Melaleuca grows its sales from the ground up. Deriving its name from the tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), the company is a leading manufacturer and direct seller of more than 350 personal care and household products, many of which are environmentally friendly. Its product lineup includes cosmetics, laundry care items, household cleaners, first-aid kits, and vitamins -- all of which are marketed through a global network of independent sales representatives and Melaleuca's website. In addition to consumer products, the company offers home security systems in the US and Canada. The company was founded in 1985 to market a tea tree oil formulation called Melaleuca Oil.
Melaleuca has focused on growing its operations in recent years to boost its production capabilities. The company built a 223,000-sq.-ft. addition to its manufacturing and distribution center in Knoxville, Tennessee. It also built a 37,000-sq.-ft. plant near its headquarters in Idaho. The two projects cost more than $26 million, which represents just a portion of more than $110 million Melaleuca has poured into infrastructure investments since 2009 to support its business.
The direct seller has extended the global reach of its sales force to make it less reliable on the US. Its brand is expanding swiftly throughout the Asia/Pacific region, especially in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. About a quarter of the company's revenues are generated outside the US. And even amid the global economic downturn, the company's revenues have been on an upswing in recent years. The direct-sales industry as a whole has seen an increase in the ranks of independent sales representatives as some companies have slowed hiring or reduced their headcount to stay afloat. Other individuals have also started careers in direct sales to supplement their existing incomes. To its benefit, Melaleuca is able to turn 11% of its customer base into Melaleuca business owners who achieve director status or above.
CEO Frank VanderSloot took over Melaleuca in 1985, when it was much smaller and suffered from poor management. His focus on frugality has helped to drive the company's earnings and growth since then. VanderSloot, a devout Mormon with 14 children, also encourages sales representatives to support causes that espouse traditional family values. As such, the company has backed humanitarian efforts in the US and abroad through its Melaleuca Foundation. In recent years the foundation has extended assistance to Ecuador, donating time from volunteers and funds to support St. Lucia's Children's Home. – less