Today, we’re sitting down with co-founder and COO of Applied Development, Biffrey Braxton to talk about his experiences as a Baltimore business executive!
What is your proudest business accomplishment?
My proudest business accomplishment is instituting a company culture that values people. It was particularly satisfying to hear our employees talking to each other and clients about our four core values: Do the right thing; delight the customer; foster a connected community; and yearn to learn. It was special to later hear our clients talk about those same core values. It made me know that we were living our values, which was a very proud moment for me.
What is the best lesson you’ve learned as a business owner?
Everyone has a special brilliance. When you find that special brilliance and give people a platform to share it with the world, great things happen. Our mission is to empower people of all abilities to share their brilliance. This goes for our employees and the clients we serve.
What do you think the biggest challenge is for minority business owners today?
The biggest challenge is still rooted in access. Institutional racism impacts what people think minority business owners are capable of, which prevents the opportunities available to them. This impacts access to capital, access to markets, and even access to people in power. Every part of running a business is more difficult as a minority.
Who is your biggest inspiration as a business leader?
The most inspiring business leaders for me are Reginald Lewis, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson. All have done what they were told was impossible. They are reminders that nothing is impossible.
What do you enjoy most about the Baltimore small business community?
Baltimore presents lots of opportunities that other locations do not offer. We are right in the middle of it all. It’s a great home base and a beautiful city.
How do you think companies can best improve inclusion for people with diversabilities (diverse abilities)?
People have to recognize that all people have value. When that becomes the baseline, people who make hiring decisions can begin to think about whether someone shares the company’s core values. This is most important because no one should be an employee of a company where their own core values and the core values of the company do not align. If the core values align, then that person should be on the bus. It’s time to find the right seat. To determine the right seat, the person has to “get it,” has to “want it,” and has to “have capacity for it.” If these three things align, the company will have the right person in the right seat. Looking at new hires from a “right person on the bus” and a “right seat” perspective improves inclusion.
Where do you see Applied Development heading in the next ten years?
In ten years, Applied Development will have become the go-to source of truth diversity and inclusion, diversabilities, and related communications. We will be at the forefront of helping veterans and women of color grow businesses in the Federal space (increasing diversity amongst small business offerors), and we will continue to shape and impact policy, working toward a Federal workforce that demographically mirrors the population.
What piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to open a business in the Baltimore community?
Plan, plan, plan! Baltimore can positively impact so many aspects of the business. For instance, much of the city is an Empowerment Zone, a HUBZone, or an Opportunity Zone. Selecting the right space can impact the taxes you pay (or that can be abated), the contracts for which you are eligible, and the financing or investment that people will be eager to make in your business. Talk to people in the Mayor’s small business office, the office for economic development, and Baltimore Development Corp. They will help provide valuable information and get you started off on the right path.