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Astudia Partnership Profile: Built2Last

Built2Last Innovations Lab, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was first introduced by the City of Durham as a company that would provide services to ensure that all of Durham’s citizens were able to participate fully in the local economy. It takes a mission-driven innovation approach to economic development.

Built2Last has positioned itself to meet the needs of Durham’s growing entrepreneurial community. Entrepreneurs, especially innovative entrepreneurs, are vital to the competitiveness of the local economy. The special entrepreneurs that Built2Last has targeted comprise a significant part of Durham’s community. These businesses boost economic growth because they introduce innovative technologies, products, and services to the community; provide new job opportunities; and stimulate economic growth.

Built2Last provides access to training, access to opportunity, and access to capital to historically underrepresented businesses and people who reside in Durham’s marginalized communities. The nonprofit is comprised of an 11-member Board of Directors that provides high-level oversight of Built2Last’s activities and performance while also setting its strategy and structure. Built2Last also has an Executive Director who manages the day-to-day operations, a Durham Collaborative Board of Directors who are responsible for securing strategic partners willing to share their resources to support the nonprofit’s initiatives, and three divisions: Bull City Enterprise Training Center; Bull City Durham Collaborative; and Bull City Equitable Development Fund. Two of the three divisions—Training Center

and Durham Collaborative—are operational.

A separate entity, Built2Last provides access to training to several groups of entrepreneurs who have been more heavily impacted negatively by the COVID-19 pandemic. It sees its role as an organization trying to help Durham resolve its social and economic issues. Therefore, childcare entrepreneurs, encore entrepreneurs (ages 55+), green entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs, and creative artists entrepreneurs are provided networking opportunities, training in the form of workshops and seminars,

and specific certifications. Built2Last also provides opportunities for Durham’s marginalized residents to reskill, upskill or build their skills for the current and future job markets, and to improve their credit ratings and other financial acumen through financial literacy classes. Trainings and certifications are offered by area university business school professors and deans.

Built2Last’s upcoming Bull City Enterprise Corps, which will recruit MBAs from Triangle Area business schools (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina Central University, Duke University and North Carolina State University), with express interest and training in sustainable enterprise development, to staff the training center and manage the proposed “pipeline” of managerial and technical assistance programs offered in the Enterprise Training Center. Built2Last’s Board of Directors, Executive Director and staff are excited about the Bull City Enterprise Training Corps because it will

change so many lives.

Another key feature of Built2Last is its work in providing training and certifications to small-, minority- and women- owned businesses in an effort to prepare them to successfully compete for federal, state, local and corporate contracts. Providing this particular group with much need assistance with completing successful contract or subcontract applications will ultimately lead to a much more diverse supply chain in Durham.

Empirical and anecdotal research or data also show that historically underrepresented and underutilized businesses are in dire need of capital in order to grow and thrive. However, they need access to funds that they will not have to worry about repaying, which would make it difficult or impossible for them to survive beyond the first three to five years. Built2Last will meet that crucial need with its Bull City Equitable Development Fund, which will provide graduates of its Bull City Enterprise Training Center with much needed grants to support their businesses; and it will provide financial support to residents of Durham’s marginalized communities.

The Bull City Equitable Development Fund, once fully operational, will leverage financial support from strategic partnerships, or alliances, forged with majority- and minority- owed banks, credit unions, community development financial institutions, and philanthropic organizations to create impact investment funds that will be used to support, as previously mentioned, historically underrepresented businesses and citizens living on the margin.

Strategic partners are initially identified, secured, and eventually mobilized to leverage their resources to support Built2Last-related initiatives. These programs, or initiatives, are designed to assist historically underrepresented businesses, as previously noted, and people in Durham’s economic opportunity zones and/or minoritized neighborhoods.

A few of Built2Last’s strategic partners include: Astudia Organization; Intelligaia; Durham City Government; Durham County Government; University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School; Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh, NC; Golden Belt Studios; Hershey Company; Durham Public Schools; Durham Technical Community College; and Pinnacle Financial Partners. The nonprofit is currently in negotiations to secure additional strategic partners.

Built2Last has hosted several events, designed to provide entrepreneur with additional information and networking opportunities. It will continue to do so, with a couple of events scheduled to be held over the next few months for creative artists and childcare entrepreneurs. If you are a childcare entrepreneur, director or staff member, as well as creative artists, please contact us for additional information about upcoming workshops and other training.

We also encourage you to visit our website, at for additional information about our mission, vision, programs, and organizational structure. You can also reach Ms. Walisha Thornton, Executive Administrative Assistant for Built2Last, at 919-997—9747, or

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