Forbes Chronicles Humble Roots, Work Ethic of Self-Made Melaleuca CEO

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Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot is the subject of a new Forbes article that highlights his journey from a poor farm boy to one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs.

The story, titled “This Billionaire Pulled Himself Out Of Poverty By Living In A Laundromat And Teaching Dutch,” was published as part of the prestigious Forbes 400 list, which named VanderSloot one of the 400 richest people in America.

VanderSloot came in at No. 302, marking his first time on the annual Forbes 400 ranking. However, as the article points out, VanderSloot—the only Idahoan on the list—was not always wealthy. In fact, he started with practically nothing.

VanderSloot’s rags-to-riches story began in rural northern Idaho, where he ran his family’s small farm from the time he was 12. He saved all his money for an education and paid his own way through college by working various odd jobs and even living in the back of the laundromat where he was employed as a cleaner. As a result of frugality, sacrifice, and hard work, he graduated debt-free from college.

From there, the article explains, VanderSloot “went to work for ADP and then Cox Communications before striking out on his own in 1985 with Melaleuca.” Under his leadership, Melaleuca has grown from a tiny start-up to a global enterprise with $1.75 billion in annual sales.

Taking a cue from its self-made CEO, Melaleuca recognizes the value of hard work and prides itself as being a champion of the little guy. The Wellness Company not only roots for underdogs, but provides them opportunities to win in life as well.

Melaleuca’s business model is specifically designed to provide those who weren’t born into wealth a chance to grow, develop, and achieve financial freedom by running their own businesses. To date, the company has paid its independent Marketing Executives $5 billion in commissions.

“More often than not, the little guy has a stronger work ethic and more character than someone whose life was handed to them on a silver platter,” says Cole Clinger, Melaleuca’s chief of staff. “If they’re given an opportunity, they’ll take it and run.”

While VanderSloot welcomes recognition of Melaleuca and the hard work of its many team members, he prefers avoiding any personal accolades. After Forbes named him the richest person in Idaho earlier this year, he told East Idaho News there are better ways to measure the stature of a man than his wealth.

“I don’t think it says much for our society that we make lists like that,” VanderSloot said. “I don’t think that’s how you ought to measure a man or a woman.”

“Are they honest with each other?” he continued. “Are they kind? Are they caring about other people? Do they live within the values of what we all believe to be right and wrong? A list like that might have some merit.”