Finding a Way 13 Using Entrepreneurship to Steer At-Risk Students in the Right Direction As a Stanford Law student, Suzanne McKechnie Klahr observed the economic difference between entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and East Palo Alto. It wasn’t that one group’s ideas were better than the other’s, noted Suzanne, founder and CEO of BUILD and a former Mintz Levin Project Analyst. The only difference she saw was that Silicon Valley entrepreneurs had access to connections and resources. That access difference prompted her to counsel low-income entrepreneurs in East Palo Alto after graduating. What she didn’t anticipate, though, is that one day four high school sophomores would come in and set her on another path.“We’re done with school and want to start a business,”they said. “We were told you were the business lady who can help us.” She made a bargain. She’d help them start a business, but they had to work hard in school. Those four students were the first in what is now Businesses United in Investing, Lending, and Development (BUILD), a four-year program that serves hundreds of high school students in low-income areas and is now the largest youth business incubator in the nation. Most importantly, the organization has an astounding track record of turning students at risk for dropping out into ones who excel in school, graduate, and go on to college.“BUILD helps kids perceived as ‘not college material’ get the support they need to achieve,” says Suzanne. “It’s about helping them reach their potential and then some.” One BUILD student summed it up by saying, “Staying in BUILD will help my future by preparing me for any challenge that tries to get in my way.” Charles Samuels, a Mintz Levin attorney, agrees. “I met the first two BUILD graduates of the D.C. program, and these are women who have amazing inner resources, confidence, and are goal directed,”says Chuck, who serves as a venture capital advisor to BUILD students in D.C., and also was an original member of its local advisory board. “Both felt that BUILD helped them stay focused by giving them positive activities,” he says. The firm made office space available to BUILD in its offices in Palo Alto, Washington, D.C., and Boston. Mintz Levin attorneys Brady Berg and Francis Meaney, among other attorneys and staff, are also supporters of the organization. Attorney Anthony Hubbard helped Suzanne expand the board, conducted a corporate governance review, and helped raise BUILD’s national profile. In addition, attorney Gabriel Schnitzler helped negotiate the leases for its Redwood City headquarters and Oakland office. “Other programs recruit students that are already motivated, high achievers,”says Suzanne.“We create them.” Venturing Forward Anthony Hubbard immediately partnered with us by providing strategic and tactical advice aimed at heightening the profile and effectiveness of our board of directors. I’m confident that BUILD’s transformation into a national organization would not have been as smooth without Anthony’s foresight and valuable counsel. Suzanne McKechnie Klahr CEO and Founder BUILD