When an individual takes over a small, struggling business, it is often with visions of one day reaching the top of its industry.
Whether one is dabbling in a hobby or building a state-of-the-art engineering facility from the ground up, success is always the primary goal.
For Idaho Falls businessman Frank VanderSloot, success has been found from his “leap of faith” journey into the business world, helping turn a struggling herbal supplement company into a premier direct marketing empire with nearly 4,000 employees worldwide.
And on Tuesday, a benchmark sign of business success was achieved for Idaho Falls-based Melaleuca.
In front of a packed house at the company’s Idaho Falls headquarters, Melaleuca celebrated breaking the $2 billion mark in annual revenue for the company.
With a countdown clock in the background ticking until the number was reached, VanderSloot, president and CEO of Melaleuca, spoke to those in attendance, and “tens of thousands” viewing the ceremony on Facebook Live, until the number “$2 billion” appeared to his side. Afterwards, a shower of confetti rained over those below in the three-story atrium.
“It became evident over time that ($2 billion in annual revenue) would happen, but definitely not in the beginning,” he said.
Opening in September 1985 as the offshoot of Oil of Melaleuca, VanderSloot founded Melaleuca, Inc. with the idea of selling environmentally friendly products directly to consumers. Utilizing a “word-of-mouth” model, the company began to grow at a swift pace.
Melaleuca first achieved annual revenues of over $1 billion in 2011, 27 years after the company’s founding. Since then, the company has witnessed a steady, yet brisk rise every year.
The company reported revenues of $1.3 billion in 2015 and saw those rise to $1.75 billion in 2016.
“We’ve never had the kind of growth live we’ve experienced over the last 24 months,” VanderSloot said. “The last 24 months have been unbelievable. Like a rocket ship for us.”
The jump of more than $250 million in revenue in the last year can be attributed simply to good products and a good model, according to VanderSloot.
“Our model is a lot like Amazon,” he said. “We were doing what Amazon was doing, shipping directly from our factory and over the internet, long before Amazon was doing it.”
“I’m not suggesting we led the way (with this model), but we were in front of everybody.”
Melaleuca will join elite company with this accomplishment. According to Forbes, only 225 private companies broke the $2 billion mark in annual revenue in 2016.
Boise-based grocery store chain Albertsons was the only Idaho-based company on the list, coming in third.
But the roots of Melaleuca in eastern Idaho make the accomplishment unique. With many large businesses and ventures moving from more rural areas, VanderSloot is proud that he has been able to watch his business grow to such levels out of Idaho Falls.
“Idaho has a great work ethic,” he said. “We have people who care and people who don’t feel entitled. They grew up in an environment where work is certainly rewarded and respected. That’s different than some cities today.”
“The $2 billion mark brings something to our people. I’m really proud of our people.”
This pride resonates not only through those involved with Melaleuca, but also county officials who have watched the organization’s growth over the years.
“I think, watching Melaleuca (break the $2 billion mark) really does speak of our whole community in Bonneville County, and he wanted to make sure everyone shared in this success,” said Bryon Reed, a Bonneville County Commissioner. “And it won’t stop here.”
With a business success story to build upon in the county, Reed believes stories like Melaleuca could be the tip of the iceberg for what could be accomplished in the region.
“(Companies) can look at this and see that this is a great place to have a business and a great resource center for employees,” he said. “Frank mentioned it today, that when you break the $2 billion in sales it really helps to get you recognized by the surrounding industry of the success being had here.”
VanderSloot is not one to hide his passion for eastern Idaho and helping the community when possible, and hopes his story can help further inspire new businesses to flourish in the region.
“Depending on the area, this is a great place to start a business,” he said. “I’d like to see the city of Idaho Falls become more competitive, in its tax base, but everything else is in place.”
VanderSloot is not going to have the $2 billion mark lingering in his mind for long.
“It’s not a distance marker, it’s a milestone,” he said.
Reporter Marc Basham can be reached at 208-542-6763.