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Innovation & Job News

Scaling Up: A West Philly landscaping and home improvement business gets a boost

A landscaped median on University Avenue

Recently, we took a look at the Enterprise Center’s ScaleUp America Initiative, a federally funded curriculum targeting mid-range Philadelphia businesses that have had success in their markets but need additional support to get to the next level.

West Philadelphia native Jameson Harris, 35, is a member of ScaleUp’s Elevate! Cohort 2016; he got started with the year-long program earlier this month. In 2002, Harris founded Brothers of Nature, a West Philly-based landscaping, home improvement, and property maintenance company.

The business started with three part-time employees, grew to about eight by 2014, and 16 this year. In 2005, Harris won a minority business plan competition with the Enterprise Center -- grants totaling $35,000 went towards supplies to expand the venture.

When he got started, Harris was one of the only landscaping companies based in his West Philly neighborhood. One of his largest early clients was the nonprofit ACHIEVEability, an affordable housing program with over 150 homes. As Harris expanded, the landscaping work expanded to include property maintenance for ACHIEVEability tenants and others.

Brothers of Nature now offers mowing, pruning, and leaf and snow removal, in addition to home improvement services such as painting, flooring, kitchen and bathroom installations, plumbing and electrical services. The company’s clients include the City of Philadelphia: They maintain vacant lots (keeping them mowed and clear of debris) in a span between 33rd and 15th Streets, Washington and Snyder Avenues.

Harris realized early in his career that entrepreneurship was the way to go.

"I knew a regular job couldn’t support what I need to get done," he says of finding something he could rely on in tough times. He’d been working for a landscaping company and decided to launch his own venture in the same field.

2016’s ScaleUp cohort will attend a total of seven seven-hour class sessions throughout the year, as well as one-on-one mentoring for targeted challenge areas and plenty of networking opportunities. One major goal for Harris this year is transforming his business from a sole proprietorship to an LLC.

"ScaleUp has taught me to involve my guys more in the business of what’s going on and how to grow, how to take on more customers," he says. That shift is not just about lightening his load, but about letting him focus on crucial administrative aspects of the business including his longterm business plan. Upcoming goals include growing his employee roster and transitioning part-time workers to full-time.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Jameson Harris, Brothers of Nature

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