Author Archives: Thomas "Mac" Harman

About Thomas "Mac" Harman

Mac founded Balsam Hill in 2006 after discovering his brother-in-law was allergic to real Christmas trees. He enjoys travelling the world in search of inspiration for new tree designs, and to hand-pick the finest home décor to share with his customers. Mac was honored on the Silicon Valley Business Journal's prestigious "40 under 40" list, and was selected as a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 Award.

Thomas "Mac" Harman | CEO of Balsam Hill

Kit Kats and Snack Mix

Thanksgiving is just around the corner (mmm…pumpkin pie!), which means it is already time to design new Christmas trees for next year! To my knowledge, we are now one of just two Christmas tree companies who designs and manufactures our own trees (everyone else buys their trees through wholesale brokers).  Designing and producing our own trees is a huge undertaking, but one we feel is well worth it to ensure that we bring the highest quality, most realistic artificial Christmas trees to our customers.

Although it is a long trip, I always enjoy travelling to our factory in China to present our latest designs and to review new product samples.  Whenever I meet with our team in China, I always bring them something from the US.  Often, we exchange favorite foods.  Since it is cool this time of year, it’s a great time to bring chocolates without worrying about them melting along the way.  I had some extra space in my luggage this trip so I brought a giant six pound variety pack of favorite Mars, Inc. chocolates: M&Ms, peanut M&Ms, Reese’s, Twix, Snickers, Kit Kat, Milky Way, and Almond Joy.

Earlier this week I brought out the massive bag and there were smiles all around.  We had a great time discussing the pros and cons of each candy bar.  Some were familiar – M&Ms and Snickers are quite common in the stores around our factory (to my palate a Chinese Snickers bar tastes exactly the same as it does in California).  I shared my favorites (Kit Kat) and my least favorite (Milky Way).  Next time, maybe I’ll have to bring both Mounds and Almond Joy and sing the song (provided no one has a  video camera to capture it…)

In return, we snacked on a snack mix from one of my colleague’s hometowns in Sichuan Province.  It was a combination of candied popcorn, peas (similar to wasabi peas without the wasabi), and dried sliced fruit (we still haven’t figured out what the English name is for the fruit).  Delicious!  I can’t wait to see what we’ll decide to share with each other on my next trip!

Thomas "Mac" Harman | CEO of Balsam Hill

Screaming in the Office

Today was arguably the most exciting day in our offices since the building caught on fire several years ago (it turned out to be a tiny flameless fire in an air conditioner, but it was pretty exciting to have the fire department show up with multiple trucks including deployment of the hook and ladder!)

I heard some screaming and shrieking nearby, and then lots of excited conversation as we gathered to see what all the hubbub was about.  It turns out that a praying mantis had decided to join us for the morning and had been flying around, causing concern among my more entomophobic colleagues.

One of us quickly got the praying mantis to climb onto a sheet of office paper, and we successfully released him or her out the window.  Crisis averted!  The only thing I haven’t figured out is why one of my female colleagues was so afraid…it is the female praying mantises that eat the male ones, so if anything, the guys should be the ones who needed to watch out!

Thomas "Mac" Harman | CEO of Balsam Hill

Fall is in the Air

Yesterday was my official start of fall  – as I drove home, I noticed that a huge number of leaves had fallen off the trees that lined my street.  Ever since I moved to California, fall leaf season has just not been the same.  Many of the trees are evergreens and many more trees keep their leaves throughout the year.  However, there are certain species of trees that still drop their leaves in our area and that is in full force now.

As much as it was great to see the change to the season, those of you who have had the opportunity to see the fall foliage turn in New England know just how special fall can be.  In fact, a good friend of mine got in touch over the weekend with a short message – “I’m in Vermont near where you used to live looking at the foliage – any tips on where we should visit?”  Speaking of which, if you are ever in or near Bennington, Vermont, make sure to visit the Blue Benn Diner – it can’t be beat.

It is amazing how many colors can develop in a leaf.  The bright yellows, the crimson reds, the many shades of orange – it is truly an experience to witness fall foliage at its finest.  For the four years I lived in New England, there were some incredibly striking days where the colors were vibrant, the sun was shining brightly, and the wind was strong enough to constantly blow more leaves off the trees and send them tumbling across the landscape.  It is one of the most beautiful things in nature, and the perfect accompaniment to the fall treats of hot apple cider and an apple donut or fritter!

Thomas "Mac" Harman | CEO of Balsam Hill

Fall Frenzy

Labor Day Weekend is upon us, our unofficial marker that another summer has come to an end.  School is back in session or returns back on Tuesday, and in our American culture it is the start of what I believe is the most productive time of the year.

Have you ever noticed this annual pattern?  In January, the new year begins and there is a long period of normalcy through May – social calendars are normal, productivity is high, and there are some scattered three day weekends every other month or so.  Then, the summer hits and everything changes.  Sunshine lasts all day, school is out, workplace productivity drops as there is always someone on vacation, summer employees flood the workplace, summer hangouts get busy, even traffic patterns change.  For some of us, it’s the best weather of the year and we spend as much time as we can outside.

In late August and the first few days of September, it seems that everyone is cramming in one last long weekend or one more family vacation trip.  While we don’t shut down as a country like France does in August, it certainly seems like a pretty sleepy month.  However, once we get to the end of August or Labor Day weekend (depending on when local schools return), the “fall frenzy” begins.

All of a sudden it’s mid September and there is a half-year left of things to accomplish at home and at work, but there are only four months left (and really just three if you factor in all the end of the year holidays).  I think this makes September through Thanksgiving the most productive time of the year.

There’s renewed energy to finish projects at home, to get tasks done at work, to learn more and achieve more in school.  Then by Halloween, the wakeup call comes that the holidays are almost here, and we have even less time to get all these things done…making November an incredible frenzy of activity before the holidays are upon us.

In our business at Balsam Hill, the fall frenzy is even more exciting.  Our new products are all in stock, our team is geared up for another great season, and the majority of our sales season is ahead of us.  We hope that your fall season is productive and fun, and we hope that you’ll enjoy this fall as much as we do.


Thomas "Mac" Harman | CEO of Balsam Hill

Sweet Tea & Lemonade on the Porch

I can’t believe it is August already.  Family friends are taking off on long weekends or their summer vacation before school starts in a few weeks.  The lazy days of summer feel as if they are coming to an end, which just helps everyone appreciate them even more.  And here at Balsam Hill, Christmas 2010 is already well underway.  It seems like each new day we are ready to ship more of our new products, as well as favorites that have been out of stock since they sold out in November or December 2009.

I am really excited about all of the new products that we are bringing to our customers this holiday season, which are now up on  If your favorite is not yet in stock, it won’t be long before it is.  In the meantime, pour yourself a tall glass of lemonade or sweet tea and enjoy another lazy summer afternoon while they last!

Thomas Harman