Modern Christmas Tree

Company: Modern Christmas Tree

Founder: Matt Bliss

Season: Appeared on season 9 in the week 9 episode

Modern Christmas Tree puts a fresh spin on a classic Christmas staple. The contemporary, artificial tree brightens up any room for the holidays with dazzling ornaments, sparkly crystals and shimmering rings.

“In addition to its unique design, The Modern Christmas Tree was built with function in mind,” according to their website. “Not only is the tree easy to setup and takedown, but it is the only artificial tree that is collapsible.” The trees, which range from $99 to $799, include a sparkling hanging tree that comes decorated with globes and chandelier crystals, a glittering wall tree and a festive table-top option.

When Bliss originally appeared on “Shark Tank,” he came in asking for $100,000 for 10 percent equity. The sharks liked the contemporary trees, but worried that they were a bit too pricey and niche. Lori Greiner thought they were visually appealing but didn’t like the price point, while Mark Cuban questioned how the business could be scaled. Both sharks went out, as did Robert Herjavec and Kevin O’Leary.

Despite her concerns, Barbara Corcoran liked the “fresh” product and offered $100,000 for 25 percent with a $5 royalty until her investment was repaid. O’Leary then came back in and offered the same deal at 20 percent. Ultimately, following several counteroffers, Bliss accepted a deal with Corcoran at $100,000 for 18 percent.

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

Q&A with Modern Christmas Tree’s Founder Matt Bliss

What was your strategy for navigating “Shark Tank”?

My strategy was to be as prepared as humanly possible! I watched every episode I could get my hands on. I wrote down every question the sharks asked and crafted the perfect answer to each question. I had life-sized cardboard cutouts made of each shark and practiced my pitch in front of them hundreds of times! I couldn’t control if they liked the trees or not but I could control my performance.

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

Well, we have certainly stepped up our accounting game knowing we had a new partner to answer to. There feels a bit more pressure to make this business successful—make Barbara right and prove the other sharks wrong. There are no excuses anymore.

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

No, I have no regrets. I did my best.

Who’s your favorite shark?

Well, Barbara, of course!

Do you think “Shark Tank” was the right move for your business?

Yes. We lacked exposure and “Shark Tank” gave us that. Web traffic since the show is up over 300 percent from the previous year. It will be interesting to see how the exposure translates into sales come Q4.

What are Modern Christmas Tree’s next steps?

We are focusing on selling the tree undecorated and having tree owners make the tree their own. It allows for a lower price point and allows for people to decorate it with their own ornaments. We are also providing local shipping in Australia this year and launching in Europe next year.

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

No idea! I would have never guessed that retail would change so much in the last five years. I hope that selling direct to the consumer will still be viable since traditional retail seems to be dying or frantically trying to adapt.

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

Before spending a dollar, do as much research on the potential business as you can. How large is the market? Who are the competitors? What makes your idea unique? How are the biggest challenges? Meet with the smartest, most successful people you know and tell them you want an honest opinion about your business idea. Keep in mind, some of these people will tell you what you want to hear, which isn’t helpful.

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

Go for it but realize there are no shortcuts. Spend a lot of time filling out the application and answering the questions. “Shark Tank” is a very visual show and heavy on story. How can you make your business visual and compelling?

Anything else you’d like to add?

One of the greatest outcomes of the show was being asked to speak to junior high and high school students. I was happy to learn that many schools were having “Shark Tank”-style business competitions. They were teaching about business, product development and entrepreneurship—so important for them to be exposed to these things at a young age. Where was this class when I was growing up?

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length

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