Entrepreneur, businesswoman, and founder of Hush Tours, Inc., Debra Harris is no newcomer to illuminating the careers of key entertainment personalities. Through Deb & Lisa Productions, the partnership that brought new life into the urban New York City comedy scene, she made it really cool to be funny. Debra was also able to put the profit back into comedy and was instrumental in launching the careers of some of today’s hottest comedians and actors such as Tracy Morgan (SNL) and Mike Epps (Next Friday) while promoting the New York comedy scene in total.
Born and raised by a single father in the Bronx, Debra’s love for NYC led her to establish hip hop tourism and blended hip hop culture with sightseeing. Her target was very simple; the 40 million tourists visiting New York City annually. The passion behind the roots of this music genre, along with the talented individuals that birthed the culture make Hush Tours the extraordinary concept it is today. Hush Tours’ celebrity-led experiences are so electric that only someone with the drive, heart, and absolute love for what she does could imagine. Debra is a New York City licensed sightseeing tour guide and in its 19 years of operations, Hush Tours has welcomed over one million guests from all over the globe.
Married with two adult children, Debra has propelled her brand into consulting work for various agencies and organizations, including the Museum of the City of New York and Airbnb, as well as executive producing content for Madison Square Garden Networks, MTV, and others. Additionally, she has launched Soul By The Mile experiences throughout the Country. Her wit, intelligence, drive for excellence, and extraordinary people skills make her an inspiration to many.
Hush Tours is a Certified New York City and State Minority/Woman Business Enterprise and a recipient of the Bronx Tourism Award along with Proclamations from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Council.
Where did the idea for Hush Tours come from?
The idea came to me in a dream. Hush Hip Hop Tours was created to increase tourism to the outer boroughs of New York City specifically The Bronx and to both celebrate the founders and creators and preserve the roots of Hip Hop Culture.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I start my day with personal time. It all depends on the day of week. Some days are busier than others in the tourism industry. However, I specifically try to divide time with emails and communication, administrative, working on product and strategies, accounting and sales.
How do you bring ideas to life?
First, I write my ideas in a notebook followed by discussing with family and close friends. Most of my ideas require research. For me developing is the most exciting part of the production.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Working from home and no longer feeling the need to have an office space.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I believe my productivity is directly connected to taking daily walks throughout the City of New York. There is so much past and present day history here.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would say be more confident.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Social Media is extremely difficult for businesses in the service industry.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Find something that make you laugh. Have a good laugh at least once a day.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Customer services has already been our number one goal. It is our policy to treat our guests as extended family.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The impact COVID-19 would have on the travel market did not fully hit me until the Summer of 2021. As an entrepreneur I did not pivot my business to the virtual world which I do consider in hindsight a missed opportunity. I am still processing the ways to overcome it while looking forward to some form of normalcy in the travel/tourism industry.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Design a television (which are extremely large nowadays and take up a lot of wall space) to include an additional built in function e.g. lamp, room lighting etc.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
While riding the NYC subway a few months ago there were a group of musicians playing the legendary song by The Ojays titled “I love Music” I dropped $100 in the bucket. Not only were they getting busy, the song brightened up my day.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Although I personally do not like dealing with numbers and accounting. I find Quick Books to be helpful. I manage both accounts payable and receivable while granting limited access to external team members.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Building a Story Brand – Donald Miller. It is a great way to view marketing to gain a better understanding of various methods and techniques.
What is your favorite quote?
Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. Arthur Ashe
- Timing is a valuable resource
- Keep learning
- Choose a lifestyle you wish to live as an entrepreneur
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.