Nominee’s nameApril Boyle

SEEN Changemaker CategoryNonprofits

A picture of the nomineeA picture of the nominee
Nominee’s job titleFounder + CEO
Nominee’s cityDetroit
Please describe why the nominee is a SEEN Changemaker:

As an ambassador for micro-entrepreneurship in Detroit and the leader of an ambitious start-up organization herself, April Boyle operates with a “founder’s mentality,” responsible for leading and directing every element of BUILD Institute. This includes general business operations, fund and resource development, and program design and implementation. Additionally, April is overseeing the organization’s move into new space with the launch of Build’s new inclusive entrepreneurship hub at The Corner in Corktown. This new space will offer classrooms, co-working space, and a retail pop-up market where entrepreneurs can test their business concepts and products in a welcoming community environment. April is actively and carefully managing the growth of the organization through the development of a new three-year strategic plan.

April is driven to remove traditional barriers to entrepreneurship, and is committed to betting on and showcasing the potential of innovators who don’t always fit a standardized mold – all to help make Detroit’s an even more vibrant and rewarding place to live.

Build Institute would not exist without April’s vision and commitment. Her top priority is always to create a meaningful community by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs – by connecting them with the training, support, and resources they need to succeed, she is making a significant contribution to inclusive revitalization in Detroit.


April is a driven leader, committed to Detroit entrepreneurs and her Build Institute team – most often, but certainly not always – women and people of color.

She is bold and visionary. Over the last six years, Build Institute was launched and has become an independent organization with a strong team, and provides an inclusive, supportive community, operating in an exciting, high-energy neighborhood like Corktown – all of this is because of April’s vision.

April is both humble and curious; she asks a ton of questions about things she doesn’t yet know about, and doesn’t shy away from tough conversations. She’s no-nonsense professional, yet kind, supportive and appreciative. She values her team, and is always looking for new ways to invest in their personal and professional development, and engage them in BUILD’s mission and day to day operations.

Tell us about the individual’s accomplishments:

As a founding team member of D:hive, April was Director of Small Business Initiatives where she launched Build Institute. Subsequently, she led the integration when BUILD became a subsidiary program of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, and in 2016, after much research and reflection, Boyle launched Build as an independent organization. A significant undertaking, April obtained the 501c3 status from the IRS; recruited an independent, invested board of directors; and hired a full-time staff to support the organization’s ongoing success. As part of this process, April demonstrated her strong commitment to creating livable wage jobs that offer full benefits, and employing best practices in leadership and organizational development.

Seven years ago, Build Institute didn’t exist. Four years ago, its annual budget was only $150,000. Today, Build Institute has served more than 1,500 entrepreneurs, is an independent organization with a $1M annual operating budget, and is set to expand again through the launch of a new inclusive innovation hub at The Corner in Corktown, on site of the old Tigers Stadium.

April has deep roots in Detroit and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wayne State University. In addition to her role at Build Institute, Boyle sits on the board of Kiva Detroit, and on the advisory board for Ponyride. As partner in Detroit’s Gold Cash Gold restaurant, April is an active investor and owner in Detroit’s bustling service industry.

In 2017, April was honored by Corps! Magazine as “Most Valuable Entrepreneur”; in 2018, she was received the Gingras Global GUS Awards “Entrepreneur of the Year”, and Girl Scouts “Tough Enough to be a Girl Scout” award.

How is he/she impacting the community or the lives of people in Metro Detroit or across the world.

Economic inequality, access to professional opportunities and barriers to small business ownership continue to be a challenge for people of color and women. In response to regional need and community demand, April Boyle founded Build Institute to be an incubator of small businesses and champion of Detroit’s native talent.

Build Institute’s mission is to help turn unique and in-demand business ideas into reality. It sparks economic development, provides an on-ramp for driven visionaries to understand entrepreneurship, and strengthens communities throughout the region by making it easier for artisans, tradespeople, retailers and many others to establish independent businesses and succeed. Build operates on a philosophy of inclusion, optimism, and persistence. To date, Build has served nearly 1,500 entrepreneurs and experienced a 25 percent growth rate in enrollment since its inception.

Furthermore, the organization provides vital support to historically underserved communities:

• 82 percent women and 55 percent people of color
• 85 percent from low-income households
• Students from 100+ zip codes in Southeast Michigan
• Build Institute graduates have created 1,000+ new jobs and 500+ new businesses since 2012
• 14,000+ people impacted each month through Build alumni businesses and their associated products and services
• 90 percent of alumni feel more confident in business knowledge
• 77 percent of alumni were connected to new resources
• 50 percent of alumni collaborate with one another on their projects and businesses

April Boyle established Build Institute in 2012 as a program of the Downtown Detroit Partnership. Since then, she’s guided the organization through significant growth to serve nearly 1,500 Detroit-based entrepreneurs – mostly women and people of color – with an annual budget of $1,000,000.

Examples of businesses run by Build grads include Good Cakes and Bakes, Sister Pie, Detroit is the New Black, Fresh Cut Flower Farm, Detroit Vegan Soul, Hunt & Noyer and many others.


The SEEN Changemaker Awards are brought to you by

Peter and Danialle Karmanos