Propeller start up: The Present Tree

Today we are profiling one of the 26 successful candidates currently progressing through the intensive second phase of the programme - Catherine Cunningham from The Present Tree.

The Gift That Lasts a Lifetime

Catherine Cunningham was intrigued by the idea of an online, eco-friendly business with the potential for high-growth, so using her passion for forestry she set her sights on an online business selling trees. She developed her business idea by researching the market, designing the packaging and then selling at events and markets which enabled her to launch The Present Tree online last August. She now is taking part in Invest Northern Ireland’s Propel Programme to further develop and grow her company. In Catherine’s own words,

“I wanted to start my own business for some time and the idea of selling trees as gifts immediately felt right. I could see the possibilities so clearly and knew it would be a business I would love; creating gifts that are high quality, convenient, meaningful and unique. Customers place their order on the website, the young tree then travels in specially designed packaging and can be posted anywhere in the EU.”

Catherine was introduced to Invest Northern Ireland’s Propel programme at a Women in Business event and seized the opportunity to help fulfil The Present Tree’s potential. Catherine’s hands-on and creative approach to business reflects the Propel programme’s mandate of nurturing local businesses that demonstrate fresh ideas and a drive to succeed.

“In May I was offered a place on the programme. During the first phase of Propel we worked on our gap analysis, customer segments and market opportunities. It was during this that my vision for The Present Tree really developed. The Propel team has given me the confidence and ambition to move forward with a clear vision without losing the business’s integrity and core values. Propel has created new possibilities and opportunities and has given us goals that are ambitious and achievable.”

Alternative to flowers

Catherine has positioned her business as a long lasting alternative to sending flowers, and for the corporate market she is targeting businesses with an eco conscience.

“Flowers are generally given to women only, what is the alternative for men and children? A tree is a thoughtful, personal gift for all ages. A tree can be planted to celebrate the birth of a baby, a wedding, a special birthday or anniversary and in tribute to a loved-one. We also offer our beautifully presented trees to companies who wish to promote their business, their corporate responsibility and enhance their green image. The Present Tree offers a corporate gift that can be branded with a company logo and is memorable, sustainable and eco friendly. “

Catherine and her fellow Propel entrepreneurs are frequently afforded the opportunity to discuss their flourishing businesses in The Hub, where each participant has a skill set to share.

“All the Propel participants regularly get together for training, meetings and workshops. We are all really focused and hard-working but there is great friendship and support too. There’s a real sense of working together as a team on this exciting journey to global success.”

The future

Looking to the future, Catherine plans to build a global brand by recruiting agents in other continents. These agents will be established garden centres and tree nurseries who will grow the young trees themselves, under The Present Trees guidelines.

“Our vision is to offer our customers a range of trees that can be delivered worldwide, so for example, a grandmother in Scotland can order a tree to be delivered to her new grandson in Australia. A man in New York can send a tree to his best friend in France. “


The Invest NI Propel Programme aims to fast-track new and innovative businesses that can export successfully to markets around the world. The application process for the next intake to the programme is now open - visit for more details!




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Wednesday, 17 July 2019
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