It doesn’t matter if an employee at Hollman Inc. wants to study photography, gym, nursing, or anything else unrelated to the locker manufacturing company, because CEO Travis Hollman is going to support it—and he’s going to pay for it, too.
“All we want is for people to become better people,” Travis says. “They can take any classes they want to, as long as they’re going to school and becoming educated, better people that are moving their lives forward.”
This philosophy is the driving force in his new education initiative, Hollman HELPs (Higher Education & Learning Programs). In partnering with North Lake College, which happens to be conveniently located just across the street from Irving-based Hollman Inc., employees and all of their dependents have the opportunity to enroll completely free of charge.
“Our goal isn’t really to help Hollman out, even though I think it is, in a way. Our goal is to give something back to these people.”
“I sat down with North Lake and they said they had never really seen anything like this,” Travis says. “We pay for 100 percent of everything—books, anything. They literally put it on my credit card, and then they send us a bill for the classes.”
The initiative is set up so that after attending North Lake, a two-year community college, employees can earn a degree with zero debt. This fall is the first full semester the program is in place, and over 60 of the 250 Hollman Inc. employees have chosen to participate. Although he’s footing the bill, Travis wants to be clear that this isn’t a charity. It’s simply his way of supporting the people that are helping to build his company—specifically, the employees working in the plants, making under $20 an hour.
“Our goal isn’t really to help Hollman out, even though I think it is, in a way,” he says. “Our goal is to give something back to these people.”
BREAKING THE CYCLE
Hollman Inc. is the largest manufacturer of sports, fitness, and corporate lockers in the world, with an extensive repertoire of notable clients like the Dallas Mavericks, but that doesn’t matter when it comes to Hollman HELPs.
When the program launched in April, a couple concerns were raised when employees wanted to take nursing classes, because Travis would essentially be paying for them to leave. But he didn’t care.
“The idea is they’re bettering themselves—if they leave, they leave,” he says. “Because they would leave to a higher paying job, and then their family would become a middle class family. We broke the cycle, we made the world a better place, and we made Irving a better place.”
Travis—who you might recognize if you’re a Bravo TV fan, as his wife, Stephanie, stars on “The Real Housewives of Dallas”—has been CEO of Hollman Inc. since 2010. Upon taking the helm of the family business, he has grown the company, and is constantly looking forward to what’s next.
On a retreat to billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson’s island, Travis says he and a group of people started discussing the future of business. They didn’t know what the upcoming generation was going to bring, whether it be robot workers or technological engineering advances. But what they did know is that education was always going to be a part of it.
“Learning is a continuous process for everybody in life,” Travis says. “We thought that getting people back to school would make a positive impact on their life.”
FOR TRAVIS HOLLMAN, EDUCATION IS PERSONAL
Travis didn’t always have such an enthusiastic outlook on education, though.
As someone with dyslexia, he remembers school as being particularly hard. He shares a story about flunking third grade, and having a teacher call him the dumbest student she’d ever taught. For a long time growing up, he says that he really thought that was true.
But by the time Travis reached high school, he says he started enjoying classes and earning good grades. In college, he realized education was something you absolutely needed. And now, he says his experiences have allowed him to look at and respect school in a different way, and that’s why founding Hollman HELPs was so personal.
“I know that education is very hard for some people, and I know that I was able to accomplish a lot more later in my life with education I ended up getting,” he says. “To get people to go back to school is tougher later on, but to give them that opportunity…that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Travis encourages any CEOs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to reach out to him if they’re interested in implementing similar programs at their own companies. Because for Travis, when it comes to improving DFW, the best way to do that is through education.
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