Influential Leaders

Ayele Shakur

Recognition Year(s): 2022
Area of Impact: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging
School: Questrom School of Business, Boston University
Location: United States

Following three decades of experience as an innovator in urban education, Ayele Shakur is currently the CEO of BUILD, whose mission is to use entrepreneurship to ignite the potential of youth from under-resourced communities and propel them to high school, college, and career success.

A graduate of Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, Shakur has leveraged her business education to lead an organization that uses business concepts to empower youth and instill in them entrepreneurial principles such as a growth mindset, adaptability, self-agency, and resilience, as well as complimentary skills like networking, technological adeptness, and financial literacy.

Through the empowering experience of running a real business, students who take part in BUILD demonstrate increased proficiency in six critical competencies that BUILD calls “spark skills”: communication, collaboration, problem solving, innovation, grit, and self-management. Most importantly, through the BUILD program, students develop a vital sense of self-agency over their education and careers. The program has already reached more than 6,000 students and involved over 3,000 mentors and supported the creation of 562 youth businesses.

In line with Shakur’s leadership values, BUILD honors the dignity and worth of every individual and strives to create equity of voice, access, influence and power across lines of difference—both in and beyond BUILD—specifically for groups that have been historically denied social justice. The organization acknowledges and embraces the entire range of human experience, celebrating the nuance and insights diversity brings to its work because BUILD believes diversity yields the greatest impact for students and best prospects for change. 

Shakur's work to inspire future business leaders also goes beyond BUILD. From 2015 to present, she has co-chaired the Opportunity and Achievement Gaps Task Force for the Boston Public Schools, a position that is appointed by the Boston School Committee; serves as an advisor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Equitable Futures Initiative; is a motivational speaker; and has writing that has been featured in The Hill, WBUR, and Entrepreneur Magazine

Shakur is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2012 Boston Celtics Heroes Among Us Award and the 2007 Boston Children’s Museum’s Great Friend to Kids Award. She is a 2017 Barr Fellow, a program celebrating exemplary leaders serving the Greater Boston area, and in 2018 she became part of the GK100 Most Influential Black Bostonians. She is past chairwoman for the Boston NAACP Education Committee. 

Shakur is also a veteran teacher in the Los Angeles and Boston areas, an author, and a distinguished nonprofit leader in Boston.