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Celebrating Black Business Month with Sharon Maxwell

September 5, 2023

Sharon Maxwell, CEO, Bratton Construction, LLC

Sharon Maxwell, CEO of Bratton Construction, LLC, is a complete tour de force and we are thrilled to celebrate Black Business Month with this feature on her. Sharon is also one of the standout 2022 Port Small Business Accelerator program cohort participants. Sharon attended nearly every session, firing up the conversation with her immense energy and eagerness to learn and share. She is the embodiment of what it is to be an:

  1. Activator- Upbeat and enthusiastic
  2. Visionary- Forward-thinking
  3. Learner- Continuously improving and learning
  4. Leader- Commanding presence
  5. Maximizer- Thinker

Sharon contributed all these characteristics and so much more to the cohort, fully engaging with the presenters and her fellow cohort members with whom she also generously shared her own lessons learned. We are pleased to share with you some of Sharon’s story, thoughts on Black Business Month, her experience in the Business Accelerator Mentorship program, and some advice for other WMBE and small businesses. Answers below have been edited for clarity.


Tell us a little about yourself and your professional background.

I've operated and managed my business for 24 years, since 1999, with a small break to return to school. I am an Executive Professional who is hardworking, committed to community, and believes in investing in human capital. I build and retain high-performance teams by hiring, coaching, developing, and motivating skilled professionals. This creates strategic alliances with organization leaders to effectively align and support key business/community initiatives.

For seven years, I ran a nonprofit organization that assisted with transitional housing and the Youth Summer Work Program. I handled all business functions including: operations, implementing the organization mission and vision, HR, vendor partnerships, finances for executing operations and funding projects, staff development, and contract management and compliance. I supervised all staff personnel, project management in the field, quality control/quality assurance, safety, negotiated work/projects, bidding and estimating. I also did an advanced Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis of the organization to fully execute the new plan to move operations forward as the entity develops and establish future goals.

What does your company do?

Bratton Construction is a General Contractor & Specialty Contractor. We are certified in Oregon/Washington & Tennessee.  We self-perform carpentry Div. 6, Div. 9, Div. 10. Carpentry framing, rough carpentry, millwork, cabinets, painting high- performance coatings, and accessories, and we provide some low- level plumbing repairs. Bratton Construction is in its third grow and scale business cycle, meaning that we have executed plans to take market share, grow revenue, grow capacity, and team members to be a Prime contractor creating opportunities and bonding capacity to bid on larger volume projects over $100K up to $10 million.

What are your ambitions for your company in the future?

Bratton’s vision for the next 15-20 years is to gain market share in Oregon, Washington, and Texas where there are opportunities with multiple clients for 5-year contract cycles. Bratton is also building outreach and youth & young adult programming to bring more opportunity to the construction/aviation/maritime, green jobs, energy sectors and innovation.

Black Owned Business Month

Why is it important to celebrate Black Owned Businesses?

Timing is everything. Now is a good time. Owners are now finally committed to ensuring that people of color/ BIPOC folks who are underutilized are getting the opportunities that we have always deserved to have equal access to the playing field.  "When we have access to capital and skills with training, we show up and put it down."  It's time to get the next generations into the trades and technical level to pass the knowledge on to prepare the workforce for future people to take the baton. 

How can people and organizations support Black-owned businesses this month?

People can acknowledge us in the community when they see us working, instead of being mean. It would be good to hear people say they are glad to see you working, acknowledge our value, and allow a black business the opportunity to work with them on a project or patronize their businesses. Also, what about throughout the year? It's good to stop by a company or when you see people out working, be friendly, and say hello. 

Accelerator program

What interested you in our Accelerator program of 2022?  

The program understood the plight of small minority- and woman-owned businesses to grow and get revenue. They also understood the pitfalls that can prevent us from getting work, and taught us how to us get our systems in place to allow us to take on more opportunities.

What was a highlight of the Accelerator program for you?

The opportunity to work with the Port of Seattle and learn from the Diversity in Contracting team, NW Mountain Minority Supplier Diversity Council (NWMMSDC) team, and all the panelists who shared their expertise. The Port of Seattle Accelerator program is a great program. The speakers and panel series gave us business owners tools and information to better operate our companies to grow and accelerate. 

The most exciting thing was working on putting a bid together at the same time as I was in the program, so we could send out Invitations to Bid to our fellow cohort members, and work with suppliers, at the same time as being in the cohort.   


What would you  like to share with Black, WMBE/small businesses that might be helpful to them?

It may be a huge leap if you have not done projects over $300K. Take a look at work through the small rosters program, take on a few contracts, and work with the agencies so you get used to the procedures of submittals, and submitting paperwork on time. And make sure your insurance agents are all good with the turnaround time on requirements and certificates so that they are timely. Make sure you have forms created, so you don't have to invent them last minute. Seek out a mentor company that is doing the work to get support and make a commitment to work on your plan for 2-3 years, so you get the rhythm down.

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