- By Charles Elmore Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
A Wellington parent and entrepreneur aims to make a clear difference when it comes to school apparel and safety.
After a shooting outside an Aug. 17 game in Wellington, Scott Harris’s firm donated thousands of transparent backpacks designed to make it easier for security officers to check what spectators are carrying into games at area schools.
His company PhysEdGear lines up schools with free websites that offer a range of clothing and accessories customized with school names and mascots — and allow schools to raise money for academic, athletic and community programs in the bargain.
“I’ve lived in the community 15 years,” said Harris, 40. “It’s stuff like this that sets us apart.”
Harris, whose first taste of paying work came as a caddy growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, operates out of an office in a Wellington commerce park on Fairlane Farms Road. He has been an animal-rescue activist and served on the board of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce.
He started a company called PYRA Promotions in 2001 that began selling promotional items and print materials. Then he launched PhysEdGear in 2017.
“We realized that schools were simply overpaying for their T-shirts and shorts in P.E.,” he said.
His company is in business to make money, but a portion of the proceeds from a school’s T-shirts, shorts, polo shirts, sweatshirts and other apparel can pay for, say, materials in a high school’s classical studies class. Or to spruce up an elementary school’s aging playground.
“Of course it’s a for-profit company, but that’s not all it’s about,” Harris said.
Name: Scott Harris
Hometown: Buffalo Grove, Illinois
Where you live now: Wellington
About your company: At PhysEdGear, we partner with schools, teams and organizations to provide free online spirit gear and apparel e-fundraiser stores. By donating funds from each order, we facilitate a free, easy and fun fundraising experience.
How your business has changed: The company was formed with the premise of keeping kids active and healthy through P.E. uniforms. We realized that schools were simply overpaying for their T-shirts and shorts in P.E. After making calls, discussing with educators and administrators, we changed our focus to provide what the true needs were. Developing a custom website for schools, serving as a fundraising platform for them, PhysEdGear can take much of the pain that a good spirit gear campaign would encompass.
First paying job and what you learned from it: I worked as a caddy in the suburbs of Chicago when I was really young, but learned more when I actually worked at the golf course. I was a 15-year-old kid, so I tried to get away with what I could, but had a boss that wouldn’t let me slack. It showed me how to be accountable for my own actions. It showed me how to deal with people. It showed me that whether it’s a golf course, a restaurant, a school or corporate America, there are functions and processes that everyone needs to follow to make something work. Of course, I didn’t see this until later, but the values were learned early on.
First break in the business: At this point, I think that the mistakes we made in our target audience and the re-vamping of our focus has been our break — the old trial-and-error approach. PEG was limiting our full potential by offering only P.E. uniforms and not utilizing our capabilities to produce custom websites as fundraisers. It’s not one order or one customer that I can say was the “break” that was needed. Taking the time to walk before we ran, perfecting the model and making it ready to scale across the United States has made all the difference.
Best business book you ever read: My kids will laugh at this one. I always make the joke that I read scoreboards, greens and spreadsheets best. I love the “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” series, but sadly, I don’t read many books. I do study a lot of the notable entrepreneurs and each time I have a chance to speak to people that know way more than I do, I jump at the chance. I am a huge fan of “Shark Tank” and “The Profit,” hearing and watching success stories of how small companies with the right plan can make something happen that they never thought was possible makes me smile.
Best piece of business advice you ever received: A great friend, someone who is undoubtedly the smartest man I know, brought me into his office as I was struggling. I was overworking myself and finding it hard to delegate tasks and couldn’t keep up. We took my company and broke it into a flow chart, each task that had to be accomplished was accounted for. He drew a squiggly line after step four and told me that he refused to let me do any of the remaining eight steps. He told me, “If you’re thinking you need to hire someone, you’re six months behind.”
What you tell young people about your business: I actually talk to my kids quite a bit about my company, as my 15- and 12-year-olds have the entrepreneurial spirit. I like to discuss the feel-good portion of what PhysEdGear can accomplish. Of course, it’s a for-profit company, but that’s not all it’s about. The company has feelings and can make a difference, it can help others be successful and it can be classy, professional and fun!
What do you see ahead for Palm Beach County? Last year, I was a board member of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, where we discussed the future of Wellington and Palm Beach County. There are a few industries that may see better action in the next 10 to 15 years here, but as an overall community for families and businesses, there’s not many other places I’d go!
Where we can find you when you are not at the office: I used to golf a lot and play hockey. I’ve taken a little break from that to concentrate on my family and business. I’m pretty much a homebody nowadays, but love to sneak away for mini vacations once a month if I can.
Favorite smartphone app: Facebook and Amazon.
What is the most important trait you look for when hiring? I know it’s not great to tell kids going to school this, but GPA and where you go to school means little to me. If you have a key to my office, I’m trusting you with everything personal that I own. I look for someone I can trust implicitly.