Corktown is Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, and while times were tough in the past, recent months have seen a revitalization of the area. One of the more significant announcements in the past few years was Ford Motor Company’s acquisition and planned redevelopment of the long-abandoned Michigan Central Station. While exciting, it’s important to remember smaller entities such as Build Institute that are also working to change the game at the local level.
A group of individuals focused on assisting Detroit’s small business community, Build Institute is Corktown’s hub for business support services. Located at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, residing on the site that used to house the former Tiger Stadium, the workspace complex named The Corner, embodies the revitalization of the Corktown neighborhood and is the home base for Build.
THE FOUNDING OF BUILD INSTITUTE
Ford’s entry has caused quite the stir for the neighborhood and commenting on the excitement, Founder and Executive Director of Build Institute, April Boyle stated, “These are precarious time, we have a very positive attitude about it, but it has to be done mindfully and it has to be done respecting the past and respecting the community that is already here, and I think Ford has been working with the city and working with the community on the community benefits project, and I know even in the next year, this neighborhood will transform, so making sure that the residents and the local talent feel included and have opportunities to participate. Within the next year, it’s just going to become more dense, and also be more of a shopping destination for more people and we’re very excited about that.”
Established in 2012, Build Institute was founded to focus on the community while supporting small businesses where they need it most. From financial support to helping small business owners learn new skills, there are no limits to what can be accomplished when working with Build.
“Build Institute is an entrepreneurial training program, an idea activator, small business accelerator, an incubator focused on grassroots ideas and local talent activation. We started as part of D-hive way back in 2012, in the central business district on Woodward Ave,” Boyle stated. “We’ve always been focused on neighborhoods first, and on local talent. We believe talent and ideas are universal, but access to opportunity and resources are not. It’s our mission to ensure our local talent has access to education, business opportunities, funding, networking, the things needed to be a successful business.”
A life long Detroit native, Boyle grew up in Southwest Detroit and saw the city when times were at their worst. Yet, keeping things positive, she remembered all the things Detroit had done in the past and was determined to use this passion as a motivator.
“I’ve always had a passion for the city of Detroit because I was born and raised here, and the people are so passionate and talented, there are so many amazing things have started here, Motown, the auto industry, we have so many creatives and we just want to see people live up to their potential and to live their dreams,” she said. “We do have an opportunity because there has been such disinvestment, so we have this particular palace in time to be super intentional about inclusivity and equity, and making sure that our recovery and our economy are very intentionally built from the ground up and the community up.”
ENTREPRENEURIAL CLASSES AND POINTERS
Helping people to live their dreams is something Build Institute does best. As a coworking space, it offers workspace, meeting and event space, a pop-up retail area and classrooms that provide courses centered around business development, entrepreneurial startups and the skills needed to own and operate a successful small business in Detroit.
Boyle provided us with some pointers that can help those in the small business community succeed, starting with the importance of supporting the community around you, stating, “If we can support our own local small businesses, that money will stay in our community, it helps to build wealth, it helps to build ownership, and it helps to reinforce our identity and our culture.”
Another aspect that Boyle touched on was the mentality needed to succeed when starting a small business, modeling Build’s path to success of the methods they teach those who enroll in their courses.
“We have followed the same path as we teach our entrepreneurs to do, we bootstrapped, we first made sure this was a product or service that people needed,” said Boyle. “We have this world-class space in Corktown, a few blocks down from the Ford development, and we really feel we can be a catalyst for these random yet profound collisions for connecting people to opportunities with the Ford project and others, making sure that all of that is through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Expanding their horizons, Build Institute now offers assistance to small businesses and entrepreneurs in Ferndale, Pontiac and Hazel Park. They also began to move outside of Michigan, launching in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where they brought a taste of Detroit development to our neighbors in the midwest.
There are more developments than one can count coming out of Build Institute, and you can see more of the exciting things to come in our video that highlights some of the work they are doing. Those also interested in learning more about the opportunities and courses offered by Build Institute can do so here.