We had the good fortune of connecting with Chris Harbur and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chris, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I kept hearing stories about kids that were being bullied at recess or left out of games because they weren’t good at them, or were overweight, or awkward etc. I’m super sensitive to this kind of thing because I basically came home from middle school crying everyday (did anyone NOT cry everyday in middle school?) because the kids were awful to me. I called a Mom one day and told her if I could create a super fun, one on one, after school fitness + sports program specifically catered to kids who could use a confidence boost, would she commit to a weekly time spot? She said if I could get her kid excited to get outside and exercise she would make sure I would have more business than I could ever dream of.
I knew her kid was averse to any kind of fitness, and only seemed to really like video games. The good news is that I really like video games too, and decided to build his favorite video game for him outdoors in Central Park NYC. I picked the kid up from school and off we went into the park. I built him a real world, fully immersive scavenger hunt (just like his favorite game) and hid mini gold coins all over the park, placing little plastic bad guys from his game near the gold coins. He had to complete various physical challenges in order to defeat the bad guys and win gold coins. Two hours later he came home sweaty and happy and the Mom told everyone she knew. My phone rang off the hook for about 3 weeks and by the end of it, I had sold out an entire year of programming to families all over NYC.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I had an unusual upbringing. Because of my Father’s work, we moved. A lot. I went to 8 different schools in 3 different countries. There were some schools where I was very popular and always felt included. There were other schools where I was bullied to the point where I would hide in the bathroom stalls in between classes. I didn’t understand how I could be so loved and appreciated in one school, and so hated in another, but I knew I never wanted anyone else to go through that if I could help it. When I graduated from college all my actor friends went straight to NYC or LA but I felt like I needed to go a slightly different route so I signed up for the most insane job on this earth, Missoula Children’s Theater. I signed a 12 month contract with them in which every week, I would drive to a new part of the country in a Ford F-150 pickup truck loaded with costumes, lights, set pieces, and direct 60 kids from the local town in a musical. Oh, and you only got a week to pull it off.
I learned more in those 12 months about motivating and helping kids conquer fear and realize their potential than in anything in my life prior. I moved to New York City knowing I could make a difference in the lives of children if I could find the right opportunities. Fast forward to my mid 30s, looking for a new way to help and motivate kids. I heard about a Mom who had a kid that struggled with confidence, only liked video games, and refused to do any exercise or outdoor activity. I gave her a call and pitched her what would become my new business, Let’s Go Play NY, a one on one sports + fitness program for kids just like this. She was thrilled, and after her kid’s first session, she told all of her friends, and that was a wrap.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I moved to Jupiter, FL in May, but have lived in NYC since 2007. When my friend comes to town we walk the ENTIRE city, all of the parks, and end up at my favorite Chinese restaurant in China Town, or Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. If we still have energy left, I take them to Magnolia Bakery on the Upper West Side for Banana Pudding. Not cupcakes, banana pudding.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My Mom and Dad are truly remarkable humans. They lost their life savings in a ponzi scam that was operated by our closest family friend. After that experience, they always told me I can do anything I want, as long as I love it. It’s because of their courage that I have always felt brave enough to do highly creative, entrepreneurial things.
Instagram: @letsgoplayNY.com or @chrisharbur
Facebook: Chris Harbur