Mac Harman may well be the man behind your artificial Christmas tree

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on October 18, 2017

CEO Mac Harman of Balsam Brands who are the  world leader in artifical Christmas trees. Photographed by Scott R. Kline for Inenlo at Woodlands School in Portola Valley, CA on September 29, 2017.

We met Mac Harman, founder and owner of Balsam Brands, at Woodland School in Ladera where he is on the Board of Trustees. Sprinkled around the private preschool through 8th grade campus were signs about creating a joyful world. “That happens to be one of our company’s values — spreading joy,” he said with a smile.

Mac grew up outside of Cleveland where his family owned a business and now lives in unincorporated Menlo Park. “Balsam isn’t a family business,” he explained, “but we’re different from a lot of Silicon Valley companies in that we sell a physical product. And to our team members, we are family.”

While Balsam Brands may be new to you, their flagship brand may not be. Balsam Hill™ is the world’s leading retailer of artificial Christmas trees.

Its development came, in part, from Mac and his wife’s experience when they first moved to the Peninsula. “We were both working long hours and never got around to putting up a Christmas tree. Part of the reason was that we had a small apartment and not a lot of space to put up a tree.

“Somewhere along the way, I found out that 80% of people choose an artificial tree to put up for Christmas. This seemed such an unbelievable statistic, particularly when many artificial trees were just shredded paper on a stick.”

When Mac came across technology to make realistic trees, he leapt at the opportunity. “I didn’t invent the technology,” he underscored. “It was there, but no one was using it.”

He first sold trees at a pop-up store at the Stanford Shopping Center. “People would come up to it and touch it and say, ‘I’ve never seen live trees sold in stores.’ That was the start of our Balsam Hill brand.”

Today Balsam Hill is a direct-to-consumer business with sales over the Internet or through a catalog. But Mac endeavors to keep his staff connected to consumers.

“Our offices are on the second floor above retail space in Redwood City,” he said. “When a member of our team goes out to buy coffee, I want them to remember that experience — if it was positive — and think how they can transfer it to one of our customers. Plus, I believe it’s great to be able to easily step outside and clear the mind!”

Photo by Scott R. Kline (c)2017

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