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April 01, 2016

Industry with Heart

Leading the Revoilution: Young Living Unites Essential Oil Education and Life-Changing Philanthropy

by Karyn Reagan


Click here to order the April 2016 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.


Leading the Revoilution: Young Living combines essential oil education and life-changing philanthropy to impact people around the world.


Company Profile

Founded: 1993
Headquarters: Lindon, Utah
Executives: Gary and Mary Young
Products: Essential oils, health and wellness, home and personal care


 Gary and Mary Young Gary and Mary Young

On Jan. 5, Gary Young stood amidst the extreme devastation in Nepal, brought about by a massive earthquake a little over nine months earlier. The initial earthquake, the additional ones it spawned and the following 114 tremors had ravaged the country and its inhabitants. Still homeless and displaced, 1.2 million people were living in tents, lean-tos and even tin sheds to protect their families from the elements. After coming to understand from officials that bureaucratic red tape was contributing to the nearly nonexistent material help being provided, Young decided to take matters into his own hands.


“When I was introduced to Gary Young, I could sense that his heart was driven by a desire to help people. I have since seen that heart in action as he commits to empowering people all around the world.”
—Nikki Davis, Senior Director of Global Philanthropy and Executive Director of the Young Living Foundation


Never one to stand idly by and watch others suffer, Young was most disturbed by the fact that, in the previous nine months, no additional housing had been built to replace what was destroyed, and a brutal winter was fast approaching. On that January day, in fact, as Young was handing out blankets in a village named Yarsa, two children died from exposure, bringing the total to 26 deaths in two weeks just in that area. Young was able to secure a meeting with the Vice President of Nepal and asked him the basic question that burdened him: What would it take to start building houses right now? The Vice President gave Young all the empowerment he needed by saying, “Hire a local engineer and architect and go to work.”

Young decided in that minute that instead of waiting on slow-moving governmental bureaucracies, he would mobilize the heart and soul of his company: Young Living’s mighty army of consultants, called Members. This Member base starting growing more than 20 years ago when Gary Young and his wife, Mary, created their first organic herb farming and distillation operation in 1993 in Utah. Their growing interest in the field of essential oils and natural healing remedies led to the establishment of Young Living the next year, and they dedicated themselves to sharing the value of their oils through the direct selling channel. The inability to find products of consistent quality drove them to develop more farmland in Utah and Idaho for growing their own lavender, peppermint, clary sage and other herbs.

Gary YoungYoung Living Founder Gary Young helps the people of Nepal rebuild after a devastating earthquake.

It was while living in Ecuador in 2008, nurturing a growing lavender farm, that the Youngs were struck by the condition of the local school. Gary Young’s inability to be this close to human tragedy and hardship and not intervene caused the Youngs to devise a plan to change things.

Nikki Davis, Senior Director of Global Philanthropy and Executive Director of the Young Living Foundation, says, “The school was a dilapidated building housing 41 students, all being taught by one teacher just a couple of days each week.” Not content with just making a donation, Gary wanted to improve the students’ education and, by extension, improve the entire community. He found a suitable piece of property and was able to negotiate with the owner to acquire the land for a new school. That same year, the Youngs formalized the Foundation, ensuring their ability to continue to help these children and additional people on a large scale.

The Young Living Academy started in 2009 in the town of Chongon, Ecuador, with 83 students. Since then it has grown to 297 students in grades K-12. “The curriculum is excellent and the school also offers music classes; drama and dance clubs; soccer, baseball, and volleyball clubs; computer and English classes; and hands-on agricultural education and experiences,” Davis says. One of the greatest offerings is that of hope for a better life, as the students are now equipped through education to significantly change their futures.

It was this drive to provide not just immediate help but also long-term solutions that motivated Gary again in Nepal as he considered the plight of village after village with no suitable housing left after the quakes. The farm in Ecuador had a simple brick-making machine that could turn out large quantities of sturdy bricks made from dirt mixed with a small amount of cement. Gary had imported that machine from South Africa. He knew instantly another machine like that one could significantly change things in Nepal.

The Foundation put in the call to South Africa and ordered a complete automated block factory, set to arrive in Katmandu by the time this article goes to press. By hiring an engineer, an architect and a project manager and sending them to South Africa for training on the equipment, the Foundation intends to assist the Nepalese by teaching them how to rebuild the devastated villages, one at a time. Once the homes, schools and other buildings are rebuilt, the villagers can continue to make the construction blocks and sell them, providing a long-term economic solution for the area.

The call has gone out to the Young Living salesforce and beyond for volunteers of all kinds, from construction workers to teachers, doctors and social workers, to assist in the efforts. The Foundation will be posting information regularly over the coming months on the best airlines for flights to Nepal, the villages and the rebuilding locations, and what paperwork is necessary to enter Nepal.

For Davis, this most recent action confirms the primary reason she was drawn to working with the Young Living Foundation. “When I was introduced to Gary Young,” she says, “I could sense that his heart was driven by a desire to help people. I have since seen that heart in action as he commits to empowering people all around the world.”


Through Young Living’s support, students are able to get the education and supplies they need at the Senge School in Uganda to equip them for a better life.

Specific Needs, Specific Solutions

Ecuador and the latest effort in Nepal are only two of the many charitable efforts in which The Young Living Foundation is involved. The complete list is extensive, and the kindness and generosity of the Members of the Young Living community can be seen in the many ways they give. Davis explains that Members hold their own fundraisers, sponsor children to attend The Young Living Academy in Ecuador for $75 per month, give monthly to the Foundation from their commission checks, round up their orders to the nearest dollar and participate in the walk/run fundraisers at Young Living’s annual conventions, just to name a few of the ways in which Members participate. The employees at the corporate headquarters in Utah won’t be left out as they hold book and food drives for their Utah school district, help the homeless through local organizations and fill stockings for children in need at Christmastime.


“Young Living’s mission has always been tied to making this world a better place and empowering and improving the lives of others. We are proud to be able to provide much needed support to our global philanthropic partners as they work tirelessly to improve the lives of those they serve.”
—Nikki Davis


The money provides people in many nations vital assistance through established projects. One of those projects is dubbed Sole Hope. “In Uganda it is common for children to have no shoes. Unfortunately, there is a small parasite known as jiggers that enters the body through the feet and causes various illnesses such as infection, gangrene, paralysis and even death,” Davis says. “Sole Hope employs medical personnel to treat the issue.” The Young Living Foundation follows up with education and, of course, shoes, for the patients as well as ongoing support. Sole Hope gives back to the community by training local shoemakers to provide appropriate shoes for the specific needs of its citizens. “Corporate Young Living employees and Members are involved in cutting out patterns for the shoes, which are then sent back to Uganda for local craftsmen to make them,” says Davis.

Uganda also is suffering with a large orphan population. In Kampala, one of those orphans, Luutya, grew tired of seeing his young friends dying for lack of adequate care. He grew up and started African Hearts, a transitional home for the abandoned children, offering shelter, food, social services and quality education. Young Living has stepped in to assist in his efforts. “We have been able to double the efforts of African Hearts, including purchasing land and building an additional school, which is able to educate 200 children ages 3 through 5,” Davis says.


In 2015 Young Living celebrated the enormous milestone of achieving $1 billion in sales in one year, placing it among the largest direct selling companies in the world.


Another challenge encountered by those in underdeveloped nations is mosquito infestations and the diseases they carry. “We have partnered with Healing Faith Uganda to provide mosquito nets to the citizens of a small rural village,” Davis says. “Our Members have raised funds to purchase the nets and some have joined us on service trips to the area to deliver the cherished nets and help with malaria testing.”

Young Living Members give generously to the many outreach efforts of the Foundation and some are not content to simply give. “Our Members get excited to give back by feeding children in the slums of Africa, washing the infested feet of children with jiggers and holding them while the parasites are being removed,” Davis says. “Many Members will want to make the upcoming trips to Nepal to help rebuild homes for the earthquake victims.”

In fact, Young Living’s Members are such enthusiastic financial supporters of the Foundation’s work that the Foundation’s annual contributions, as detailed in the company’s IRS Form 990 filings, show an increase in contributions for every year of the Foundation’s existence, from a modest $120,000 donated in 2009 to a whopping $1.2 million in 2014. The company expects the 2015 Form 990 to be $2 million or more. And $250,000 of that amount was raised simply by customers and Members rounding up their order to the nearest dollar. “Every dollar donated to the Foundation goes directly to the more than 100 projects and partnerships we support,” Davis says. “Our administrative costs are completely covered by Young Living.

“Young Living’s mission has always been tied to making this world a better place and empowering and improving the lives of others,” Davis continues. “We are proud to be able to provide much needed support to our global philanthropic partners as they work tirelessly to improve the lives of those they serve.”

A Foundation Fueled by Company Growth

Young Living’s explosive growth over the past few years has increased the Foundation’s ability to impact lives, as the Foundation has grown tremendously along with the company. The company’s growth has been so immense, in fact, that in 2014 it was outpacing their infrastructure. Young Living had to make some massive investments across the board and actually slowed the opening of new markets in 2015 in order to get on top of the growth. The strategy paid off, and in 2015 Young Living celebrated the enormous milestone of achieving $1 billion in sales in one year, placing it among the largest direct selling companies in the world. The company will open three more markets by the end of 2016, bringing the grand total to 17.


“Nepal is home to many aromatic plants such as wintergreen, sandalwood, rose, lavender, melissa and many others. While we are there rebuilding homes, I also plan to build a small distillery.”
—Gary Young, Co-Founder


From the once humble beginnings of one farm and distillery 20 years ago, the company now operates seven farms in various countries, including the United States, Ecuador, Canada, France and Oman, as well as the largest and most technologically advanced essential oil distillery in North America. Young Living also partners with farms and a few qualified vendors in several countries to meet demand, after they meet a rigorous quality control process. The headquarters in Utah has spread out to six large buildings, manufacturing capacity has tripled, the call center now employs 500 people, and the company globally provides jobs to 2,000 corporate employees in 10 offices around the world.

Yet even with such a large global footprint, Gary Young never loses sight of his company’s basic vision to bring the benefits of essential oils to every home and to empower people to change their lives for the better. While working in Nepal, the country’s flora and fauna have not escaped him. With a twinkle in his eye, Young is making plans. “Nepal is home to many aromatic plants such as wintergreen, sandalwood, rose, lavender, melissa and many others,” he says. “While we are there rebuilding homes, I also plan to build a small distillery.” Those who know Gary would simply smile and say, of course he will.