January 20, 2022

Little Rock’s BUILD Academy laying a foundation

In early December, the first 13 graduates of Little Rock’s BUILD Academy completed their coursework for the innovative business development incubator. Short for Businesses United In Leadership Development, the three-month program had provided these individuals with the requisite resources and knowledge to realize their fullest potential, opportunities that might have otherwise been out of reach.

But although the graduation marked the culmination of many months of work on the part of many partners – namely, the City of Little Rock and Garver – the genesis of the program began with a conversation many years before.

“As a young banker and highway commissioner,” said Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, "[Garver Director of Transportation] Jerry Holder shared with me they were doing something special at Garver: ‘We're partnering with minority owned firms, we’re mentoring them, we’re showing them all the tools that helped us become a successful firm.' With BUILD Academy, we've been able to transpose what Garver has done with its mentoring projects and elevate those minority- and women-owned businesses in our community."

Over the course of the inaugural Academy – a program intended to diversify the marketplace, grow businesses, and grow opportunities by intentionally cultivating a new generation of small business leadership – members of the cohort had a chance to hear some of Little Rock’s most prominent business leaders offer their perspectives on a range of key business skills.

Among the earliest was a session that dealt with Business Foundations, in which Holder, who years before had spoken with Mayor Scott about Garver’s mentoring projects, provided instruction concerning the importance of soft skills and their ability to drive business.

“Little Rock’s BUILD Academy is laying a foundation in every sense,” Holder said. “The entrepreneurs and business owners who graduate from this program are the future leaders of this business community. They’re not only building a better community for today, but for tomorrow.”

Other aspects of the 12-session curricula included target marketing, operations, market and industry analysis, savings, banking, and finance, among others. By providing the foundation for future business success, the Academy sought not only to provide opportunities for members for the cohort, but to provide an economic boost for the local economy, stimulating areas of the community that might have otherwise lacked the same opportunities.

“We all know that we need to unite, grow, and transform – and that’s exactly what’s happening today,” said Mayor Scott. “These businesses are united in leadership development. We are being intentional with changing the racial wealth gap. We are being intentional about focusing on small business – because we know in Little Rock that small businesses are the backbone of our economy. And for us to truly grow, we have to be united, we have to focus on growth, we need to be more intentional – and that’s what transforms our city.”

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