Christmas Tree Hugger

Company: Christmas Tree Hugger

Founder: Ryan Kenny

Season: Appeared on season 9 in the week 9 episode

The Christmas Tree Hugger makes artificial Christmas trees look more festive and fun. The product, which comes in several holiday-inspired designs, is simply wrapped around the pole of any fake tree—instantly making it appear more realistic.

The reversible designs, which start at $17.95, include classic brown bark, white birch bark and candy cane. Their website states, “Adults love the realistic bark look and kids go crazy for the festive candy cane.”

When Kenny originally appeared on “Shark Tank,” he came in asking for $100,000 for 20 percent equity. Many of the sharks thought the Christmas accessory was cute, but didn’t see a real need for it. While Barbara Corcoran supported Kenny for taking the initiative to make a sales call and Mark Cuban liked the concept, he ultimately walked away without a deal.

Kenny spoke with Business 2 Community about the Christmas Tree Hugger’s experience on the show and what their next steps are. Take a look at the Q&A below:

Q&A with Christmas Tree Hugger’s Founder Ryan Kenny

What was your strategy for navigating “Shark Tank”?

My strategy pretty much came down to getting as much exposure as possible. Since we have a Christmas product with a very seasonal and small window to sell in each year, “Shark Tank” was the equivalent of a Super Bowl commercial as far as publicity is concerned—perfect for getting on the map! Before that, we’d basically grown entirely from word of mouth, so the goal was to show the world our product and hope Lori (the QVC Queen) would bite. I knew there was no way Kevin would be on board and was mentally prepared for his shenanigans well before stepping onto that stage.

How has the Christmas Tree Hugger changed since the episode was first recorded? Since it aired?

After the show aired, we saw a HUGE spike in sales that lasted for weeks and received so many great reviews all over the internet. It really helped us gain traction for setting up deals and opportunities with new sellers too. The “Shark Tank” tsunami is real.

Is there anything you would have changed about your time spent in the tank, including your pitch and valuation?

Honestly, I felt like I knew the information I needed to know and thought my pitch was solid before and after the demo. That was the main goal. I do wonder sometimes what would have happened if the valuation was lower, but I must say it’s nice not sharing a piece of the pie now that things are moving along.

Who’s your favorite shark?

Mark Cuban forever! I knew The Christmas Tree Hugger was not for him based on the type of investments he normally gravitates to on the show, but I really appreciated him getting behind us during my pitch and keeping Kevin in check. Lunch is on me, Mark!

Despite not getting a deal, do you think “Shark Tank” was the right move for your business?

Absolutely! And I would do it again in a heartbeat. We had a ton of outreach after airing and landed some great opportunities with a few major stores shortly after.

What are the Christmas Tree Hugger’s next steps?

This year, we’re hitting hard with online placement. You’ll be able to find our Huggers on HomeDepot.com, QVC.com, Walmart.com, Amazon.com, Wayfair.com, Zulilly.com and more. So that’s pretty exciting!

Where do you see this industry in 5-10 years?

Five to 10 years from now? I’d love to see our product be as normal as a tree topper or tree skirt. It’s a fact that more and more people are getting fake trees each year and this is the only product that not only hides that ugly fuzzy green pole at the bottom, but also makes the tree look more realistic. It’s designed to stand the test of time, so speaking of five to 10 years… The Christmas Tree Hugger is one of those products that will stay in the family year to year even if you get a new tree.

What would you say to people who want to start their own business?

Don’t get stuck on paper planning for months or years. Start picking up the phone and talking to real people, join groups, do real tests to verify you have a good idea and go for it. It always amazes me how big the results can be from literally one simple action.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who want to make it on “Shark Tank”?

Once you connect with a producer, go above and beyond in every detail they ask of you. There are a ton of people in the mix, so you need to bring more energy, more passion, more practice, etc. Deliver requested assets early and just make it easy for the producers to work with you at every opportunity.

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length