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May 01, 2011

Industry with Heart

The Sweet Scent of Success: Remarkable growth feeds Scentsy’s desire to give back

by Brittany Glenn

Year founded: 2009

Causes/Organizations Supported:

  • TODAY Show Holiday Toy and Gift Drive
  • Sunshine Kids™
  • Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure®
  • Paint the Town (Boise and surrounding area)
  • American Red Cross
  • Dress for Success®
  • Women’s and Children’s Alliance
  • Wednesday’s Child
  • National Breast Cancer Foundation™
  • ReThink Breast Cancer™
  • Autism Speaks™

What would motivate a company to pursue charitable giving as strongly as it would pursue corporate growth? For Scentsy Inc. owners Orville and Heidi Thompson, it was the kindness of others. It was the spirit of giving and faith that family, friends and even strangers had in them as they grew their business that spurred the couple’s desire to give back. So as soon as they had the means to do so, they did just that, establishing the Scentsy Family Foundation to support their charitable initiatives.

“When we first started out, we didn’t have a lot of money,” Heidi Thompson says. “But we had a lot of people who had faith in us, and they came in and worked for free for many hours. My mom worked for free for two years. A lot of our consultants packed their own orders in the beginning. So we felt inspired to give back. I still feel that I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to repay all those people who helped us in the early years.”

Those early years began in 2004, when the Thompsons purchased the fledgling company and established a direct selling model for their scented, wickless candles. In just a few short years, the company began to grow substantially. In the 2010 Inc. 500 list, Scentsy™ was named the nation’s fastest-growing company in the consumer products and services industry. Overall, it ranked No. 19 on the prestigious list of the fastest-growing private companies in America, with a three-year growth rate of 8,094 percent (from 2006 to 2009).

Scentsy posted year-end revenue of more than $380 million in 2010, up from $178 million in 2009. Over the same period, the party plan company, which is based in Meridian, Idaho, grew from 57,777 consultants and 445 employees to 87,428 consultants and 735 employees. 

While these numbers are inspiring, what is equally impressive is that Scentsy has proven a successful bottom line can be synonymous with a giving heart. From the very beginning, the Thompsons were determined to build their business around the core principles of Simplicity, Authenticity and Generosity—and “Generosity” meant “contribute more than you take.” Five years after purchasing the company, they were ready to “warm the heart, enliven the senses, and inspire the soul” in every community they served.

The Thompsons founded the Scentsy Family Foundation in 2009 with three pillars of giving in mind: direct giving, charitable cause warmers and higher education scholarships for children of Scentsy consultants and employees. Since that time, the company has conducted a comprehensive and multifaceted giving program that involves employees and consultants alike. 

Direct Giving Donations

In 2009, Scentsy conducted a charitable giving program called Contribute 2009, which resulted in the company donating $100,000 to help 40 locally owned businesses in Boise, Idaho, and the surrounding area. The Thompsons sent employees into the community to spend $100 each at locally owned businesses.

Following the couple’s example, Scentsy employees and consultants across the country were inspired to spend their own money to boost the fortunes of small businesses in their communities. An estimated $1 million was spent in local businesses throughout the country as a result of this initiative.

“It was our way to celebrate our five-year anniversary,” Thompson says. “We could have hired a circus or something like that, but the more we talked about it, the more we thought it would be fun to do something in the community.”

During the summer of 2010, Scentsy celebrated six years in business by sponsoring six volunteer events in Idaho’s Treasure Valley. The Six-Pack Give Back charitable giving initiative supported six local charities with volunteer hours, cash and in-kind donations.
“We called it the Six-Pack Give Back because at the time our clamshell packaging for our Scentsy Bars had six little squares,” Thompson says. “We did six service projects to celebrate our six years in business: The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure®, Paint the Town, Vein Ambition, Fashion Forward, Change Challenge and Contribute 2010.”

All together, Scentsy employees and consultants donated more than $250,000, 1,400 work hours, 140 pints of blood and hundreds of pieces of clothing to these worthy causes.

Also in 2010, Scentsy made a $2.5 million in-kind donation of Scentsy Buddies—scented stuffed animals—to NBC’s annual TODAY Show Holiday Toy and Gift Drive, spearheaded by the Direct Selling Association. Five nonprofits across the country benefited from the 100,000 donated Scentsy Buddies.

“We wanted to support the DSA and their affiliation with the toy drive,” Thompson says. “We had just launched a new product called the Scentsy Buddy, and we felt that every child deserved one, even if their parents couldn’t afford it.”

Scentsy

Scentsy President Heidi Thompson announces Scentsy’s $2.5 million Scentsy Buddy donation on the TODAY Show.

Charitable Cause Warmers

Scentsy supports grassroots giving among its customers and consultants with a new charitable cause warmer every six months. The cause warmer is designed to honor the work of a particular nonprofit organization, and Scentsy donates a portion of its profits from each warmer to the selected charity.

“We decided that every time we launched a new catalog, we would launch a new charitable cause warmer,” Thompson says. “We decided to set it up so that consultants could e-mail us submissions of their favorite causes. Usually there’s one that stands out.”

Scentsy’s first cause warmer supported the Sunshine Kids Foundation and was available in the spring/summer 2010 catalog. Scentsy donated 100 percent of the net profits from the sale of each Sunshine Kids™ warmer for a total of $176,000 to support the foundation’s efforts to help children with cancer.

Introduced in the fall/winter 2010 catalog, the Love, Life, Hope charitable cause warmer benefited the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) in the United States and ReThink Breast Cancer™ in Canada. In total, Scentsy donated more than $600,000 to the NBCF and ReThink Breast Cancer to support early detection, education and support services for those affected by the disease. The Love, Life, Hope charitable cause warmer featured the symbolic pink ribbon, plus pink-and-white stripes with black accents.

“Whether it’s a mother, sister, friend or their own personal battle, many of our Scentsy employees and consultants have been affected by breast cancer,” Thompson says. “We wanted to show our support by helping to fight this horrible disease. The Love, Life, Hope cause warmer honors all those affected by breast cancer. It gives hope to those who are struggling now and to those who have lost a loved one to this disease.”
Scentsy’s spring/summer 2011 catalog features the newest cause warmer, Piece by Piece, in support of Autism Speaks™ and its mission to fund global research and spread awareness of autism spectrum disorders. Scentsy will donate 100 percent of the net profits from the sale of this warmer directly to Autism Speaks at the end of the catalog season.

“It’s been wonderful. Our consultants feel part of it because they get to vote on which cause we support,” Thompson says. “[Piece by Piece] will run until Aug. 31, and then on Sept. 1 we’ll launch a new cause warmer.”

Scholarship Support

In 2010, Scentsy awarded 36 scholarships, at $2,000 each, to children of Scentsy employees and consultants across the country to help them in their pursuit of higher education. Scentsy encourages the children of Scentsy employees and consultants to apply for scholarship funds each spring for the following academic year.

Thompson says Scentsy had actually decided to give 50 scholarships last year, 2010, but only 36 people applied for them. “So all 36 people received the scholarships,” Thompson says. “I’m sure now that the word is out we’ll have more than 50 apply this year.”

In 2011, Scentsy hopes to give 125 scholarships to prospective students, 100 to children of consultants and an additional 25 to children of employees. Determination of the scholarships is based on the recipients’ dedication to leadership, academic excellence and community service. High school seniors or graduates as well as current undergraduate students who are ages 24 or younger are eligible if they plan to enroll in full-time undergraduate study at an accredited school for the entire 2011–2012 academic year.

The Ripple Effect

The Scentsy Family Foundation has donated millions of dollars in the short time it has been in existence. Thompson acknowledges that this spirit of generosity at Scentsy is a direct result of the kindness shown to her and her husband when they were just beginning their business.

Another reason is that the Thompsons believe it is more important to give than to receive. “We try to contribute more than we take everywhere we do business,” Thompson says. “That’s our goal as a company, and I believe if you were to talk to our consultants they would say that also. Our employees and consultants have that mindset now where they want to contribute, so there has been kind of a ripple effect that’s played out over the years.”

Thompson hopes that Scentsy continues its remarkable growth, considering that the better it does as a company, the more the foundation will be able to give to those in need. “As Scentsy grows, I hope the foundation does, too,” she says. “Scentsy is one company, so we’re not going to change the world. But we can help a few people.”

Training for a Lifetime of Success

In 2010, Scentsy celebrated its six-year anniversary by initiating a charitable giving program called the Six-Pack Give Back, which consisted of six service projects:

Race for the Cure—In May, Scentsy employees, consultants and their families and friends organized the largest team ever assembled for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® in Boise—2,200 people raced to support breast cancer awareness.  Scentsy donated more than $171,000 to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation—more than half of the $300,000 fundraising goal for the area.

Paint the Town—In June, more than 120 Scentsy employees, consultants, friends and family participated in Boise’s Paint the Town. Ten Scentsy teams visited the homes of senior citizens and disabled Boise residents and spruced up their homes with fresh coats of paint.

Vein Ambition—In July, 180 Scentsy employees and consultants signed up to donate blood, providing 140 pints of usable blood to the Red Cross.

Fashion Forward—Two Boise organizations, Dress for Success® and the Women’s and Children’s Alliance, received large donations of new and gently used clothing from Scentsy’s Fashion Forward event in July.

Change Challenge—Scentsy employees and consultants raised money for Wednesday’s Child, a Boise charity that features a child in need of an adoptive family, every Wednesday on KTVB News Channel 7, an NBC affiliate. Scentsy employees were encouraged to donate their spare change to reach Scentsy’s goal of $10,000. During the company’s Intensity Convention 2010, consultants were also encouraged to donate to Wednesday’s Child.  Scentsy’s total donation reached $16,000.

Contribute 2010—To wrap up the Six-Pack Give Back program, the company contributed $50,000 toward helping 20 family-owned Treasure   Valley businesses. Each Scentsy employee received $50 to spend in one of the stores chosen by the Six-Pack Give Back team.