Born in Philadelphia, PA, Michael Harris, CEO of Best Sports Consulting, has the type of story that solidifies the thought “anything is possible.” While overcoming the death of his father at a young age then dealing with an abusive step-father, Mr. Harris never missed a day of school. However, the abuse took its toll and after a few broken laws here and there Michael found himself in a detention center at 15. So, how does a person go from detention centers to helping launch two of the largest urban fashion brands we have ever seen and CEO of a sports consulting company that has worked with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Theo Ratliff, Marques Colston, and Ray Lewis? We sit and talk with Michael Harris.
A&H: What are some of the trials you went through going from a troubled youth to graduating college?
Michael Harris: There were numerous trials and tribulations I went through from juvenile delinquent to graduating from college, enough so that my life was captured and developed into a movie that is being shopped at this very moment. Most significantly, learning to trust and believe in people of authority or those that had a sense of power in my life was an important step in helping me move through the trials of becoming a responsible, young adult. I learned to trust in God as I began to grow as a person and a leader.
A&H: How did you get involved with FUBU and And 1?
MH: I started my career working for the R&B group Boyz II Men and while on world tour I had the opportunity to meet several athletes and entertainers. I was approached by a friend, Jerome Allen, now head coach at University of Penn, about a start up T-shirt Company at UPenn. They were looking for a way to gain recognition. That company was And 1. I helped with everything from design ideas to product placement, but the easiest was putting And 1 on Boyz II Men during their world tour. A friend of mine who worked for BET was impressed with what I had done and told me about his friends that started a company called FUBU (For Us By Us). The creator of the company Daymond John and I became very close over the years and I really sharpened my skills at marketing and product placement with athletes and actors under FUBU.
A&H: What were some things you learned with those two companies that helped you in your career?
I learned the power of a celebrity endorsement. I also learned a lot about small business and gorilla marketing. They also taught me that with hard work and a plan, a T-shirt company could be built into a multimillion-dollar enterprise.
A&H: How did you get into sports consulting?
MH: I played college basketball and never took it very seriously, and although I played on a high level it came naturally to me. A lot of my friends went on to become professional basketball players and even some in the NFL. I found that they needed certain things to help them with their careers off the court and field. I learned these skills while working with Boyz II Men under management. I decided to create a company and offer particular services to pro athletes that realized the importance of their brand.
A&H: How were things when starting Best Sports Consulting?
MH: I was fortunate to ride the shirttail of Boyz II Men and never really had any liabilities. I think it’s important to wait until you accumulate funds in any entrepreneurial endeavor before you quit your primary financial income source. While working and traveling the world I used the information gathered from the tour to implement them into Best Sports Consulting. I leveraged my relationships gained from the concerts and tours to recruit some of the greatest athletes in America. I was very fortunate to see an opportunity and take advantage of it.
MH: I studied Art Education at the University of Maryland. I’ve always loved illustrations and my favorite being super hero comic books. Working with professional athletes I found many similarities. As a father of three children I’ve noticed a need for role models in youth. I developed the books Young Marques Becomes a Quiet Storm, and Theo the Hero to help children cope with personal issues. Marques Colston is an NFL star and Theo Ratliff is a 16-year NBA vet. Both professional athletes had significant situations in their adolescence that changed their lives. I wanted to create a way to share this with youth that looked up to them. I felt if a child could relate to a professional athlete in some way, it could help them get past difficult growing pains. Portions of proceeds for the books are donated to charity. I feel God has blessed me and this is one of the ways I wish to give back.
A&H: Do you think that is the problem with many entrepreneurs? That desire to get started. How important is patience?
MH: It is very difficult to become an entrepreneur instead of a “wantrepreneur” because you have to be fearless and a lot of people in America want to know that they have a check that comes every week while they are making someone else rich. Being an entrepreneur means you have to have faith in yourself. You’re your own boss, your own secretary, and sometimes you’re your own staff. So being an entrepreneur can also be pretty lonely. You will find many who will discourage you and tell you that you can’t make it and it can’t be done. It’s very easy to quit because you don’t get results fast enough. However, patience is important to see the results of all your hard labor. Most importantly, have faith.
A&H: Favorite comic book hero of all-time and why?
MH: Spiderman. It’s because of his morals, we have a lot of similarities. Regardless of what people think about him, he always does what’s right, even if it hurts. He could be rich and famous and arrogant, but he’s not. He has integrity, and he’s humble. Yet, still, he is capable of changing the outcome of everyday events.
A&H: We talk about style and the importance of it in a man’s life. What’s your personal style and do you feel that the way a person dresses has an effect on their life?
MH: As far as my personal style goes I’m pretty tall (6’7), so I get my suits custom-made by J. Lucas Clothiers on Madison Ave. I feel most comfortable in a pair of jeans with a custom-made shirt with a sweater or a sports coat and a pair of Chuck’s. I’ve always liked to be well-dressed. I want to be comfortable but be in style without being too trendy. I feel that dressing right can set the mood for your entire day; how you look can be directly linked to how you feel and act. How you dress and groom yourself is part of your personal brand, and if you don’t control your brand someone else will.
A&H: Have you been noticing the change in wardrobe among athletes?
MH: Yes, athletes both NBA and NFL. I for the past few years have changed their styles mostly because of the dress codes that both leagues have implemented. But certain high profile athletes such as Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Reggie Bush, and Rajon Rondo have added their own personal styles to express themselves and leads other athletes to try to out-do them in a sense. Gone are the baggy pants and the oversized T-shirts and in is the custom-fitted clothing that emphasizes an athletic physique.
A&H: If you travel back in time and give a young Michael Harris advice what would you tell him?
MH: Be patient, young fella. It’s going to be a bumpy road, but regret nothing and learn form everything. These experiences and faith in God are going to take you places you never dreamed. So don’t worry about your mistakes, just don’t do them again. Keep trying to better yourself every day and above all, pray.