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D:hive BUILD

1253 Woodward ave
Detroit, Michigan 48069

April Boyle

By Dan Jones
May 9, 2014

"Being an entrepreneur is like being an artist. There isn't just one path,” says a beaming April Boyle, Director of Small Business Initiatives at D:hive. And she should know. Having spent a number of years ensconced in the world of music as a vocalist (most recently as the lead singer of all-mom band The Mydols) it has been quite a trip to have ended up in the nonprofit world at the D:hive’s hip offices on Woodward sandwiched between Grand River and Gratiot.

At D:hive, small-time entrepreneurs can find the resources they need to get started. The emphasis is on small scale businesses, one- and two-person gigs, sometimes with not much more than an idea or a concept for a brick and mortar location.

Regardless of the potential entrepreneurs’ level of business sophistication and preparedness, April Boyle has tools and resources to help all visitors. April was at D:hive right from the beginning when everything was still in massive flux and the programs were still very much in development. “I was wearing so many hats,” she says. “[I] began with helping in planning events, hiring and starting the Build program.”

The Build Entrepreneurship Class is, of course, one of D:hive’s flagship programs, which April heads up. “Build is an eight-week business and project planning course. It’s in a classroom with twelve to fourteen other aspiring entrepreneurs. But it’s completely diverse. There are students who are urban, suburban, male, female, rich and poor.” After all these eager business hopefuls have attended their first class, an informational workbook is distributed designed to hone the participants’ entrepreneurial IQs. Instruction includes guidance from a diverse array of professionals, including successful entrepreneurs and business attorneys, to help guide students through the often complex ins and outs of starting a new business. “We want to help in demystifying the use of professionals,” Boyle says.

Information is not all that the Build participants can hope to glean from the course. After their participation in the class, “...[they] are now part of the D:hive network. There are lots of benefits that come with that.” The most valuable benefits, April stresses, are in the form of the relationships and business networking potential the student has gained.

The social aspect of everything the D:hive does is readily apparent. The social side of Build is the recently-launched Build Social, a new branch of the Build classes that focuses on networking. Additionally, April took on the job of incorporating the already existing group meetup Open City Detroit into D:hive. Initially hatched as the brainchild of local entrepreneurs Claire Nelson and Liz Blondy, the monthly meetup at Cliff Bell’s is part panel discussion, part networking session, and part cocktail mixer with an emphasis on “community building and info-sharing,” says April.

Perhaps the most visible program in April’s quiver is the Pilot project which includes a business-ready white box space right in the heart of downtown. While Detroit has no shortage of available commercial space, the problem is not one of availability. “We have plenty of space in Detroit, but you have to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to get that space up to code!” exclaims April. With Pilot, a business gets two months of rent-free retail space. This time is invaluable, April explains. “We believe people [planning on opening a business] need real business experience. They need to interface with customers. People need to know what it’s like to be there from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day before they cash out their life savings and sign a lease with somebody.”

Additionally, D:hive provides Pilot participants some monetary resources for buildout, advertising, and decor. However, as April makes clear, “We think of ourselves as a partner but we don’t hold hands.” The applicants to the program need to have a solid business plan going in.

While April continues to enthusiastically wear a number of hats, she is even more excited about the future and the further evolution of D:hive. “We are open to change,” she grins. “[It is about] listening to the entrepreneur.”

Listening to the entrepreneur seems to be getting across to people. As of the last signup period for Build classes there were about 150 applications for only 45 spots. Expansion of the class is in the works as well as talk of of satellite locations in other neighborhoods of the city - just another hat for April to don with a smile.

All photos by Doug Coombe. 

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