By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member

Because large electronic companies, like Best Buy’s Geek Squad, often provide their own repair services, it’s no small feat for a Baltimore Black-owned, small business to stay in the game for 17 years.

In 2004, brothers Edward and Daniel Brunson decided to go into business together after finding themselves in need of new jobs. Edward had previously been working for a television station that was owned by his mother in Philadelphia, but when she sold the company, it was difficult for him to find a new career path in the city. Meanwhile, Daniel had previously owned an electronic repair warehouse in Baltimore, but the facility was devastated by a flood. 

After Edward moved to Baltimore, the brothers decided to open Dataflow Computers, a full-service electronic repair shop, directly across the street from Daniel’s old location in the downtown area. Now, the company repairs and services laptops, desktops, game systems, tablets, drones, surveillance equipment and computer servers. The company also sells refurbished electronics and installs software. 

The shop sits at the corner of East Fayette Street and North Central Avenue, a site chosen to serve low-income communities that had been disadvantaged by the digital divide. 

“We’re kind of one of the only reputable computer repair shops within the middle of the city, and we felt like we needed to be there for our community so we chose this location on purpose,” said Edward. 

Both brothers have always been interested in technology and computers, and at an early age, their mother stressed the importance of entrepreneurship as an avenue for building wealth. As a result of this, opening their own business in the technology field was the next natural step in their career paths. 

Over the years, the shop has been confronted with its own challenges. The income of their typical client has occasionally made it difficult to sell their services, and clients have contested prices because they do not understand the value of the technicians’ labor, according to Edward.

Stigmas surrounding Black-owned businesses have also been an obstacle to the company. People have assumed that their team is not competent to do the job or that they will provide poor customer service. While these misconceptions have lessened overtime, Edward said there is still a long way to go in stopping them. 

The arrival of COVID-19 had a double-edged effect on Dataflow Computers. The business was considered essential so it was able to remain open throughout the pandemic, and initially, business picked up because people needed more computer services to work from home and participate in virtual learning. However, after the pandemic forced them to raise their prices, business slowed down. Now, the shop has since recovered. 

“Even though we didn’t thrive during the pandemic, we survived,” said Edward. “We’re happy to still be in business.” 

Edward attributed the business’ long-term success to their team’s ability to adapt and think ahead. The tech industry is perpetually evolving, and the brothers and their staff continue to educate themselves on the latest devices and operating systems. 

Their strong ties to the Baltimore community have also played a part in their success. Dataflow Computers has a steady presence in the downtown area and has derived most of its business by word of mouth. 

“If you had told me 25 years ago that I would be here in Baltimore working with my brother running a successful business, I would have said you’re crazy, but that’s what happened,” said Edward.

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