Author Archives: Thomas Harman

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

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.

Thomas 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!