Abio AHK

“Being young doesn’t always work for me. I’m associated with an experienced partner, which provides legitimacy.”

A year after graduating from Southern Methodist University at age 21, Baird got into real estate. In his first year at Keller Williams Realty Inc., he became its youngest general partner and branch owner, he says. His volume hit $8.5 million that year. He left after a year to form a partnership with Dallas real estate maven Betty Abio, who knew about him from his “ridiculous number of billboards and advertisements,” he says. “We hit if off, and formed a partnership by opening Abio AHK this year.”

Most successful marketing strategy: He carved out a niche as one of the favored brokers for the gay and lesbian community in the Oak Lawn section of Dallas. More than three-fourths of his staff is gay, the rest are hip and “gay-friendly,” he says. The focus has proved lucrative, with sales expected to hit $20 million by the end of 2004.

Important lesson learned: If you’re young, gay, and extremely successful, not everyone will sing your praises, Baird says. He says partnering with an established salesperson has helped him increase his credibility and overcome the negative reactions of some prospects.