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Steve Harris is the quintessential Calgary internet entrepreneur. After graduating with honours from SAIT’s Business Administration, Marketing diploma program in 2006, Harris immediately established a freelance design company called Visual Arms Creative Corp. But, as a self-professed early adopter of Adobe Muse — web design software that enables graphic designers to create websites without writing code — Harris quickly realized there were global opportunities to be capitalized on.
So, in 2011 he created MuseThemes.com, a membership website providing templates, training and plugins to web designers. Today Harris leads an international team of 11 web developers, designers and support experts and together they support more than 77,000 customers in 157 countries, with more than 13 million views annually and more than 1.4 million files downloaded.
Harris has become an internationally recognized expert on e-commerce and website design, providing advisory, design and consulting services to major companies like Adobe Systems and Lynda.com. He is also a three-time speaker at the Adobe MAX conference in California, and was voted a MAX Master Top 10 Speaker in 2015.
Between YouTube, MuseThemes and Lynda.com, his training videos have been watched millions of times.
Yet Harris still uses the sturdy briefcase his grandfather, John Halman, brought to SAIT every day while teaching power engineering courses from the 1960s until his retirement in the 1980s. And Harris credits a hands-on project from his last semester at SAIT for where he is today.
“We built brands and designed marketing materials for real companies, and I learned a ton about what makes a company stand out,” Harris says. “My final semester work project with The Main Dish helped lead me along a path of entrepreneurship and graphic design.”
These days, the sheer size of MuseThemes requires Harris to focus primarily on managing staff, finances and strategy. One of the things he does differently from most business owners is to share detailed information with his team.
“I run through metrics and stats, give them clear direction and share positive customer quotes that I save all year,” Harris says. “Most come away excited and feeling ownership in the business.”
Harris keeps himself motivated by reading stories about successful entrepreneurs. “As long as I have a good book on the go, I always wake up eager to work on (not in…) the business. I’ve probably read 100+ business
books or startup stories.”
He also loves that, “in an internet business, you can clearly measure the results your product is achieving. We get a ton of proud members sending in their sites to show us how they used our products to satisfy their clients’ needs.”
Text by Richard White | Photo by George Webber