Thomas is as an operator and investor in consumer brands and consumer Internet companies. Since founding ecommerce retailer Balsam Hill, Thomas has launched several other national brands under the Balsam Brands umbrella including pool retailer Backyard Ocean. Prior to founding Balsam Brands, Thomas ran a contract manufacturing company, worked in consumer products marketing, business development, and as a management consultant.

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About Thomas Harman

Thomas is as an operator and investor in consumer brands and consumer Internet companies. Since founding ecommerce retailer Balsam Hill, Thomas has launched several other national brands under the Balsam Brands umbrella including pool retailer Backyard Ocean. Prior to founding Balsam Brands, Thomas ran a contract manufacturing company, worked in consumer products marketing, business development, and as a management consultant.

Thomas Harman | CEO of Balsam Hill

Our Delightful Castle Peak Pine

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Our Balsam Hill Castle Peak Pine Tree

It’s our busy time of year, and as we prepare for our peak season, it can be easy to forget why we do what we do.  In the midst of all the busy-ness, I had a truly refreshing experience yesterday.

A media publication contacted us and asked if they could run a story about Balsam Hill, to which we happily obliged.  They asked to do a photo shoot with me and one of our trees in a home setting, and since we are so busy, I asked a friend to set up and decorate a tree for the photo shoot.  I arrived after all the decorating was done, and found a gorgeously decorated Castle Peak Pine awaiting.

My friend and her daughter were beaming, they were so thrilled with how great the tree looked.  It was the first time they’d set up a Balsam Hill tree, and they bashfully admitted to me that they had always had fresh Christmas trees, but after setting up the Castle Peak Pine, they were pretty much convinced to buy a Balsam Hill tree.

Yet the real surprise for me was just remembering how beautiful the Castle Peak Pine really is.  In all honesty, I don’t think I had ever fully appreciated its beauty.  It’s not like I hadn’t seen it before, I designed it and in fact had been working on it for over two years.  But most of the time, I have seen it in our R&D facility, without decorations, and without the charm and comfort of seeing it in a warm, inviting home.

The Castle Peak Pine is one that took a long time to develop: I wanted to introduce a tree similar to our Aspen Silver Fir, one that was all True Needle, and that had quite a bit of space in between each branch.  This allows for an open look and also for ornaments (especially larger ones) to be beautifully displayed.  However, in contrast to the Aspen Silver Fir, I wanted to have a tree that had a warmer color palette as well as spruce needle tips instead of fir.

While my favorite trees are ones that exactly mimic nature (such as our BH Noble Fir or BH Fraser Fir), there are only so many natural tree species that make great Christmas trees, so we also design trees that are guided by nature, such as this one.

Inspired by the Engelmann Spruce and other beautiful conifers around Colorado Springs, Castle Pines, and other communities in the Eastern foothills of the Colorado Rockies, our team set out to develop this beautiful tree.  For the first year of development, we code named it the Nebraska Pine.  (I’m not sure why, but it was memorable…in part because we kept coming back to make minor tweaks this tree.)  Call me picky, but it took a long time until we had the tree just right.

The challenge with an open tree like the Castle Peak Pine is that it needs to have enough branch density so that the light strings are concealed, but not too much density that all the nooks and crannies that are so naturally great for ornaments get filled in.  And of course, the tree needs a realistic faux trunk since there is not a dense inner thicket of branches to cover up the tree’s center pole like many of our trees.

After many iterations, our team perfected the Castle Peak Pine and we achieved what I think is the perfect balance of needle tips; needle shape; needle, stem, and bark color; a gorgeous tree shape; and the right amount of lights.   Ultimately we decided to introduce the Castle Peak Pine with our Candlelight TM LEDs – their warm glow accentuates the gentle, warm colors of this tree beautifully.

Back to the present – walking into this photo shoot I was just astounded with the beauty of the Castle Peak Pine.  It looked so real, so natural…the handmade branches had been fluffed perfectly so that it looked just like a farm grown Christmas tree with natural variances in how each branch tip fell.  It was so stunning that I surprised myself!

Thomas Harman | CEO of Balsam Hill

Unprecedented

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Over the past week, we’ve had unprecedented interest in Balsam Hill.  Whether it is from being in a very nice article this past Sunday in the New York Times, being on Oprah’s Ultimate Favorite Holiday Things, or other reasons, we’ve never had so much interest in our artificial Christmas trees in such a short period of time.

We are grateful for this overwhelming interest; however, due to this tremendous interest, we are not able to pick up the phones or return emails as expediently as we desire.  To our customers and potential customers, please know that all of us at Balsam Hill are working overtime and as fast as we can to get back to you and serve you.  For those of you calling us, thank you for your patience.  For those of you emailing us, please know that we will get back to you as soon as possible.  Thank you for your patience and thank you for your interest in Balsam Hill.

Thomas Harman | CEO of Balsam Hill

Happy Thanksgiving!

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One of the many things for which I’m thankful is our fabulous team here at Balsam Hill.  It is a pleasure and honor to work with such dedicated and talented colleagues.  This time of year, we are all exceptionally busy doing our very best to serve all of you, our customers.  This holiday weekend is a time to give thanks and to celebrate with family.  In the world of Christmas trees, it’s also our time to shine as it is the peak of the Christmas tree season.  We will be working through the holiday weekend to serve you – so from our Balsam Hill family to your family, Happy Thanksgiving.

Thomas Harman | CEO of Balsam Hill

The More Things Change, The More They Look the Same

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I’ve been travelling to China for many years now, and I’m always amazed each time how much has changed in just a few months.  When I arrived this time, four apartment towers sprung up near our factory, each at least 20 stories tall (and growing…they are still building up).  When I first arrived years ago, there was no highway and the road was half dirt and half cement.  Today, there’s a four lane highway and the roads are beautifully paved with nice curbs and street markings.

Even just a few years ago, there were few stoplights and no one paid attention to them anyway (the saying goes that street markings and stoplights in China are “for reference only.”)  Today, there are fancy LED stoplights with timers that count down how many seconds until the light turns green (we should get those in the USA, it’s genius) and frankly the roads look nearly identical to ours as in China you also drive on the right side of the road.  I have to admit that the stoplights do seem to still be “for reference only” when the roads are not crowded, but they seem to be followed 90% of the time.

What really got me this time was that I noticed that there is now a second 24 hour McDonald’s that is within two blocks of my hotel.  I knew about the first 24 hour McDonald’s (and the nearby Starbucks), but I didn’t realize that there was a second one literally two blocks away.  On top of that, Wal-Mart is opening a location on the same block.

It is amazing as the world gets smaller.  I just hope that as stores and brands globalize that we will still have vibrant local and regional cultures.  Life would be boring if everything is the same!  If everyone drove the same car, ate in the same restaurant, wore the same clothes, listened to the same music, had the same artificial Christmas tree, it just wouldn’t be that interesting.