For every entrepreneur, there are only so many opportunities to make a good impression on your potential customers. But when you have a holiday-centric business, your window of opportunity is open during one of the most stressful times of the year. “You only have one chance to get it right,” says Matt Bliss, the founder of Modern Christmas Trees.
The 5-year-old Denver-based company is the creator of trees made of lightweight acrylic circles that come delivered complete with LED lights, battery-powered rotating mirror ball, ornament options and an installation kit. The tree comes in five colors and three sizes and the company’s products range from a $39 tree topper to an $800 7.5-foot fully-decorated tree. Customers can also purchase an undecorated one for $399.
The company was inspired by Bliss’ grandfather, who was an engineer that made his own trees out of plexiglass. In 2011, when his grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Bliss decided to honor him by making some trees of his own. He took them to a trade show to see if there was any interest and by 2014, he had left his job working in the mortgage industry to devote himself full time to Modern Christmas Trees.
Bliss has sold trees to companies such as Disneyland Hotels, Google and Red Bull. The company has been growing 70 percent per year, selling 224,000 units last year. Recently, it got a boost in the form of a $100,000 investment from Barbara Corcoran on the Shark Tank episode that aired Dec. 3. The business is now on track to hit a goal of a little more than 380,000 units sold this year.
Bliss shared the top three lessons that he’s learned from his holiday rollercoaster ride.
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Before you pitch, do you your homework.
“Do as much research as you possibly can on who it is that you’re pitching to. Even down to identifying what hometowns they grew up in,” Bliss says. “Be humble enough to know that you don’t know everything, but you better try like hell to learn as much as you possibly can. You need to practice, you need to be on point. You have that one opportunity to get it right.”
Build out your team.
“You really have to hire people to do the job that you aren’t good at. Dealing with all of the customer service pieces, I’m so emotionally entrenched with the product that any time that I don’t get positive feedback, I take it personally,” Bliss says. “You have to try to grow as thick a skin as you can early on, because there will be challenges and problems. You have to hire people who you know are a little bit further removed from it and not be so emotionally attached.”
Understand your timetable.
“The advantage of a seasonal product is that there’s a lot of downtime to prepare to get it right. That gives you ample time to focus on product design and marketing strategy and doing additional research,” Bliss says. “If you have a seasonal product, embrace the positives about it, that there is downtime to think and to work to put together a great plan.”