Every year, MCON—the Millennial Engagement Conference—is a great chance for us to celebrate how Millennials are changing the world, and to talk to conference attendees about how they’re getting involved with the causes that matter most to them. This year, we partnered with Comcast NBCUniversal to bring attendees the #GetInTheArena Peacock lounge presented by Comcast NBCUniversal, where participants had a chance to jump into a chat box and record their answers to the question “How are you using technology and innovation to #GetInTheArena and inspire change in your community?” We captured nearly a hundred stories from attendees about how they are turning their interest into action.
One of those stories that inspired us came from Angela Richardson, Communications and Partnerships Manager at BUILD (Businesses United in Investing Lending and Development) Metro DC. Richardson shared how she works with the organization to help students from under resourced communities pursue entrepreneurship. Angela and BUILD are making a difference by providing communities with the resources and connections their residents need to succeed as students and entrepreneurs. Much like the Case Foundation’s Inclusive Entrepreneurship work, BUILD promotes social, financial and inspiration capital through their four year program for high school students. You can see her inspiring video here:
We wanted to learn more about Richardson’s vision for BUILD, her #GetInTheArena motivation and how she rallies supporters to get involved with the organization, so we caught up with her after MCON. Read on to see what she shared with us and how you can learn more about BUILD Metro DC.
Can you tell us about BUILD Metro DC and your vision for the organization?
BUILD Metro DC is an in-and-out of school incubator that introduces high school students to entrepreneurship. With BUILD’s guidance and support, DC students learn to create and run their own start-ups, learning the fundamentals of what it takes to have a successful business. Although our students are doing amazing work, their stories go untold. As the Communications and Partnerships Manager, my vision for BUILD is for every Washingtonian to know the powerful impact BUILD Metro DC has on each high school student we are serving.
What inspired you to “Get in the Arena” on this cause?
I started my career as a communications professional in the beauty and fashion industry. Although that world may seem glamorous and pretty, I wasn’t fulfilling my life’s work. My journey from a beauty and fashion publicist to a social change communicator has led me to tell the powerful untold stories of young people. Having the opportunity to capture the resilience and great potential of our students is what truly inspires me daily to stay in the arena.
How does BUILD foster entrepreneurship in underserved DC communities?
We believe that entrepreneurship is a mindset and because we believe it is a mindset, there are a number of skills that can be developed that we refer to as Spark Skills (Communication, Grit, Problem-Solving, Collaboration, Innovation, and Self-Management). In addition to the development of those skills, students have the opportunity to develop and grow their own business, generating revenue which ultimately teaches them financial wellness and sustainability. These skills have the potential to eradicate generational poverty, in turn putting resources in communities that would otherwise not have them.
What are some of the goals you and BUILD are working towards?
To fulfill our mission, we are working towards growing our student enrollment, ensuring that are student body is fully engaged in our program over time, and that we collectively drive the students BUILD works with towards postsecondary acceptance and college and career readiness.
How do you encourage your students to turn their interest into action?
We challenge them to identify their interests. We then have to encourage and affirm their interest through celebrating the diversity of them and strength of their ideas. Finally, we share with them resources to turn their interests into action.
How do you rally people to get off the sidelines and support BUILD through donations, volunteering and mentorship?
We highlight the power of our students. Donors, volunteers, and mentors join and support BUILD because they want to have a real impact on each of the students and to give them the tools they need to succeed. When we highlight our students, we are making it clear that everyone has an opportunity to play their part in guiding and supporting this next generation.
How does technology play a role in your and BUILD’s social change work?
As part of a pilot program, we partnered with Friendship Tech Prep Academy, utilizing technology as a tool for students to create tech-driven startup businesses. Through this pilot, we have opened the windows of opportunity for our students to learn coding, web design and graphic design, tools we believe every entrepreneur needs to advance his or her business. One of our student teams even created a pop-up device, Insta-Laptop, that turns any smartphone into a functional laptop. The team generated the idea after realizing that many of their peers did not have access to computers at home, but majority of them owned smartphones. This is the perfect example of how we are teaching our students to solve problems like the digital divide.
How do you and your team view entrepreneurship as a pillar of civic engagement?
To create the world that we want to see, we must be willing to think and act in ways that are naturally entrepreneurial. Civic engagement and entrepreneurship share a process for seeing what is, brainstorming improvements, making a plan, and convincing people that they should support the outcome. Helping BUILD students develop their entrepreneurial skills has a strong side effect of preparing them to be civically engaged. The skills of teamwork, grit, and innovation that make our students successful entrepreneurs are the same skills that make them community leaders today and tomorrow.
How have you had to challenge assumptions and take risks during your time at BUILD?
At BUILD, we work to challenge assumptions everyday about the identities of our students – where they are from and the implications that exist because of that. We work to celebrate their individual identities while coaching them to grow, providing them with support and access to resources in an effort to change the narratives that are created for them.
Are there any student entrepreneur success stories that stand out and inspire you to continue getting in the arena for underserved youth?
Two words: Lorrin Davis. Lorrin’s story has truly inspired not only me but our entire BUILD community. She is the perfect example of how gaining a BUILD Spark Skill like Grit can impact all areas of one’s life. She’s journeyed through the BUILD program, starting as young freshman entrepreneur to now a high school graduate on her way to George Washington University as recipient of the highly coveted Trachtenberg scholarship – a full ride valued at $300,000. Despite the many adversities and personal challenges Lorrin may have faced during her time in BUILD, her resilience and dedication to making her dreams come true drives me to the do the work I do daily. She inspires me to continue to tell stories of the many young people overcoming an enormity of challenges, in hopes of uplifting another young person in the process.
Angela, thank you for sharing how you’re Getting in the Arena with us. To learn more about BUILD Metro DC, visit their website. And to learn more about our 20th anniversary celebration, check out our Get in the Arena page.