Insider Q&A: Elf On Shelf Co-CEO Christa Pitts

Dec 14, 2021, 10:49 AM | Updated: 5:23 pm

It all began with an elf named Fisbee.

In the 1970s, when her three children were growing up, Carol Aebersold would place her childhood toy Fisbee in a new spot each day leading up to Christmas. The family lore was that Fisbee was watching over them, ready to report to Santa if the children were naughty or nice.

In 2004, Aebersold’s daughter Chanda Bell suggested turning the family story into a book that would be sold with a toy elf. After struggling to find a publisher, the family drained their savings and printed “The Elf on the Shelf” themselves. Aebersold’s other daughter, Christa Pitts, left a job at QVC to help with marketing; by the end of 2005, they had sold their first 5,000 copies.

Since then, more than 19 million people worldwide have bought “The Elf on the Shelf.” There are spin-off toys, like Elf Pets, along with app-based games and live experiences. Last year, the family’s privately held company, The Lumistella Co., signed a multiyear deal with Netflix to develop The Elf on the Shelf content.

Founder and co-CEO Pitts says the company’s 100 employees take their job seriously. At Lumistella’s Atlanta headquarters, Christmas music is always playing and the space is dotted with Christmas trees.

“Everyone in our company works for Santa Claus,” Pitts said. “It’s a higher purpose here. It’s the magic of Christmas and everything that it represents.”

Pitts talked with The Associated Press about the company and the Elf’s appeal. Her answers have been edited for length.

Q. People love holiday traditions, but it’s rare that something breaks through to become a new tradition. What is it about The Elf on the Shelf that appeals to people?

A. This tradition began when my mom was a child. And then that tradition came with her into our family. As my siblings and I grew up, we always had an elf that talked to Santa and we didn’t realize anyone else didn’t. So I think there is an authentic-ness to what we do in terms of sharing our family tradition with the world. That’s real and not manufactured, which I think resonates with families and with people. And I think it’s refreshing to have something that represents family values. It’s simple. It’s not that expensive. It returns year after year, and you don’t have to be the smartest or the most successful or the most athletic or the most anything to enjoy it in your home and to have it be a part of the fabric of the way you celebrate the season.

Q. What was the moment you realized this was going to be bigger than anything you had imagined?

A. We’re still not there yet. You know, if you’re someone who’s deeply involved and passionate about your company and your brands, you’re always seeing what the next possibility is. You’re always thinking about what you need to be doing to stay ahead of the curve and continue to be relevant. There have been moments where I can take a step back and just have that feeling of, ”Wow. This is cool.” But then it immediately shifts into the next gear of, “What do we need to do to continue telling the stories of Santa’s North Pole? How can we continue growing this universe that we’ve created?”

Q. How did the pandemic impact the company?

A. While the pandemic was difficult around the globe for everyone and continues to be in a lot of ways, for us the fact that our tradition is something you do in your own home amplified the excitement around it. We had a record year, and we continue to be on track for another record year. It’s something that families can do and enjoy in their home, and it feels normal. It feels like part of the season has arrived.

Q. Many people have good business ideas, but they aren’t always able to see them through. What advice would you give them?

A. Having an idea is just that. It’s just an idea. You have to do something with it. You need to put it on paper and you need to start putting small steps toward what it would take to achieve that goal. Once you’ve taken any step forward __ like coming up with a company name __ it’s figuring out what differentiates you. Most of the greatest things, the biggest disruptors, are just building up something that’s been there before. We’re not the first to ever have elves that work for Santa. But what is different and what makes ours unique is that it’s a liaison for your family directly to the big man himself. And so once you understand what it is you’re doing that differentiates you from what’s out there, that’s where you’re able to push. The last piece is to really focus. Often I meet with people and they’ve got this idea but it’s all over the place. They’re trying to be everything to everyone right out of the gate. Start small, build your community, build a group of advocates online.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Reports: 1 dead, 17 hurt in crash outside Pennsylvania bar

BERWICK, Pa. (AP) — One person has died and another 17 people were injured after a vehicle struck a crowd gathered at a Pennsylvania bar on Saturday for an event to raise money for victims of a house fire that killed 10 earlier this month, authorities said. WNEP-TV said the crash occurred outside the Intoxicology […]
23 hours ago
Associated Press

Today in History: August 14, McVeigh sentenced to death

Today in History Today is Sunday, Aug. 14, the 226th day of 2022. There are 139 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Aug. 14, 1945, President Harry S. Truman announced that Imperial Japan had surrendered unconditionally, ending World War II. On this date: In 1848, the Oregon Territory was created. In […]
23 hours ago
FILE - People spend time at the park at dusk during a summer heat wave, July 21, 2022, in Hoboken, ...
Associated Press

Hot nights: US in July sets new record for overnight warmth

The continental United States in July set a record for overnight warmth, providing little relief from the day's heat meteorologists said.
23 hours ago
FILE - Anne Heche arrives at the 74th annual Directors Guild of America Awards on March 12, 2022, i...
Associated Press

LAPD ends investigation into Anne Heche car crash

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Police Department has ended its investigation into Anne Heche’s car accident, when the actor crashed into a Los Angeles home on Aug. 5. Heche, 53, is brain dead and on life support, pending evaluation for organ donation. “As of today, there will be no further investigative efforts made […]
23 hours ago
Republican Nevada Senate candidate Adam Laxalt, right, takes pictures with supporters at the sevent...
Associated Press

GOP candidates stress urgency at annual Nevada cookout

GARDNERVILLE, Nev. (AP) — Standing in front of 1,500 Republicans at a rural ranch backdropped by the Sierra Nevada mountains, Nevada’s Republican governor candidate Joe Lombardo referenced the “elephant in the room” without naming him. The second-place finisher in the gubernatorial primary, Reno attorney Joey Gilbert, has baselessly claimed the mathematical counting was off and […]
23 hours ago
This image from video released by Snowbasin Resort shows their web cam capture of a meteor flying o...
Associated Press

Officials: Loud ‘boom’ heard in north Utah likely a meteor

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A loud “boom” heard across areas of northern Utah was likely a meteor, officials said Saturday. Reports of the loud noise circulated at about 8:30 a.m., with people from Orem to southern Idaho posting that they heard the “boom,” The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox tweeted that […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Insider Q&A: Elf On Shelf Co-CEO Christa Pitts