Have burning questions about BUILD? Contact us here, and we may add the question to the FAQ.


Why does BUILD exist?

BUILD was founded to propel students in under-resourced communities through high school and onto college and career success by leveraging the potential in each student through the power of the entrepreneurial experience.

What is BUILD’s mission?

Through entrepreneurship-based, experiential learning, BUILD ignites the potential of youth in under-resourced communities and equips them for high school, college and career success.

Who does BUILD serve?

BUILD serves approximately 1500 students in under-resourced communities, who attend high schools with below-average graduation and college enrollment rates.

Where does BUILD operate?

Currently BUILD operates in the San Francisco Bay Area, Washington, D.C., New York City and Boston. We have plans to expand our direct service program to at least 10 cities total.

What does BUILD do?

BUILD operates a four-year high school program, during which participating students learn valuable skills to support their academic and employment success. They do this through the experiential learning of opening and running their own business.

 What are BUILD’s results/impact?

BUILD helps to increase on time high school graduation and college enrollment for students living in under resourced communities. The average on-time high school graduation rate for students who complete the BUILD program is 97%. BUILD graduates enroll in college the semester immediately following their High School graduation at an average rate of 71%. Please see the Impact section below for national comparison statistics.

How did BUILD get started?

BUILD was founded in 1999 when four students in East Palo Alto approached our founder for help starting a business so they could drop out of high school. She agreed to help them IF they stayed in school. They agreed, and BUILD was born.

How can I get involved?

Whether you want to join our team, donate or volunteer (we have options that require anywhere from an hour a week to an hour a year), please visit our Join Us page.

How many students does BUILD currently serve?

In the 2015-2016 school year, BUILD serves 1,600 students.

What does BUILD stand for?

BUILD is an acronym that stands for Businesses United in Investing Lending and Development.

How does BUILD get its funding?

BUILD currently funds its entire annual budget through the philanthropic investments of corporate and foundation partners as well as from gifts of individual supporters. To donate, please click here.


What is experiential learning? Why does BUILD think it’s so important?

Experiential learning is a pedagogy where the students learn by doing and reflecting. BUILD believes that this type of learning  is important because it engages the learners in meaningful, real-world experiences and teaches them how to become life-long or continuous learners.

What is growth mindset? Why does BUILD think it’s important?

Growth Mindset is the view of intelligence, skills and abilities as not innate, but qualities that can be developed. Fostering a growth mindset has been repeatedly linked to increased student motivation and learning outcomes in the literature.

How does BUILD work with its partner schools?

BUILD seeks to form a meaningful, cooperative relationship with all our partners schools. The details of this relationship depend on the type of relationship the school forms with BUILD.

What data does BUILD track? When does BUILD report key datapoints?

BUILD tracks number of students and schools served, student retention rates, 10th grade eligibility rates, high school graduation rates, college acceptance and enrollment rates, and college persistence and completion rates.  Additionally, BUILD measures student improvement in SPARK Skills  each year using a reliable and valid assessement tool.

BUILD reports on key data points biannually – each Fall and Spring – as the data becomes available.

How does BUILD set benchmarks?

BUILD seeks to even the playing field for our students.  We hold ourselves and our students to high expectations and set our sights on performing at 25% or more above national averages in our key outcome areas: high school graduation and college enrollment.

Are BUILD student businesses lucrative? Do students get to keep their profits?

Once students repay their venture capital loans, students keep the profits of their companies. The amount of profit varies among teams. However, making a profit, while one of many motivators for students, is not an official goal, nor a measure of success for the BUILD program.

What resources does BUILD have for undocumented students?

BUILD serves students regardless of documentation status. We work in our local communities to support students in the college financial aid process, which varies from state to state.

How do students get into the program?

Students are enrolled in BUILD in 9th grade through their high schools. Students can be referred by teachers or counselors, they can self-select in, or they can be actively recruited by BUILD staff in each region.

What if I can’t attend mentor sessions, can I still be in the class?

In general, attending the mentor session is a requirement of the BUILD program.

What do students learn in the program?

Students work in teams and with volunteer business mentors to launch a real business by engaging in design thinking, market research, prototyping, sales events and other aspects of the entrepreneurial experience. This hands-on application gives students the opportunity to develop six “SPARK Skills” (collaboration, communication, problem solving, innovation, self-management and demonstration of grit); skills that a growing body of research identifies as essential to succeed through high school, college and propel students into 21st Century careers.

Will I get credit for taking this class? Is it a college prep class?

BUILD’s 9th grade Entrepreneurship Class is offered for credit at all 24 of our partner schools. Our curriculum will help prepare students to succeed in college. Which credits and graduation requirements BUILD fulfills varies by school.

Why is BUILD only a 9th grade class at my school, but other schools have 10th-12th grade programming?

BUILD offers two programs: a 9th grade elective course and a 10th-12th afterschool program. Many schools have both BUILD programs, but some of our partner schools only offer the 9th grade elective course.

What happens after E1?

If students are at a partner school offering BUILD’s 10th-12th grade program, students may apply to join this as a continuation. In this program, students will deepen their entrepreneurship experience, begin career exploration, and get support with navigating the college application process.

What makes BUILD different from other entrepreneurship education programs?

BUILD uses the experiential education methodology to drive the process of learning through the entrepreneurship experience. We see entrepreneurship as a powerful vehicle for acquiring and growing in SPARK Skills, which lead to college and career success. Unlike other entrepreneurship education programs, we do not have metrics for how much revenue student businesses bring in or how many of our students go on to pursue careers in business. Our ultimate measure of success is that students take an entrepreneurial mindset and skillset on to whatever their futures may be!

What makes BUILD different from other college readiness programs?

BUILD uses a highly engaging, entrepreneurship-based experiential learning program to drive to college-readiness skills. Through our program, learning content and college-readiness skills become relevant to student’s interests. Even if a student doesn’t start BUILD with the intention of becoming “college ready”, they learn and grow in their SPARK Skills and define their own future goals – which leads to not only college readiness, but lasting motivation to persist in school.


How do BUILD outcomes compare to National averages?

The average on-time graduation rate for students who complete the BUILD program is 97%, compared to the overall national average of 81% and the national average for low-income students of 73%.* (National data derived from the “Building a Grad Nation” report by Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center based on Department of Education statistics.)

BUILD graduates enroll in college the semester immediately following their High School graduation at an average rate of 71%, compared to the overall national average of 67% and the national average for low-income, urban, minority students of 53%.* (National data from the “High School Benchmarks” report by the National Student Clearing House).

Has BUILD ever had a third party evaluation of its program done?

BUILD has had a number of external evaluators and consultants conduct needs assessments, program reviews and other projects throughout the years at individual sites or on specific program components. In DC for example, the team is currently working with an external evaluator on a 3-year program evaluation, due to conclude in 2018. Additionally, BUILD is one of the rare organizations that invests in an internal team for program evaluation.

How many students who start with BUILD, finish BUILD?

BUILD is unique in that there is only one entry point for students. We do not typically allow students to join the program later  in the 10th, 11th or 12th grade. Therefore, our retention rates are not comparable to many other organizations. Of the students who finish our 9th grade program, 64% will go on to complete the entire 4 year program.

What are BUILD alumni doing now?

Many of our alumni are currently pursuing post-secondary opportunities, studying in 2- and 4-year colleges. After college, our graduates go on to a variety of careers in different industries – bringing with them an entrepreneurial mindset and SPARK Skills to ensure success. If you are an alumni reading this, we’d love to hear from you! Email us at alumni@build.org.

What are the SPARK Skills? How did you decide on these six skills? How do you know they will help students graduate high school college and career-ready?

The SPARK Skills are grounded in the prominent and widely-respected work of lead educators and researchers in 21st Century Skills, Social & Emotional Learning, Growth Mindset, and Grit. BUILD chose these 6 skills after engaging multiple stakeholder groups, like students, staff, teachers, school administrators, our Board of Directors, and more and a thorough review of the theoretical and scientific literature on the subjects of college and career readiness. We acknowledge that there are many important skills for students to master to succeed in life. We believe that our SPARK Skills–collaboration, communication, problem solving, innovation, grit and self-management–are not yet being taught consistently in high schools across the country, and can be learned through entrepreneurship and experiential learning, BUILD’s core competencies. A growing body of research support the link between the skills BUILD teaches and the outcomes we drive towards – high school, college and career success.

What are BUILD’s college enrollment and graduation rates? How do you track this?

We use data from the National Student Clearinghouse to track the college enrollment, persistence and completion of our alumni. We do not yet have college graduation rates, but our outcome data is here.

How do you measure college persistence?

We use data from the National Student Clearinghouse to track the college enrollment, persistence and completion of our alumni. BUILD defines college persistence as the continued enrollment in a post-secondary education institution.


How do I donate?

Please visit our Join Us page for ways to donate and get involved.

If I can’t donate, how else can I get involved?

Please visit our Join Us page for ways to get involved.

Where does my donation go?

It depends! When you make a donation, you can determine what region you would like to support, or you may donate it to the national organziation, where you gift will be leveraged to support students across the country.


How many mentors does BUILD work with in a given year?

This depends on student enrollment and business team size. Ideally, each business team (5-8 students) has up to 2 mentors each.

How long is the mentoring commitment?

BUILD asks volunteer mentors to commit for one school year, roughly 10 months. Many mentors choose to recommit for multiple years in a row, but this is not a requirement to volunteer.

What does a mentoring session look like? What will I be doing as a mentor?

As a mentor you’ll support a team of students as they create, launch and run their own business. All of the mentor sessions are facilitated by a BUILD teacher or staff member and your role encompasses being a coach, motivator and advisor for your team. As a mentor, it’s important to guide students through the entrepreneurial process and allow students to fail as part of the process. Your job is to help them learn from failure and celebrate their successes.