Jonathan Quarles Beautiful Machine Magazine Man of the Year

By Demetrius Carrington


Jonathan Quarles has always had a passion for building businesses and creating change. As a serial entrepreneur, he started his first business as the top-selling paperboy in his neighborhood at the age of 8. Thirty years later, Jonathan has created and developed more than 10 businesses, ranging from a custom T-Shirt operation to a creative printing company. He is an avid angel investor, setting his sights on fast-growing, disruptive companies with a social impact component.

In 2003, Jonathan fused his unparalleled ability to build bridges between people and ideas with his business acumen to launch The BTL Group. As Founder and CEO, he has transformed both multi-billion dollar corporations and non-profit organizations by helping them connect the dots on critical resources, important community dynamics, and lucrative partnerships. Jonathan’s work has unlocked more than $200M of value across the private and public sectors, earning him a place as one of the most sought-after advisors for identifying business growth opportunities and as one of Detroit’s most well-known “connectors”. Today, The BTL Group continues its journey as a thriving strategic consulting business and has now expanded its geographic footprint to several countries outside of the United States.

As a native of Flint, Michigan, Jonathan couldn’t sit on the sidelines as a devastating water crisis plagued his hometown. As he leaned into the research, he realized that Flint had become the U.S. epicenter for what was actually a global crisis – 1 in 3 people around the world don’t have access to clean drinking water. Jonathan knew that a challenge of this scale called for an unprecedented solution. With that, he founded Quartz Water Source (fka Solair Water). In its initial phase, Quartz is bringing cutting edge atmospheric water generation (AWG) technology – quite literally water made out of air – to the cities and states that need it the most. The technology is reliable, low maintenance, and capable of supplementing a municipal water source, provided that a power source is available. As part of its future growth, Quartz is exploring the bottled water market as well as partnerships with private sector companies whose supply chains heavily rely on water.

Much like the companies that Jonathan invests in, his vision for Quartz is not only as a disruptor, but also as a force for good. In that spirit, Quartz has pledged to donate a piece of its proceeds to water-related hardships in marginalized communities around the U.S. via a donor-advised fund.

Through an eclectic set of personal and professional experiences, Jonathan has been fortunate to cross paths with business and community leaders, advocacy experts, foreign policy officials, and diplomats. He was selected as a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, putting him on a quest to explore his own developing interest in public diplomacy. Since then, Quarles served as a Michigan delegate in the German Marshall Fund’s Comparative Domestic Policy Fellowship, a hands-on learning experience about the strategies used by policymakers in Turin, Italy and the surrounding Piedmont regions of Essen, Germany to transform their economies. The International Academy of Achievement selected Quarles as a delegate, a role that enabled him to both share and garner diplomacy experiences with 250 scholars around the world. Additionally, Quarles was among 7 bi-partisan delegates to represent the State Department’s NGO (American Council for Young Political Leaders) in Romania and Croatia. During a 14-day program, he examined Romania and Croatia’s governance, politics, international relations, and culture. Each of these experiences have left Jonathan increasingly curious about the world and excited about the ever expanding body of information there is to learn about other cultures.

Jonathan was selected as a ‘Top Urban Innovator, 40 and Younger’ by the Next City Vanguard. The Vanguard is an annual experiential urban leadership gathering for those working to improve cities across disciplines and sectors. In 2017, he was selected as an Aspen Institute Fellow, and has remained engaged with international cultural exchanges through the Institute since. The American Israel Education Foundation selected Jonathan to represent a delegation of African American private and public sector leaders twice, in 2015 and in 2017. Lastly, Jonathan was chosen as 1 of 25 entrepreneurs to represent the U.S. in Singapore for its annual Global Leadership Summit.

Jonathan is currently working on his first book, Making Dollars While Making Change, a storytelling platform about his most formative experiences and a playbook for entrepreneurs who strive to build socially impactful businesses.

Follow Jonathan "JQ" Quarles:
T: @_jquarles