What Happens When A Christmas Tree Company Grows In Silicon Valley?

Conor Brophy

When you think of Silicon Valley, you probably imagine technology, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists. Has a Christmas tree company ever made that list?

In the inaugural episode of #LifeAt, SAP’s own Ursula Ringham and Ryan Sonnenberg traveled to the headquarters of Balsam Brands in Redwood City for a behind-the-scenes look at one of the fastest growing holiday-seasonal brands in the world. Their first major impression? The sense of entrepreneurship that filled the air.

“I have always been entrepreneurial. I actually started my first business at the age of three, selling used tennis balls out of my Radio Flyer Red Wagon to neighbors as dog toys,” said Thomas Harman, CEO of Balsam Brands. “I started doing that and then all this litany of other businesses growing up. The core values of really taking care of people and doing things for the long term really have held true today.”

Those values and the ability to quickly respond to the market are at the Balsam Brands core. To put it bluntly, someone sneezed and the company was built. Literally. After learning that his brother-in-law was allergic to the mold spores in live Christmas trees, Harman searched the market for high-quality, realistic artificial trees—with no luck. Then the idea struck. He manufactured his first batch of trees. Demand became overwhelming, and Balsam Brands was formed.

After ten years in operation, the company is closing in on $100 million in sales, according to Forbes. The Balsam Brands’ passion for helping people and delivering products that enhance the experience of the holiday season has proven to resonate with customers worldwide.

As the company continues to grow, one factor makes this business resemble a company much larger than it is. “We’re super-seasonal. If you look at us over our peak sales days, we’re like a billion-dollar company. So we must build all our systems to be able to scale up to operate like a billion-dollar company, or hopefully soon multiple billion-dollar company—just because it’s ridiculous seasonality that we face,” said Harman.

For Balsam Brands to continue to excel in the short burst of the holiday season, they invested in a portfolio of enterprise-level systems to handle volume in peak periods.

“We have many, many different varieties of trees,” said Harman. “We have a very broad assortment, and that’s one of the things that cloud-based commerce solutions really helps us do. It helps us to present those options to our customers in a way that’s going to allow them to find the right product for them most easily. As we expand rapidly and scale internationally, the technology is going to allow us to add new stores in countries very easily and keep them in sync with all our features that we add. So, if we add a feature to one country,” he added, “we can easily roll that feature out to all the countries at the flick of a wrist.”

Spreading holiday cheer one tree at a time, in the right place at the right time is how Balsam Brands wins. And in addition to having the right technology in place, their success is attributed to the people that represent their brand.

“Most people say it’s the people, and it’s true. I enjoy coming to work, and going for coffee runs with the teams, and interacting with them,” said Mandy Herrmann, senior marketing manager.

“We intentionally have never had a copy machine in our office because we want folks to get out and take a break, and talk to their colleagues, and spend 10 minutes every morning or afternoon just interacting with one another,” added Claire Magat VP of people and strategic projects.

At Balsam Brands, the Christmas spirit is present year-round—not because of the in-office decorations, but because the people believe in their purpose.

Watch the first episode of #LifeAt: Balsam Brands here.


Conor Brophy

About Conor Brophy

Conor Brophy works with the SAP Global Marketing Customer Storytelling team as a content specialist. When he is not writing about stories of "Run Simple," he enjoys golf, hiking and spending time with his fiance, friends and family.