Orville Thompson’s entrepreneurial spirit emerged long before he and his wife Heidi launched Scentsy on July 1, 2004.
In 1979, 10-year-old Orville approached his father about purchasing a flock of sheep from a neighbor, who was offering to accept half of the following year’s lambs as payment. Orville agreed to sell his horse to pay for feed. Orville’s father agreed – believing he was raising a son rather than sheep by allowing Orville to take on this huge responsibility.
Over the next several years, Orville turned his flock from a collection of crossbreeds into a purebred flock. He earned money selling sheep at auctions and to other young people who would raise and show sheep through programs like 4H. By the time he graduated from high school, Orville had $14,000 in the bank.
In 1990, Orville married Heidi Braucht. The young couple moved to Seattle, Washington, where Orville was studying at the University of Washington.
Following his graduation in 1992 with a B.A. in History and a strong interest in international trade, Orville worked in international shipping, where he further honed his entrepreneurial acumen and business skills — but for very little income.
In 1994, the job market was shrinking and Orville and Heidi had a growing family to support. Orville put aside the thought of a corporate career or a Ph.D. in History and instead went into business with Heidi’s mother, Alice, developing a car wax formula and selling it (along with other products) at fairs and shows in the Pacific Northwest and surrounding areas.
For the next year, Orville and Heidi lived in a travel trailer with their first child, roaming throughout the country working the fairs and shows business. With the impending birth of their second child, the growing family put down roots in Meridian, Idaho, trading the travel trailer for a house. Orville continued to work the fairs and shows business, and his company, Event Sales, became one of the largest fairs, shows, and mall kiosk companies in the western United States. Heidi concentrated on raising the family while Orville spent many months each year on the road selling car wax, shammies, 64-in-1 video game controllers, and other popular products.
Event Sales was successful on the surface, but Orville regularly needed to take on greater amounts of debt to keep the company afloat.
In 2003, Orville invested in a car wax infomercial that failed, leaving Orville and Heidi $700,000 in net debt and on the verge of bankruptcy. Orville says about that time in his life: “I was feeling just beaten down as an entrepreneur, a failure. And I remember thinking, ‘Why didn’t I just become a dentist?’”
Orville went to Heidi and said, “We are really in debt; we should probably file for bankruptcy.” To which Heidi replied, “No. We are going to swing for the fence and we’re going to swing really hard.”
In March 2004, without enough money in the Event Sales checking account to pay the rent on booth space, Orville attended a Salt Lake City, Utah, home show. He wrote a check to the show promoter, saying, “This check is bad. Don’t cash it, but please let me set up. I will buy this check back from you with cash by the end of the show.” The promoter agreed. Orville set up his booth selling 64-in-1 video game controllers across the aisle from two stay-at-home moms who were selling decorative warmers designed to melt scented wax with the heat of a light bulb instead of a traditional wick and flame.
Over the next few days, the wickless candle concept fascinated Orville. He struck up a conversation with the women during a lunch break, and they swapped products. Orville traded a video game controller for a warmer, several wickless candle bars, and a set of scent testers. He took the products home to Heidi, who now admits she planned to toss them into the pile of other products Orville was fond of bringing home for her to evaluate for Event Sales.
The products never made it to the pile of discards. Instead, Heidi fell in love with them.
A few days after returning from the home show, Heidi was visiting and sharing the scents testers with her mom and sister. Orville left to run an errand and came home to find the women still smelling the testers, laughing and sharing memories. They were having a great time and something smelled delicious. He asked Heidi what she was baking and the women laughed. She told him it was a Scentsy candle bar called Banana Nut Bread.
Orville was touched by the cozy scene and intrigued to see how different scents could evoke emotions and memories. He was energized by how natural it was to share those feelings and memories with others in the “party” environment. Orville and Heidi purchased the tiny company and moved Scentsy to Meridian, Idaho.
Heidi quickly immersed herself in the new venture. She was in love with Scentsy products and determined to see the company succeed.
Heidi’s participation in the business would prove invaluable. While Orville traveled for Event Sales as he did each summer, Heidi took over the financial books and began researching different business models, including direct selling. She learned about the Direct Selling Association (DSA) and was impressed by the DSA’s high level of support for its members. But what really drew her to DSA was the organization’s Code of Ethics.
Heidi convinced Orville to attend the DSA’s national meeting in New Orleans even though the expense was considerable. In fact, Orville and Heidi now laugh that they had to “rub their remaining credit cards together” to come up with the funds for just Orville to attend that meeting.
And that’s where the idea to launch Scentsy as a party plan company was formed. Orville and Heidi learned everything they could about how the direct selling business model worked. They realized how well that model suited the wonderful experience the women in Heidi’s family had shared in her kitchen with the Scentsy testers.
On July 1, 2004, Orville and Heidi launched Scentsy as a party plan company. Driving to Salt Lake City to meet with potential Scentsy Consultants that day, they created the company’s mission statement:
“To bring value to the world by providing an industry-leading, family-friendly business opportunity selling creative, artistic, high-quality products that Warm the Heart, Enliven the Senses, and Inspire the Soul.”
Scentsy’s first home was a 40-foot metal box. For several months, the Thompsons and their five kids ran Scentsy’s manufacturing and shipping operations from an old ocean shipping container that had been sitting on the family sheep farm in Meridian, Idaho. Orville had secured the farm and started raising sheep when he felt discouraged with his failing Event Sales business. It was his way to reconnect to a time when he felt inspired as a successful entrepreneur. Now it was time to sell the sheep and get to work.
Because they were deeply in debt, with no credit line or means to take on investors, Orville and Heidi had no choice but to “bootstrap.” They used what they had — including converting a mouse-infested ocean container into the “home office” — and worked tirelessly, nearly around the clock, to launch the fledgling company.
By October 2004, Scentsy had outgrown the container on the farm. Orville and Heidi signed their first lease and moved into a 1,800-square-foot warehouse and office facility on Franklin Avenue in Meridian, Idaho. They knew it wouldn’t hold them for long, but it was what they could afford. There was enough room to manufacture and store products, and space for employees — but not enough money to pay them.
Together with their family and friends, the Thompsons poured, cooled, packed, and shipped all the wickless candles themselves. Heidi’s parents, Alice and Fred, pitched in and worked seven days a week, at no salary, for nearly two years. Scentsy’s early Consultants often showed up to help pack and ship their own party orders, and Orville’s mother joined right in to help them when she came to visit.
In June 2006, Scentsy doubled its square footage, moving to a new 5,000-square-foot facility with warehouse space for manufacturing and shipping, and office space for its growing staff. But it was only a matter of months before the company outgrew that location, too. After less than a year on Adkins Drive in Meridian, Scentsy was already sorely in need of more space.
It was time for a bold move. Orville found a building in Meridian with enough space to accommodate Scentsy’s growth. But when he approached the property owner in March 2007 to talk about terms, the owner thought Scentsy’s revenue projections of 400 percent growth by year’s end were unreasonable.
Not willing to give up, Orville cut his projections by half and met with the landlord again.
Hours before Scentsy’s annual Convention in July 2007, the landlord finally agreed to lease space to Scentsy. And incidentally, Scentsy’s growth in 2007 (more than 600 percent) was in line with Orville’s original “unreasonable” projections.
Scentsy’s new 42,000-square-foot location at 3698 East Lanark Street housed most of Scentsy’s operations, including new office space for its growing staff. Scentsy moved in just in time for the very busy holiday selling season. At the time, neither of the Thompsons believed Scentsy would ever fill the space.
In October 2007, the company opened a 14,000-square-foot distribution center near Chicago, Illinois, to accommodate the company’s growth in the eastern United States.
In June 2008, Scentsy began to automate, speeding up production with a custom-designed candle bar injection machine — christened Alice in honor of Heidi’s mother and her generous service to the company. In August 2008, the company installed a second candle bar injection machine, appropriately named Fred in honor of Heidi’s stepfather and his donated time. Several additional automated candle bar injection machines joined Alice and Fred later that year. By the end of 2008, Scentsy filled more than 100,000 square feet in the East Lanark building.
In September 2008, during a system-wide software upgrade, a switch was unintentionally left open that allowed Puerto Rico residents to enroll as Consultants. And enroll they did. By the following summer, the Puerto Rico market was growing at a rate six times higher than the US rate. The leadership team was concerned. Scentsy had few bilingual field leaders and very few training materials translated into Spanish. With such rapid growth and limited communication, Scentsy executives wondered whether the guidelines, ethics, and policies were being followed. Chuck Thompson, Scentsy's Chief Financial Officer, and Mark Stastny, Scentsy's Chief Marketing Officer, took a team of employees to Puerto Rico to see what was going on.
What they found amazed them. “The alignment with the Scentsy values was incredible,” Mark says. Somehow the Scentsy message made it smoothly through the language barrier. Puerto Rico’s family-oriented, close-knit culture offered a perfect environment for the Scentsy model.
In June 2009, a month before celebrating its fifth anniversary as a party plan company, Scentsy was awarded the DSA’s first ever Rising Star Award, given to the DSA member company that showed the most remarkable growth while demonstrating adherence to the DSA’s Code of Ethics.
Several weeks later in July 2009, Orville and Heidi threw a most unusual and compelling “party” to commemorate Scentsy’s fifth anniversary. To express their appreciation for the success Scentsy had achieved and show support for their community, the Thompsons gave their employees and vendors and their family members a total of $100,000 cash to spend in one day in 40 family-owned small businesses in the Boise area. Businesses were nominated by Scentsy executives and employees and chosen by a committee. Employees kept what they purchased as thanks for their contribution and $2,500 was spent in each location, giving some small local businesses an infusion of cash rarely seen in those economic times. This celebration served as the inspiration for Scentsy’s fall 2009 “Contribute” campaign in which Consultants were encouraged to mirror Scentsy’s local program in their own communities.
In July 2009, the company also launched a new 80,000-square-foot distribution facility in the Lexington, Kentucky, area to improve service to Consultants outside the Intermountain West.
In October 2009, Scentsy looked beyond its national sales model and opened the doors to selling and recruiting in Canada. In an unusual move for a party plan company, this first international expansion allowed U.S.-based Consultants to sell and recruit across the border. In this way, Scentsy’s values and “spirit” crossed the border as well. New Canadian Consultants received training and support from seasoned Consultants in the U.S., and U.S. Consultants were given an opportunity to grow their businesses. Scentsy showed a profit in Canada in less than three months. At the end of the first quarter of 2010, Scentsy had more than 1,000 active Consultants in Canada. By the end of the year, Scentsy had spread operations to all 50 United States, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Canada.
In July 2010, Scentsy upgraded to a new facility. This time, most of the company’s Meridian, Idaho, staff (excluding Shipping and Manufacturing personnel) moved to a new space across the street from the East Lanark location. This new 65,000+ square-foot location will buy the company some much needed elbow room as it continues to grow. East Lanark continues to house the company’s warehouse and shipping operations, along with Scentsy’s Wellness Center, a full-service gym with a full-time fitness trainer, available at no cost to all employees (and at very low cost to their spouses).
As Scentsy employees stretched their legs in the new facility, they also celebrated six years in business with Six-Pack Give Back, six volunteer events in Idaho’s Treasure Valley. Together with Consultants, friends, families, and suppliers, Scentsy employees donated blood, sweat, and time to support the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure — the Scentsy team had 2,200 participants! — Boise’s Paint the Town event, the Red Cross, Dress for Success with the Women’s and Children’s Alliance, Wednesday’s Child, and 20 family-owned Treasure Valley businesses.
Automation and expansion continued at a rapid pace in 2010; in March 2010, “Alice” and “Fred” were retired and replaced by custom-designed high-speed wickless candle manufacturing equipment affectionately named “Alice2” and “Fred2.”
In addition to the exciting expansion, 2010 brought new honors for the company: Scentsy was included in the Direct Selling News Global 100 list of top direct selling companies, as well as being named the number one consumer products company on the Inc. 500 list of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the United States.
At the start of 2011, Scentsy announced big plans: a new campus with an office tower, distribution center, warehouse and other amenities to bring all Meridian-based Scentsy employees together. Construction on the campus began almost immediately.
As Scentsy worked to accommodate its continued growth at home, the company also began looking beyond its geographical borders. In April 2011, Scentsy expanded to Europe with a successful launch in the UK and Germany; by the end of the year, the company had also launched in Ireland.
Progress continued on the new campus. The Scentsy rail line — which runs right by the new campus — was completed and celebrated with a Golden Spike Ceremony, and in late summer, Scentsy moved into its new manufacturing building and distribution center. In September 2011, the company also opened a new 146,000-square-foot distribution facility in Coppell, Texas, to better serve Consultants and customers in the Southwest.
In late 2011, Scentsy was ready to take on a new challenge, and Orville had just the idea. What if they used Scentsy Warmer technology to create something amazing and altogether new? Always a fan of making the complex simple, and nearly as passionate about a good meal, Orville proposed a fresh, easy take on fondue.
Scentsy developers got to work designing a food-safe silicone dish that could be evenly heated by a light bulb. Another team set out in search of the world's most perfect chocolate, landing in Belgium, where they discovered chocolate made with the purest ingredients and a smooth, melt-in-your-mouth (or Warmer) consistency.
The last step was coming up with something brilliant to call it.
The name had to be memorable, evocative and fun. Several playful options were considered, but after days and weeks of consideration, nothing sounded quite right for this indulgent new brand.
The night before an announcement was made to the world, they had it: Velata. An Italian word meaning "to veil or cover" — a word as delectable as the chocolate itself.
Velata launched in May 2012 with bold, colorful fondue warmers and four flavors of Premium Belgian Chocolate. It continues to expand beyond chocolate fondue with inventive food and kitchen systems focused on bringing people together to enjoy one another's company — and turn meals into cherished memories.
Throughout 2011, Scentsy continued to devote a large portion of its resources to charitable causes through events like its Halt the Hunger campaign, which raised more than $600,000 for the Idaho Food Bank, and the Scentsy Teeter-Totter-A-Thon, which raised money for seven children’s charities. Scentsy launched Piece by Piece, a Charitable Cause Warmer designed to support Autism Speaks. Through sales of Piece by Piece, Scentsy donated $653,329 (USD) to the organization. Scentsy also launched its first Charitable Cause Buddy, Sasha the Bear, to support Ronald McDonald House Charities. A total of $337,883 (USD) was donated to the organization.
Scentsy launched a comprehensive wellness program for all Consultants in 2012 called Committed. Divided into three parts — exercise, nutrition and support — the plan encouraged participants to take small but meaningful steps toward a lifetime of health and wellbeing. It was so successful that Scentsy expanded the plan into the Scentsy Wellness platform to increase the number of Consultants who would benefit from the program and be empowered to live his or her best life by taking care of the mind, body and spirit.
Scentsy partners with some of the best fragrance houses in the world to develop high-quality, on-trend fragrances for Consultants and customers to adore. What began exclusively with home fragrance in the form of Scentsy Bars — and later Scentsy Bricks, Scent Circles, Room Sprays, Travel Tins and Scent Paks — soon evolved into much more.
In 2011, Scentsy released a fresh twist on fine fragrance with Solid Perfume. Finally, Consultants and customers could wear Scentsy fragrance. It was revolutionary for the company and opened the door to an entirely new laundry and personal care line infused with Scentsy fragrances: Layers by Scentsy.
The idea was born in the Thompsons's shower. As she lathered up, Heidi daydreamed about a product line that would allow her to layer her own fragrance experience from her shower gel to her clothes — building her favorite scent with product after product or creating an entirely new fragrance by mixing scents she loved.
Scentsy ran with the idea, and in March 2012, Layers by Scentsy was launched. Through 2014, the product line grew to include everything from body lotion to laundry detergent.
In August 2012, Scentsy’s Spending Spree for Refugees, a community cash mob event, generated $30,000 (USD) in sales for refugee businesses and nonprofit organizations in more than 20 states as part of the company’s annual summer giving event. The Champion Warmer, designed to support Special Olympics, launched in 2012, and Scentsy donated $134,670 (USD) to the organization. The Heartfelt Warmer, designed to support the American Red Cross and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, launched in 2012. A total of $844,330 (USD) was donated to the organizations, making Heartfelt the most successful Charitable Cause Warmer to date.
In 2009, Scentsy outgrew another leased facility and had employees spread out among multiple office buildings and warehouses to maintain operations. After years of working side by side, elbow to elbow with employees in small offices, Heidi and Orville longed for the day when all employees could be in one place again as a family.
The Thompsons began to envision a campus that would provide amenities not only for employees, but for the entire community — a campus that could be a model for other businesses in terms of sustainable building practices, energy efficiency and inspiring surroundings for employees and visitors. They imagined a cafeteria that served delicious, well-balanced meals where employees could eat in a family-style setting instead of at their cramped desks. They even dared to envision a program that would let employees bring these meals home to their families, so they could spend more time together. Heidi and Orville knew it was time to dream big and started looking for land to build a Scentsy campus.
With seven buildings on 73.35 acres, more than 8,000 square feet of outdoor patios, nearly three miles of walking paths, more than 1,000 trees, an on-site corporate restaurant open to the public and an outdoor amphitheater, Scentsy Commons was a fulfillment of the Thompsons’ dream to bring the entire Scentsy family together.
By the end of 2013, all employees were finally settled, and Heidi and Orville named their new home Scentsy Commons.
Scentsy celebrated 10 years of business in 2014, and the entire year was flooded with Scentsy Spirit, from the home office to Scentsy Consultant events to Scentsy’s social media engagement. The milestone was even expressed through specially designed Scentsy products. Hand in hand with Scentsy Consultants, employees, customers, supporters and fans, Heidi and Orville said thank you for Scentsy’s strong foundation and bright future.
Scentsy expanded its charitable reach in 2014 with the first Charitable Cause product offered in Europe, Mexico and Australia. The Roosevelt the Rabbit Scentsy Buddy was designed to support March of Dimes in the U.S. and Canada, Bliss in the UK, Children in Hospital in Ireland, Save the Children in Mexico, DermaKIDS in Germany and Miracle Babies Foundation in Australia. So far, $860,266.34 (USD) has been donated to the organizations.
The Ribbons of Hope Warmer was designed to once again support the National Breast Cancer Foundation and Rethink Breast Cancer in Canada. Because of the incredible support for these charities, this warmer was extended to the Spring/Summer 2015 season and donations totaled an incredible $1,010,031.68 (USD).
Scentsy hosted a Rock-a-Thon in September to raise money for four Idaho organizations: The Idaho Foodbank, Giraffe Laugh, The Salvation Army and the Meridian Food Bank. For 10 hours straight, Scentsy employees, Consultants, vendors and community members sat and rocked in 70 rocking chairs on the Scentsy Commons campus to raise $210,000 (USD) — $5 for every minute rocked.
After more than a decade leading the industry in home fragrance with Scentsy’s versatile Simple System — distinctively fragrant, wickless Scentsy Bars heated in handcrafted warmers safely, without flame, smoke or soot — it was time to tell an exciting new story.
In 2015, Scentsy reimagined new ways to offer sensory experiences through artisanal fragrance, alluring home décor and luxurious personal care products. This mission culminated in the launch of more than 20 new products in seven new categories, each designated by a unique icon and signature color.
Handcrafted, inventive Warmers and the new Scentsy Diffusers that deliver an exceptional sensory experience, fill the air with delightful Scentsy fragrances and enliven a space with beauty and style.
Artisanal home and on-the-go fragrances for every style, mood and environment.
Innovative laundry care products with high-efficiency formulas that clean clothes and linens while delivering exceptional, long-lasting Scentsy fragrance.
High-performance cleaning products, designed to work together to infuse a space with inviting Scentsy fragrance.
Luxurious skincare products for women that provide an escape for the senses, leaving skin soft and delightfully scented with captivating Scentsy Skin fragrances.
Modern, multipurpose grooming products for men that cleanse, hydrate and scent skin and hair with exclusive Scentsy Groom fragrances.
Safe, engaging and imaginative products that allow children to experience and enjoy fragrance as they grow.
Scentsy’s creative new product lines also called for updated logos and branding. The iconic Scentsy Seal was made more modern and versatile, and the packaging was elevated to new, sophisticated heights. Much more than a seasonal refresh of products and fragrances, the Scentsy experience was reinvented as a natural evolution of the Scentsy Mission to Warm the Heart, Enliven the Senses and Inspire the Soul.
As an industry leader in home fragrance, Scentsy launched an entirely new system: the Scentsy Diffuser and all-natural Scentsy Oils, globally sourced for the beauty of their fragrances.
Featuring the world’s most advanced ultrasonic nebulizing diffuser, striking decorative shades, 16 LED lighting options and customizable fragrance settings, the Scentsy Diffuser delivers an all-encompassing sensory experience designed to enliven any space.
Scentsy’s 100% Natural Oils, Essential Oils and Essential Oil Blends are crafted of only the finest natural ingredients from around the globe for a pure and personalized fragrance experience.
Artisanal fragrance expressed through artful design.
On Sept. 11, 2015, in honor of Scentsy’s 11-year anniversary and with a deep respect for the National Day of Service & Remembrance, Scentsy hosted another Rock-a-Thon Summer Giving Event to benefit the Idaho chapter of the March of Dimes. In all, 70 rocking chairs were booked for 11 hours straight to represent 11 years in business. Heidi and Orville committed a donation of $275 per chair, per hour, and challenged the community to raise an additional $25 per chair, per hour.
Scentsy’s goal by the end of the Rock-a-Thon was to donate $231,000 to the Idaho March of Dimes, plus as many diapers and sleep slacks as possible. With the support of employees, vendors, Consultants and the community, Scentsy surpassed that goal and presented the Idaho March of Dimes with a check for $252,816.32 (USD). More than 12,000 diapers and sleep sacks were also collected to help Idaho babies in need.