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Suzanne Mckechnie Klahr

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Name  Suzanne Klahr


2011 women s history hero suzanne mckechnie klahr build

Suzanne McKechnie Klahr is an American social entrepreneur. She is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of BUILD, a national nonprofit dedicated to increasing high school graduation and college enrollment rates through entrepreneurship.


Early life and education

Her induction into the Ashoka Global Fellowship is indicative of her legacy and impact as social entrepreneur. She credits her inclination towards social entrepreneurship to the combination of adults that played a role during her early childhood. Her mother was a teacher in Harlem. Her Scottish father grew up poor, but through dedication and perseverance, became a successful businessman. Klahr's parents, although divorced when Klahr was young, both encouraged her to invest in others while at the same time judiciously managing time and resources.

Klahr was an entrepreneur from a very young age. Klahr's grandmother also guided Klahr's path toward social entrepreneurship. In her late 60s, newly widowed, Klahr's grandmother earned a degree in gerontology and began a non-profit, Elder Concern, which addressed the needs of senior citizens. Klahr launched multiple businesses as a child growing up in Manhattan. In primary school, she sold her used toys on the street. In elementary school, she wrote and published "Little Apples for Young New Yorkers," a newspaper marketed towards children. As a teen, Klahr launched and ran an earring business, “Beaudangles by Suzanne”. She also devoted her time to volunteering with elderly citizens.

In high school at Riverdale Country School, Klahr took an interest in human rights work and built her high school’s Amnesty International chapter. As an undergraduate at Brown University, she interned at the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.

Klahr completed her undergraduate studies at Brown University in 1994 and worked at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo PCin Boston, MA where she was inspired by the firm's commitment to investing its time in undeserved communities and those historically disenfranchised. After graduating from Stanford Law School in 1999, Klahr was awarded the prestigious Skadden Fellowship from the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP, which provided her with the funding to begin the BUILD program. At Stanford Law School she was president of the Public Interest Law Students Association but describes herself as "always on the fence between the public and private sectors." While pursuing a law degree at Stanford University, she provided pro bono legal services to impoverished adults through the East Palo Alto Community Law Project. She witnessed first hand that the majority of residents lacked access to the information, networks and institutions that allow people to make socioeconomic progress. She also noticed in East Palo Alto that many of the people seeking legal help also sought assistance in launching their own businesses. Disappointed by the gap between East Palo Alto's poorer residents and the affluent in Silicon Valley, she set out to close this gap and create systemic change.


Klahr is the CEO and founder of BUILD,<> a nonprofit using entrepreneurship to change the lives of disadvantaged youth since 1999. BUILD uses entrepreneurship to engage historically disadvantaged youth, decrease high school drop out rates, and increase college enrollment. BUILD has been nominated for several awards, including the Fast Company Social Capitalist Award (finalist) and the Manhattan Institute Social Entrepreneurship Award. BUILD has been featured in the media, including the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, Forbes Magazine, and Tech Crunch. Klahr's hard work and dedication toward BUILD have paid dividends and she has been mentioned as the crucial factor in the aforementioned media mentions.

BUILD combines academic instruction with real-world business experiences and critical skill-building in order to prepare students for the future. BUILD currently operates three San Francisco Bay Area sites, and one site in each of Washington, DC and Boston, MA. Over 90 percent of its seniors have applied to and gone on to college. Under Suzanne’s leadership, BUILD has grown from four students to over 1,000 students and has expanded partnerships from one public high school to over twenty public high schools

Personal life

Klahr is married to Joshua Klahr. Together they have a son and a daughter. They live in Northern California and are avid San Francisco Giants fans.

Educational impact

Klahr is a lecturer of law at both Stanford Law School and Harvard Law School, where she pioneered and teaches “Social Entrepreneurship" at both institutions. Her class was the first of its kind at a law school in the United States

Awards and recognition

  • 2012: The Manhattan Institute Social Entrepreneurship Award
  • 2009: Silicon Valley's Most Influential Women by the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Times
  • 2008: San Mateo County Women's Hall of Fame
  • 2007: CBS's Jefferson Award
  • 2006: Ashoka Fellowship Award
  • References

    Suzanne Mckechnie Klahr Wikipedia

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