to visit high schools on a weekly basis to impart their business knowledge on students. According to Edward, one of the biggest challenges that his organization faces is finding new mentors for each school year.
“One of the biggest cornerstones of the program is the mentors that come from the business community and mentor once a week with students. Every year as students move on through the program, the mentors move with them. As a result, we must recruit new mentors for the freshman year. This year our goal is to secure 91 new mentors.
“There’s two ways to mentor. One is somebody that comes in 90 minutes a week, every week for the school year. Another model we call the rotational model. A lot of companies like it. It’s four to five employees who will mentor a student business team and all that we ask is that two of the people from that mentor team come every week.
“In the beginning, it’s really getting to know the students. After the first semester, when January hits, you get paired up with a team. You’ll partner with a team that’s making a product and you’ll help push them through to go from concept to customer. You’re there as their coach.”
BUILD Greater Boston hold four events during the academic year where the skills that students have learned from the business mentors are put to the test.
The Ninth Grade Sales Showcase is an event exclusively for freshman students. “That’s the first time the students sell,” informs Edward. “There’s a loan forgiveness prize. All student businesses start with 300 dollars in loans, so they understand the importance of paying back loans. If you win these events, they give you loan forgiveness so that means that you don’t have to pay that loan back.”
Around March or April, BUILD Greater Boston host the Spring Sales Bazaar. In 2018, the event was held at City Hall at the end of March. “We want to make sure they have an opportunity to sell to the community. We will invite people to be guest judges,” says Edward.
Each October, BUILD hold the Entrepreneur Games. This event invites employees from the corporate community to participate in team building activities that are light-hearted and fun. Over 1,000 people from across 70 companies participated in 2017. This year, the Entrepreneur Games will be held on October 18.
The final event of the year is lucrative for students. The BUILDFest Pitch Challenge is held every June and took place at the Sheraton Hotel in Back Bay this year.
Forty teams of students sell a product at the event with the top three making it onto the stage to face a panel of judges. The winning team receives $2,000, the runners-up get $1,000 while the third-place team claims $500.
“It’s an end of year culminating event where students are pitching their businesses in front of 600 guests and celebrity judges,” Edward explains. “It’s an amazing feat to see how far the students come in just one year. For a lot of the employers in the room, they’re looking at 14 and 15-year-olds who are doing a pitch better than many adults can.
“When they connect that they’re coming from underserved communities in Boston it makes them realise the strong workforce that exists two to three miles away from their doorstep.”
Image Attribute: BUILD Greater Boston