May 01, 2014
Scents with Sense: A Strong Commitment to Giving Back Provides a Culture of Sustainability
by Lin Grensing-Pophal
Sometimes those closest to financial ruin are those who find a clear path out and, perhaps unexpectedly, also discover along the way an opportunity to contribute to others in a big way. That’s the place that Orville and Heidi Thompson found themselves back in 2004.
“We got into Scentsy and wickless candles because we were desperate and we needed something that could save us from financial ruin,” Orville says. At 35, the Thompsons had been working for a number of years but were not finding success in their work. It was a turning point for them, Heidi says. “That’s when we came together as a couple,” she says. “From then on we’ve been a great team.” They both acknowledge their partnership brings a solid mix of “head and heart” to the company.
They’ve come a long way in 10 years. Back in 2004, they were at the end of their ropes, concerned about where the next house payment would come from and how they would keep themselves and their family clothed and fed. They launched their company in an ocean shipping container—their first home office. They had no money, no credit, no catalog, no software and, perhaps most notably, no experience. What they did have though was a great product, a strong work ethic and the will to succeed. And they had some passionate support from others who believed in what they were doing.
Fast-forward 10 years and it’s hard to believe that these extremely successful entrepreneurs were once near despair. Their wickless candle company, fueled by the direct selling model, has grown to 120,000 consultants worldwide, with global annual sales revenue in 2013 of about $480 million.
Scentsy Inc., fueled by the direct selling model, has grown to 120,000 consultants worldwide with global annual sales revenue in 2013 of about $480 million.
Growth came quickly and challenged the Thompsons’ ability to keep up with the growth through infrastructure, policy and communication. From 2007 through 2013, the company was hiring on average one new employee every day. They grew from a 6,000-square-foot facility to nearly 1 million square feet of space in three states and two countries. There was a technology explosion to keep up with it all.
Despite the success, these were stressful times; growth, however welcomed, can be challenging. Still they persevered. And they learned that all of the space and technology in the world does not a strong company make. What really matters is culture and commitment, and that’s something that Orville and Heidi have a wealth of and something they nurture in both employees and consultants.
They don’t share the wealth of both their financial and cultural success just internally, though. In part because they vividly remember the trying years and the many people who came forward to support them, and in equal part because of their strong personal commitment to giving, the company has a strong commitment to helping others help themselves.
“As a mom I thought, wouldn’t it be beneficial to our employees if we had some programs to make things easier?”
—Heidi Thompson, Co-Owner and President
|Orville and Heidi Thompson||Scentsy’s new Commons Kitchen offers meal options for employees as well as the public.||Rally for the Ranch 2013 participants stuff backpacks for back to school.|
A Philosophy of Helping Others Help Themselves
Summer Giving: A Tradition Since 2009
Since 2009, Scentsy Inc.’s Summer Giving program has impacted a broad range of local organizations and individuals. Here is a summary of these activities:
“Six Pack Give Back” (2010)
“Halt the Hunger” (2011)
“Spending Spree for Refugees” (2012)
“Rally for the Ranch” (2013)
The ability to experience both significant financial highs and lows has provided a perspective that shapes the Thompsons’ approach to giving. Unlike many, their focus is not on “giving back.” It is on “contributing more than you take.” As Orville notes: “What if someone had come to me in 2004 when we were $700,000 in debt and feeling broken as businesspeople and given us a winning lottery ticket for $1.5 million, and what if we took that ticket and cashed it in and paid off all of our debts? Would we have had what it took to build Scentsy? How many people would have been hurt because we did not go through the experience that we went through because we were given a handout to solve our problems, instead of a hand up to solve our problems?”
The Thompsons say their experience weighs on them every time they decide how to spend extra resources on others—they ask themselves if what they’re doing is actually contributing to someone’s benefit or forfeiting a better opportunity to get resources or experience that would provide greater gain in the long run.
That philosophy is reflected in the way they give. It’s a philosophy built around the core principles of Simplicity, Authenticity and Generosity, with Generosity meaning “contribute more than you take.” Heidi points to a favorite quote from Thomas S. Monson, an American religious leader and author: “He who gives money gives some, he who gives time gives more, and he who gives of himself gives all.” The Thompsons have all bases covered.
In 2009 they founded the Scentsy Family Foundation and, since that time, have embarked on a strategic, comprehensive and multifaceted approach to giving that involves employees and consultants. The Foundation offers philanthropic support through a combination of scholarships, direct donations toward individual efforts and community-based causes, and charitable cause products.
Each year the Foundation’s charitable cause products involve consultants in the nomination of a charitable cause or organization to support through the creation of a distinctive new product in honor of that cause. In Spring 2014, the “Charitable Cause Buddy” is Roosevelt the Rabbit, created to support the March of Dimes imbornto® campaign; from the sale of each Roosevelt the Rabbit, $6.50 is contributed to the March of Dimes in the United States and $7.50 to the Starlight Children’s Foundation in Canada.
But, importantly, Orville and Heidi recognize that without strong support from their employees and consultants the success they have achieved and now share would not be possible.
Giving Back from the Inside Out
It all starts from within. From 2004 to 2009 much of the company’s focus was on managing the growth they were experiencing, building an infrastructure to support that growth, and ensuring that employees and consultants had the resources and support they needed.
Importantly, during this time, there was also a strong focus on defining, refining and reinforcing the culture they desired.
“Authenticity is very important,” Orville says. “We are who we are, and we don’t try to be somebody we’re not.”
Perhaps because of their own early struggles, the Thompsons recognize the unique challenges that employees often face as they attempt to navigate both the challenges of work and family life—and they have taken steps to ease some of those challenges.
“Back in the early days,” Heidi says, “when we worked long hours, ate a lot of macaroni and cheese and ramen and things you could microwave, I remember thinking ‘I wish there were some way that you could quickly make dinner and have the time to sit down as a family, because we were missing that.
“As a mom I thought, wouldn’t it be beneficial to our employees if we had some programs to make things easier?” As they celebrate their 10th anniversary, Heidi says: “It’s a dream come true to offer this convenience to help busy families like ours.”
Their new facility includes a kitchen—the Scentsy Commons Kitchen, operated by Guckenheimer, offering staff- and family-friendly food options, including ready-made dinners and sack lunches that parents can pack for their children. The programs are designed for the company’s 750 Idaho-based employees and are also available to the general public.
Besides a prepared dinner option, employees—and the public—also have the ability to visit the cafeteria to create “packed lunches,” choosing from ready-made sandwiches, apples and other nutritious items. For those employees whose children go to schools without hot lunch, or who prefer to bring their own lunches, this is a convenient and cost-effective option. A buffet of child-sized portions of entrees, sides and drinks is set up Monday through Thursday afternoons so that parents can pack their kids’ lunches for the next day at a cost of about $2, depending on the items selected.
In addition to building in-kitchen facilities, the Thompsons took advantage of their new construction to introduce a number of energy efficient options, and they’ve been recognized for their efforts.
Respecting the Environment
The newly constructed Scentsy Campus consists of seven buildings on 73.35 acres in Meridian, Idaho. In addition to the on-site corporate restaurant, the campus includes an outdoor amphitheater, more than 8,000 square feet of outdoor patios and three miles of walking paths.
Construction followed the standards of efficiency, energy conservation and environmental sustainability held by the Green Globes Initiative, including the use of sustainable, recycled products, a high-efficiency HVAC system, low-flow plumbing, drought-tolerant landscaping and an LED lighting system that adjusts based on the availability of natural lighting.
For their efforts, Scentsy was recently awarded “Four Green Globes” for the campus’ office tower—the highest designation possible—by the Green Globes Initiative. They are one of only 12 facilities in the country to achieve this honor. The Scentsy Distribution Center was awarded “Three Green Globes,” and the campus received an American Society of Landscape Architects Merit Award for the beautification of the grounds and the use of sustainable design features.
Scentsy’s respect for the environment and initiatives to ensure that it is conserving energy and preserving green space represent just the beginning of the company’s commitment to community and efforts to ensure that it is a good corporate citizen.
Scentsy Inc. and its employees are strongly supportive of their local community of Meridian, Idaho, through programs like Summer Giving (established in 2009).
In 2009, the Summer Giving program “Contribute” provided $100 for each employee to spend, positively impacting 40 local, family-owned businesses. In what may have been one of the first-ever “cash mobs,” Scentsy contributed $100,000 to the local community and provided a cash infusion to small businesses during the peak of the recession. Since then, a wide range of activities have connected Scentsy, its employees and the community in creative and impactful ways.
For example, in 2012 Scentsy organized a Spending Spree for Refugees event. Idaho has been a refugee settlement community since 1975 and every year receives hundreds of refugees from many regions of the world. The economic downturn was particularly hard on this population. With this event, Scentsy set up an outdoor market on its campus and encouraged employees and community members to buy from local refugee-owned businesses.
Scentsy Consultants are also engaged in these efforts. Incentive trips incorporate opportunities to interact with various communities while providing services that impact those communities in positive ways. In 2014, Scentsy Consultants will have the opportunity to help out at a school and a senior citizen facility in the Bahamas. These types of activities have been organized since 2008 in settings like Cancún and the Dominican Republic.
While all of these initiatives certainly have a positive impact on the organizations and communities served, Scentsy and its employees and consultants benefit as well, according to the Thompsons.
They say supporting good causes in communities builds camaraderie and reinforces that contributing more than you take is not only part of Scentsy’s culture, but it’s also fun to do and makes life more enjoyable.
As Scentsy celebrates a decade of service to customers, communities, employees and consultants, it can look back on some significant ways that its activities have provided a hand up for literally thousands of people in communities located many miles away from the small community of Meridian, Idaho, where it all started. It was there that the Thompsons, aided by those who offered them a hand up, were able to realize their dreams through hard work, persistence and the commitment to a sustainable philosophy of contributing more than they take.