Build Your Business

A Service Design Project for Credit Unions and Small Business Owners

Research Question

How might credit unions create financial services that support the dreams and obligations of those 50 and older?


Build Your Business grew out of a prompt from OpenIDEO's Financial Longevity Challenge.​ Using the principles of human centered design, my team and I sought to answer this question.

Team and Timeframe

Our team had four designers & researchers, including myself. My role: concept; market research; user interviews, qualitative analysis; communications; strategy; production; visual design

Project Outcomes

Build Your Business (formerly known as Incubator Club) was Design For America project and won the top prize in OpenIDEO's Financial Longevity Challenge (2016-17). We won $4,000.00 and presented at the 2017 THINK Conference in New York. 

Design Statement & Concept Video

Build Your Business is a service design program that helps credit unions connect with members who have small business ideas or want to grow the business they already own.

This video was presented at the 2017 THINK Conference. THINK is the largest conference for  credit union professionals in the United States. This video proposes Build Your Business as an answer to the OpenIDEO prompt "How might we create financial services that support the dreams and obligations of those 50 and older?" I wrote the script for this video and helped coordinate production.

Design & Research Process

We spoke to dozens of credit union members and employees, financial services professionals​, business owners, and 50+ people. We gained insight into which types of services would be most valuable to potential small business owners, as well as which types of programming might be feasible for credit unions to implement. 

Our product aims to reach two main users: credit union members who are aspiring business owners, and credit union employees who are implementing our program in their bank. 

Research Insights

Our research showed that people consistently choose credit unions over commercial banks because they trust credit unions. Additionally, members look to their credit unions for more than just financial services. We found that credit unions with highly engaged members leverage trust to develop offerings that extend beyond banking. For example, some credit unions build programming based on their community's interests, which in turn helps make their branch a hub of learning and social activity, rather than just a place where financial transactions occur.

Over the course of 9 months​, my team and I spoke to 13 small business owners, 5 credit union employees/members, and 9 professionals from other backgrounds. We also attend 3 workshops for small business owners, 1 hackathon hosted by the AARP, and 1 conference for AARP members.

We discovered that there is already a wealth of content for small business owners seeking help. But what is lacking is in-person connectivity, especially for people 60+. It became clear to us that our product's job would be to connect credit union members who are seeking small-business help with experts and each other.

Personas & Key Insights


These insights helped us understand how our product fits within the framework of financial services offered by credit unions. Credit unions can leverage their trustworthiness to engage 50+ members who have small business goals. Deepening the relationship between the credit union and these members will build loyalty and membership. There is a demand for services like Build Your Business, and credit unions are the ideal organizations to spearhead such program. Build Your Business makes the credit union a hub of trust and learning, instead of merely a transactional place.