Special Edition


BUILD’s mission is to use entrepreneurship to excite and propel disengaged, low-income students through high school to college success. Serving disadvantaged youth has been at the heart of BUILD’s efforts since our organization was founded by attorney Suzanne McKechnie Klahr in 1999. Suzanne was teaching business entrepreneurship as part of a public service fellowship in East Palo Alto, California. One day, four Latino boys approached her for help. They wanted to drop out of high school and start a small business. After listening to their plans, she agreed to help them on two conditions: they stay in school and improve academically. Under her guidance, all four students went on to graduate from high school and enter college. This experience inspired Suzanne to found BUILD and offer a four-year program that targets disengaged high school students in low-income communities and uses entrepreneurship to motivate these students to excel in school and go to college.

In 2002, BUILD became a key player in school districts when it went into local high schools and began offering its entrepreneurship curriculum as a daily, credited class. By working closely with the partner schools and their teachers, BUILD began supplementing students’ traditional education with the real-life experience of running their own small businesses. This unique experiential learning program increased students’ self-confidence, taught them the value of critical academic skills, and motivated them to graduate and pursue post-secondary education. Teachers have seen the transformative effect of BUILD on their students in the classroom, and the schools experience decreased drop-out rates and see more students go on to college.


Today, BUILD operates programs in the San Francisco Bay Area, Washington, D.C. and Boston. We partner with 20 schools to serve nearly 1,200 students.

Five BUILD students have been awarded the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) National Youth Entrepreneur of the Year award. Three students have been named Gates Millennium Scholars. Four BUILD Instructors have been named NFTE’s Entrepreneurship Teacher of the Year. Suzanne McKechnie Klahr was also inducted into the Ashoka Fellowship in November 2006 and in 2011 was named as a Women’s History Month Local Hero by KQED and Wells Fargo Bank.

BUILD has been nominated for several awards, including the Fast Company Social Capitalist Award (finalist) and the Manhattan Institute Social Entrepreneurship Award.

BUILD has been featured in the media, including CNN, PBS, NPR, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Bay Area Business Woman News, the Oakland Tribune, and Palo Alto Weekly News.

However, the true measure of BUILD’s success lies in our student stories. After all, they’re the reason why BUILD exists.

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