A few years after obtaining her degree, Katie Olson had many adventures and entrepreneurial experiences including working on a horse ranch in Montana, starting a photography business, a couple years working a desk job, and several temporary agency assignments. However, Katie was ready to move on and build her own company.

It was the Christmas season and during a visit to Hartford, Wisconsin she couldn’t help being touched by the beauty of the Christmas lights decorating the downtown area, and residential properties. Deciding to settle in Hartford, she chose to start her own business there too. She wrote a business plan and Tis The Season was launched in 2015.   

As she was completing her business plan, Katie called SCORE and found SCORE Mentor David Maaske.  She stated, “His review of the business plan was reassuring and encouraging and gave me the confidence to move forward.”  Katie also added that Dave gave her “homework” - making her explore the markets and customer base for her services.  She was new to the community so this forced her to research and expand her vision of where the business could serve clients.  

Tis the Season is more than “putting up Christmas lights.” Katie completes a custom design for each customer so the lights are balanced and evenly spaced.  She uses different-sized bulbs to create the effect. She then cuts and wires the lights individually for each customer and does the installation.  Katie removes the lights and stores them in the offseason for the following year.  Her customers include businesses, homes and, added in 2017, the City of Hartford’s Riverwalk.   

It is a challenging seasonal business as everyone wants their lights up at the same time but Katie is organized and plans the work using some temporary help. Tis the Season is also expanding into other seasonal lighting including roofline lights that can be programmed to switch colors with the season.

Her off-season includes work as a wedding photographer, another entrepreneurial experience. She won a business planning contest in college for a photography business and worked as a photographer for the college while a student. 

Katie joined the Hartford Chamber of Commerce early in her business startup and has benefitted from the network and business relationships. She is also a member of an association for Christmas Light Installers which helps keep her current on the latest technology and products.  

Today, Katie sees her business growing in the next 2-3 years, adding employees, and providing more year-round lighting for homes and businesses.

How SCORE Helped: 

As she was completing her business plan, Katie called SCORE and found SCORE Mentor David Maaske.  She stated, “His review of the business plan was reassuring and encouraging and gave me the confidence to move forward.”  Katie also added that Dave gave her “homework” - making her explore the markets and customer base for her services.  She was new to the community so this forced her to research and expand her vision of where the business could serve clients.