Derrius Quarles is a man of many modes, but he’s perhaps best known for founding Breaux Capital, an online financial platform and community for black millennial men (the name is a play on the word “bro”). Having read that 70 percent of black millennials couldn’t afford a $ 1000 emergency, he created an app that automates savings and co-invests the money with two friends: Ras Asan, whom he met on a summer study abroad trip to Ghana, and Brian L. Williams, a fellow graduate of Morehouse College. “We work with anything from traditional ETFs” — exchange-traded funds — “to the cannabis industry,” Mr. Quarles, 29, said.
Members can choose to become co-owners and have equity in the company, and 80 percent do, Mr. Quarles said. “It’s very different from the relationship folks might have with their bank. If I bank with Wells Fargo, it’s not like I can walk into a branch and say ‘I don’t like how this operates,’” he said, adding: “If you are a co-owner in Breaux Capital it means you decide how the company works. You are a decision maker.”
Mr. Quarles had to learn independence early, growing up in various foster care placements around Chicago, including with his aunt, strangers and at a group home. “My father was killed, murdered, on the South Side, when I was four,” he said. “He attempted to break up a fight and in doing that he put himself in harm’s way.” His mother developed a drug addiction shortly after, he said.
At 14 he was christened “The Candy Man” at school because he sold candy to raise money to be a part of varsity football, volleyball, and swimming. “I can genuinely, 100 percent say that starting a business was very intuitive for me,” Mr. Quarles said. “It was something I just knew how to do and enjoyed.” By the time he was 16 he used exemplary grades to prove he could live in an apartment for independent foster youth.
After securing over $ 1 million in scholarships to attend Morehouse, the historically black men’s college in Atlanta, he started Million Dollar Scholar, a for-profit company that connects low-income high school students to scholarships for higher education. Everyone from Barack Obama to Harry Belafonte has honored his work. He even delivered a “dope TED Talk,” as he described it on his website, on the history of racist practices within the financial services industries “and how that still plays out today,” he said. “What is missing? Why are we still going through some of the same things that existed in the 60s and 70s? What can we do to help move the needle?”
In Mr. Quarles’s free time, he runs DQ and Partners with Mr. Asan, a web design and brand strategy agency. And ten weeks ago, he started a job with the State of Michigan, where we found him as the harsh winter was beginning. “I now have four active email accounts,” he said. “I spend a lot of time checking emails.”
8 a.m. I work for the children’s services agency in the department of health and human services in Lansing, Mich. I am helping them build a new piece of technology that will make it much easier and faster for foster families to get licensed. I am there from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekday. There are a lot of meetings.
5:45 p.m. I walk home through downtown Lansing. I’m not freezing actually, because my girlfriend had us invest in Canada Gooses. It’s a very expensive coat, but last winter was unbearable. I also think the cold weather is nice thinking weather. I use the walk to think about what type of evening I want to have, what deliverables do I have to get done, what do I want to achieve.
6 p.m. I do a full body meditation. That’s, like, dim the lights, full-on yoga pose with crossed legs in front of you and hands out. It’s a mind-clearing technique.
6:30 p.m. I open up my computer to check emails. I’m getting back to anybody I didn’t respond to in the past 24 hours. I have four email inboxes that are actively being used, but tonight I only had about ten important emails to respond to.
7:30 p.m. Every Monday, Brian (Williams) and I have what we named an accountability call. And it’s not just professional; we also talk about stuff in our personal lives like mental health and wellness. We talk about how we are feeling at that moment, genuinely — not this template response you are supposed to give when you engage with people everyday. We are often tired, so we talk about why and if we need to take some time off next week for ourselves. We also talk a lot about stepping back from the internet or putting down the phone for a break.
It’s kind of crazy having someone hold you accountable every week, to have to provide an update on what you actually did. Even if I’m lagging behind, I never get off the phone feeling bad. I’m talking to one of my best friends!
6:30 p.m. After I get home from work, I focus on doing work for a DQ and Partners client. She is a financial coach, and we need to add major sections to her website draft. I spend a few hours adding a blog and an “about me” page.
We added some high-depth cover images to the blog. They were of abstract financial-related themes like a person running (like, running toward a goal) and a person sitting down writing, like, diary-style. We wanted it to feel modern, young, and millennial. We didn’t want you to be looking at a dollar bill and super intricate fonts. So we made it clean and minimalist. We used a lot of bold sans serif.
10:30 p.m. I don’t own a TV in Lansing, so I check in on my sports — it’s NFL and NBA season — through YouTube. They have the five-minute clips, and I really think they are long enough to get me immersed in what’s happening.
6 p.m. I made a salad with smoked trout, spinach, tomatoes, green apple (but any kind of apple will work) and a little lemon juice.
7 p.m. Breaux Capital is launching a merchandising campaign tomorrow. It’s all caps — dad hats, like a curved baseball cap, with different textures, colors and tones. We have a lot of dad in the Breaux Capital network, and I am really proud of that. It’s all black men, so we had to think of something that naturally fit our culture. If you buy a T-shirt not everybody is going to rock it; some people like the button up. If we do a beanie hat, not everyone is into that.
We have the social media images all ready to go, so I review the communication we are sending our owners about selling the merchandise. It’s kind of complicated because the caps are physically in different hubs, and if we have sales there are around seven different steps to get them to the customer. We want to make sure everyone knows their role and that it’s clear.
5:15 p.m. I leave the office to get to the bus station. I go back and forth to Chicago pretty much every weekend on the Indian Trails bus. It’s where Theodora, my girlfriend, soon-to-be fiancée, lives. I haven’t proposed yet, but it is going to happen later in the year. I can’t share the details without spilling, but she knows it is coming. We have to be out of the country to do it. I want to be very very relaxed, and I want to be on vacation. I don’t want to be even remotely near work.
She’s a clean energy consultant. She does very cool work for a boutique consulting agency. They work with larger utilities on their clean energy program for low-income residents. Something like LED light bulbs, how do we ensure equitable access to those things so that low-income communities have access to clean energy also. We have to lessen the impact of global warming.
8:20 p.m. I wake up from a nap and get some reading done. Right now I’m working on a book called “Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love.” It’s for my State of Michigan work, but I’m also interested in becoming a better designer. I taught myself how to design all of my company’s websites by reading books, so I know reading is important.
11:15 p.m. My bus pulls into Chicago six hours later. I check in with my girlfriend, and then I fall asleep.
5:30 p.m. It’s a holiday week, so I treat myself with a facial at a medical spa. A friend does them, so I always try to support her if I get a treatment. It was amazing.
11 a.m. I jump on a phone call with the board of directors for Breaux Capital. There are seven people on the call, and sometimes I am facilitating the call, and sometimes I am totally in the background. This week was the latter. We discussed our annual shareholders’ weekend where we bring together all of our members in New Orleans. We secured a local school for one of our meetings, so that was good.
It’s amazing. We eat dinner together, we share food together. It is one of the most important things we do and it’s called breaking bread. At our most recent shareholders weekend, we were able to go to one of the most historical black-owned restaurants in New Orleans named Dooky Chase’s Restaurant.
We also go out together, like throw a party or go out and enjoy some time. People bring their significant others. Wives? Yes. Girlfriends? Yes. Boyfriends? Yes. We also have our actual shareholders meeting, which is an all-day meeting where we are making decisions, strategizing, contemplating, voting, et cetera.
We also do some community service. In recent years we cleaned up a local school. We do a spring cleaning so when the students come back they literally have a school that has been spic ‘n’ spanned.
4:30 p.m. I start cooking for the party my girlfriend and I are throwing for 25 people. I’m making turmeric rice, roasted broccoli, teriyaki chicken and whole grain artisan bread. You’ve got to have the nice bread on the side.
Interviews are conducted by email, text and phone, then condensed and edited.