This Detroit native heads the Corktown-based incubator that supports and champions the entrepreneurial spirit.
Plenty of us have great ideas and the gusto to turn them into reality. Often the only pieces missing are the support, knowledge and resources needed to get a dream off the ground – and that’s where Build Institute steps in. The Detroit-bred incubator was founded in 2012 as a way to provide entrepreneurs with the tools and network to launch and scale their businesses.
President and CEO Regina Ann Campbell calls Build, “an idea innovation hub.” She says, “One of our taglines is, we say: ‘We help entrepreneurs earn, learn and return.’” With a suite of courses and programs centered around knowledge and capital, Build Institute buoys the entrepreneurial spirit.
CO.STARTERS is a nine-week course geared toward aspiring entrepreneurs, “for individuals who are in the proof of concept stage,” Campbell says. Build Basics is the core eight-week course for aspiring and established entrepreneurs to help them further develop their business plans, and walk away knowing how to access more capital and grow their businesses. While Build Impact is tailored to fit the social entrepreneur.
She says, “It’s really about helping ideators in the community who have a social mission, and being able to help them build their business model where they are able to support the community and make a profit.” Build also offers a series of masterclasses on varying topics from cash flow to customer validation, and Build Pilot allows for a real-world, working retail model.
Networking is also a key component of the Build formula. Established entrepreneurs and industry experts are often invited to come speak and meet the aspiring business owners. “We create a variety of environments for them to interact. The one thing about Build, the ecosystem, we have a very successful alumni network. We have 2,045 alumni, to date, and they are engaged in a number of really great ways,” Campbell says. “We can’t get anything done alone – we partner; we collaborate. We believe in networking, building relationships and making strong connections, because it makes the community stronger.”
While she served on the organization’s board previously, Campbell came on as Build president and CEO in November. “I’ve always been one who loves cities,” she says. “I love commercial corridors, I loved going shopping with my parents and going downtown when I was a teenager.” She recalls being a 16-year-old at the bus stop near Grand River and Greenfield and noticing the slew of boarded up shops, the skeletons of a once-booming community. “That bothered me. In that moment, I said to myself, ‘You’re going to help Detroit revitalize.’ I didn’t know what that meant, but what I did know is that I wanted to help bring back small businesses in our communities.”
Campbell has worked in community organizing, housing development and related fields, but says it was when she participated in Wayne State University’s Detroit Revitalization Fellowship in 2011 that the pieces fell into place. “I started working with small businesses, founded the Detroit Entrepreneur Week, which helped bring micro businesses together for a week-long celebration, and I fell, literally, in love with it.”
After that, she worked at TechTown for five years before moving to Memphis to become the city’s chief program officer, working to bring investments and programs to the city’s underserved, community-based businesses. Now, Campbell is back in Detroit with a continued commitment to uplifting women- and minority-owned businesses, in particular.
“I’m from the community and of the community. And, as a woman, a Black woman, gender and race is a challenge that we face. We experience different challenges and barriers that others do not. And, so, (considering) my lived experience, my professional experiences, it’s close to my heart,” she says. “I know that barriers can be removed and overcome. It’s just that we need certain people who are thought leaders and who are about theory of change, which I am, to walk the walk and do what’s necessary to break down the status quo.”
Build Institute’s vision for Detroit is that it will be the global leader in equitable and inclusive entrepreneurship. Campbell says, “For us, it’s really about making sure that – particularly underrepresented, under-resourced entrepreneurs, Black and brown women – have access to the necessary capital, education and networks to launch and grow their business.”
For more information on Build Institute or to get involved, visit buildinstitute.org.