Brother and Sister John and Brittany are redefining “family business”
By Justin Walker
Relationships are important for any business. This isn’t a foreign concept for the people behind CrateBind, a custom software development firm in Dallas. In fact, relationships have played a significant role in the company’s history.
Siblings Brittany and John Harlan have done a lot together over the years. They both attended Baylor, with Brittany majoring in Baylor Business Fellows and Finance, while John majored in Economics. During her time at Baylor, Brittany met her husband Jordan Graft, who also studied Baylor Business Fellows and Finance. The two graduated in 2010 and worked in investment banking and private equity.
John finished his degree in 2013, and that’s when the trio decided to start a grocery delivery business in Florida. The group quickly realized the company needed better technology.
“While we were doing the grocery delivery, we ran into some technology challenges and started to pick up software development during that process,” John said. “Ultimately, we enjoyed writing code and building software more than anything else we were working on. We wondered if we could create a business of helping other people solve technology problems.”
That led to CrateBind. Along with John’s wife Connie, the group moved back to Dallas in 2015 and founded their own software development firm.
Over the next few years, CrateBind worked with a variety of companies from numerous industries, building custom web and mobile apps. Their clients range from startups to Fortune 100 companies, John said.
As the company continued to grow in clients and services, so did the team. In 2016, Juan Carlos Hinojo was hired, working remotely from Mexico while he finished school. Eventually, CrateBind sponsored Hinojo to work in the Dallas location and they were very impressed with his work. It became evident that they needed more employees like him.
Through Hinojo, the group learned about the city of Guadalajara, which they described as the Silicon Valley of Mexico. There were a lot of very talented potential employees there, which sparked the idea to open a second location. The Guadalajara location opened in 2017 and it has been a great venture for CrateBind.
One of the many advantages to having the second office is the ability to learn and grow from people with different experiences and ideas, Brittany said. While seven of the nearly 30 employees are in another country, it is very much one team with one mission. Almost like a family.
“We have worked hard to make the offices feel integrated even though we are 1,000 miles apart,” she said. “We have a livestream of the Guadalajara office continuously running in our Dallas office, and they as well. We can see, chat and interact with them, and do so all the time.”
Siblings and spouses. Employee and employer. Domestic and international. For CrateBind, relationships have been crucial to continued growth and success. Moving forward, the goal is to attract a variety of new clients with the same perspective.
“Our future is to get better at what we do, continue to refine our process and approach to make our clients more successful and make it a better place for our employees to work,” John said.
Brittany agreed, CrateBind’s philosophy of constantly improving is key. “We need to just keep doing what we are doing,” she said. “It has been a blast.”