It’s Not How You Start

How One Innovative Non-Profit Ignited This Millennial Entrepreneur’s Life

Today, Tony Shavers III is an award winning self-published author, entrepreneur, and fundraising professional. From the outside world, it would appear that Tony has always had life figured out. 

Tony grew up in a low-income neighborhood in West Oakland, CA, that was plagued by growing violence and a lack of community-based programs. He faced what seemed to be insurmountable circumstances. From fighting for his life as a premature baby, being bullied growing up, dealing with his father’s absence and struggles with incarceration, and coming to terms with his sexuality without sacrificing his faith. Any time things were going well, another trial was thrown his way, making him question if he’d ever feel comfortable in his own skin. 

These lived experiences would make anyone want to give up, crawl in a corner and tuck away from the world. For many years, that would be Tony’s escape. 

Tony struggled with self-confidence after years of being bullied for his feminine mannerisms. When Tony entered High School he didn’t think he would ever overcome his reserved personality. However, there would be salvation for Tony – a program that would help him regain his voice and purpose in the world. An innovative, youth entrepreneurship program called BUILD.

Although Tony grew up in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood, he was fortunate to live in the Bay Area where BUILD was founded back in 1999. At just 14 years old, Tony had the opportunity to experience BUILD by developing his own student business with his classmates. He was the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of a mighty group of five. The company was called Chocolate Rainbow Inc.—a T-shirt line for women to help boost their self-esteem. This program would ultimately allow Tony to think and act like an entrepreneur—skills that have served him well as the entrepreneur and career professional he is today.

Through the program, Tony learned to believe in himself. He started acting like a CEO—making sure everyone was heard, pushing himself and others to achieve their best, stepping up in ways that surprised even him, improving his communication skills, and building his confidence and belief in himself.

Through BUILD, Tony was able to develop new friendships with his classmates, as well as start a new relationship with his BUILD business mentor, Patti Birbiglia, who is currently Vice-President, Head of Growth Markets and Insights at Labcorp. A relationship that started at 14 years-old has blossomed over sixteen years. Patti served as Tony’s mentor for the entire time in the program and continued her support through attending his college graduation, birthday parties, and his upcoming wedding in 2024. 

Tony’s relationship with Patti is one of thousands who have benefited from having caring adults from the business community provide support and practical advice on school, college, careers, and life. This is possible because 100% of BUILD students start real businesses in high school while building their social capital. 


“I am so grateful for the relationship I formed with Patti. She’s been a tremendous asset to my life,” says Tony.  “BUILD showed me how to build my own table and open doors of opportunity for myself and others.” 


Today, Tony has a successful consulting business where he provides coaching to aspiring authors to help them find their voice, write their story, and share it with the world. He has also come full circle with BUILD as the Assistant Director of Donor Engagement. 


“I believe that BUILD is the blueprint for transforming education in America. We have a responsibility to help cultivate leaders and changemakers with entrepreneurial skills and mindsets,” says Tony. 


Through BUILD, he discovered a gift for making a difference in people’s lives as a voice for those who felt silenced: even in his quest to release himself from his own solitude, he made it his mission to continually help others. On November 5, 2022, Tony is releasing his self-published memoir: Here I Stand From Childhood Rejection to Adult Resilience. This inspiring story chronicles the rollercoaster of his life ultimately leading him to a place of empowerment.

To learn more about Tony Shavers III and/or purchase his memoir, visit Use code: BUILD for FREE SHIPPING. 

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Download a Sample of Our Curriculum

Fill out this form to receive a free sample of our curriculum and to receive occasional email updates on how to bring BUILD to your community.



1. iPhone, iPad, Zoom and Loom are all choices of recording tools for their video presentation 
2. Record with both students and their presentation in view
3. Record horizontally for the best view of the students and their presentation
4. Follow Presentation Diagram to the Right


- Make eye contact with the camera
- Notecards may be used as cue cards
•Pro Tip: Notecards should avoid having a full script
- Even when you are not speaking, don’t forget the camera is still recording!
•Be aware of your body language while you and your business partners are speaking
- Everyone has an opportunity to speak
- Professional dress is encouraged
- Practice makes perfect
•Practice how you will transition from each speaker
•Project your voice when you speak​

Follow positioning format Above

Download a Sample of Our Curriculum

Fill out this form to receive a free sample of our curriculum and to receive occasional email updates on how to bring BUILD to your community.