Our first order of business here at BusinessQ is to ask the Qs. And as we gather the As — story by story, issue by issue — we begin to see trends. Winning trends. And once we’ve identified top-tier trends, faces, ideas, headlines and marketing strategies, our journalistic integrity calls for us to call them out.
Get queued in on some of the top businesses in Utah Valley. From Company of the Year to Philanthropist of the Year, here are six categories featuring six categorical all-stars.
Company of the Year — dōTERRA
dōTERRA is stopping traffic.
More than 1,100 employees drive to the essential oil company’s new state-of-the-art campus in Pleasant Grove — where they produce more than 3 million bottles of oils a month.
The direct sales giant has more than 400,000 likes on Facebook, more than one million Wellness Advocates, and more than their share of million-dollar revenue days.
And in September 2014, with 19,000 people in attendance, dōTERRA trounced the record for the largest corporate-sponsored convention ever held in Utah — and literally stopped traffic while doing it.
“We made the news for causing a traffic jam,” says David Stirling, founder and CEO. “We sold out in two weeks, and we would have had more people if the Salt Palace and Energy Solutions Arena hadn’t been at capacity. We’re already getting creative for this year’s convention. We think we can get to 27,000, but it’s going to involve some real wizardry.”
dōTERRA is revved, with no signs of slowing down. But the company — very purposefully — didn’t start that way.
“We started slowly, organically,” Stirling says. “A lot of people wanted to throw money at us, but we wanted to fund this ourselves. We wanted control.”
The executive management team went an entire year without compensation. They cashed out homes, retirements and 401k accounts — anything to come up with the money. Then they went to work growing the company right in their own backyard.
“We remained under the radar for a long time so we could focus on a true foundation of education among our Wellness Advocates. The reason we’ve skyrocketed has been our retention rate. We’re at 85 percent, which is astoundingly high. Our industry average is 10 percent.”
dōTERRA continued its stand-out trajectory when the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development gave them a $16 million tax incentive — the first direct sales company to receive it.
“It took us awhile to get on their agenda, and when we finally did, they told us we had 20 minutes. We started the presentation, and then one gentleman stopped us and said, ‘We don’t generally like your industry. Tell us why you deserve this.’ An hour and a half later, we walked out of there with the endorsement,” says Stirling, who then pauses and laughs. “Truth be told, I think most of their spouses already used the oils!”
It’s essential to note that this international powerhouse is pleasantly positioned.
“Pleasant Grove is perfect for us. Utah is perfect for us,” Stirling says. “We have 60 acres here, and we want this to be an inviting, welcoming place for the community. We are committed to Utah.”
That commitment includes sponsoring local high schools (go Vikings!) and partnering with the athletic department at BYU.
“We’re building dōTERRA to last far into the future — this is not a short-term play for any of us,” Stirling says. “We will eventually be the largest company in our industry here. We’re on that road, and I don’t see that slowing down anytime soon.”
Memorable Moment: “We were at a campaign fundraiser for Mia Love, and many of our Utah delegates are familiar with our oils. We went around the room introducing ourselves, and when I said the name doTERRA, there was a collective gasp. It certainly wasn’t for me — it was for our products. Women all over the room reached into their purses and pulled out their oils, declaring their love for them. It was so gratifying. The hilarious thing is Mitt Romney was there, and he looked at me and said, ‘What is going on?’ I said, ‘Don’t worry about it. We’ll send a care package to Ann.’”
Essential Facts: 3 dōTERRA did-you-knows
1. Home sweet home. The U.S. is doTERRA’s largest market. (Direct sales companies are typically strongest overseas.) “Our desire has been to bring the oils out of the healers’ niche and into the mainstream population. We want to bridge the gap to western medicine.”
2. Womanly touch. Who runs the world? Girls. “doTERRA’s top leaders are what you would call stay-at-home moms. What we’ve done is empower women to take control and help their families. it’s been remarkably fun to watch. ”
3. Put ‘er there, partner. Through its Healing Hands Foundation, doTERRA participates in Co-Impact Sourcing in countries like Guatemala and Haiti. The company sources more than 100 different essential oils from 25 countries — 18 of which are developing countries. doTERRA works with small-scale farmers for plant production. “We have no interest in owning these operations. we always want to move it back to the people. You can’t solve all the world’s problems, but you can make a difference.”
Entrepreneur of the Year — Ryan Poelman, Nudge
When it came to entrepreneurship, Ryan Poelman needed no nudge.
At 17, he was painting gumball machines in his backyard — and revenues popped.
“I started the business my senior year of high school, and I was on pace to make $100,000 that year,” Poelman says. “I probably attended about 20 percent of my senior year. All I wanted to do was ski and work.”
And so it began — a life of non-stop inspiration (“I have an endless supply of random ideas,”) intuitive confidence (“I was blessed with an optimistic attitude,”) and standout success (Orem-based Nudge grossed roughly $125 million in 2014).
Poelman’s entrepreneurial smackdown is simply in his genes. His father, Joel Poelman, founded Galaxy Mall, which would later become the publicly traded StoresOnline.
After high school, Poelman worked at StoresOnline for six years. He left in 2000 and began a decade-long career of web-based businesses dealing with ecommerce, web traffic, and virtual information how-to packs like “how to sell products online,” “how to eBay,” “how to manage your money with real estate,” and others. He bought tech companies and data businesses, had affiliate networks, and connected advertisers. During those 10 years, Poelman would work the market, succeed, observe, pivot, repeat.
“The landscape changed constantly,” Poelman says. “We followed the market. You ate what you killed every second. If your tech went down, you lost money. The space was super fragmented, very young and unprofessional. There was no consistency. So we did what we could, and then we moved on and found something else to do.”
In 2010, Poelman pivoted upward to the bottom of the real estate market. He started BuyPD, a real estate investment company, and made $3 million that first year. In 2013? It was $80 million. Last year? A whopping $100-plus million.
“Nudge is the parent company to BuyPD and a whole lot of other companies,” Poelman says. “Our goal is to build a valuable brand with longevity. We want to bring together all of our employees under this umbrella and give them one focus, one vision. You’ll see the Nudge name everywhere around the valley, and it’s because we’re proud to be here — and we’re going to be around for a long time.”
And speaking of those 650 employees, they’re Poelman’s powerhouse.
“We get a lot of accolades as entrepreneurs, but in every case it’s because of unbelievable partners and incredible teams,” Poelman says. “Success is always about the team. No exceptions.”
Like Father, Like Son: “One thing I got from my dad (founder of Orem-based StoresOnline) is his extremely mellow acumen. I work with some people who worked with my dad, and they’ve told me that his negotiation was the wear-down effect. He’d get you in a room and say, ‘Do you want to do this?’ And you’d say no. They he’d say, ‘Let’s look at this a different way.’ You’d say no again, and he’d provide 10 other reasons to do it. He’d eventually wear you down because he was smart and he was a nice guy. People in business can be cutthroat, but my dad had a mellow approach to the work. It’s a notion of, ‘Let’s get down to business, but let’s not yell at each other while doing it.’”
Business Building Blocks: Ryan Poelman’s 4 tips for entrepreneurs
1. Word. “I’m a habitual note taker. I believe in the power of making goals. Write things down. Put them on your bathroom wall. It works.”
2. In the bank. “Make deposits with people — with your employees, your employees’ spouses, with your vendors and with your partners. Then when rainy days come, you’ll have something to withdraw from.”
3. Smoke it out. “I learned this one from my dad: It is one thing to be a firefighter, it is a whole other thing to be a fire preventer. Figure out how to be a fire preventer and you’ll add tremendous value to whatever organization you’re in.”
4. Go the rounds. “Too many entrepreneurs quit. Believe in yourself. Stick through the hard times. A successful entrepreneur is born out of failure. Lots and lots of failure.”
Executive of the Year — Ryan Caldwell, MX
Man of the People
You’re going to be annoyed, but I have to say culture again.”
Ryan Caldwell is on a corporate culture kick, to be sure. But can you blame him? He’s CEO of MX, a fintech company that tripled in revenue last year and has outpaced well-established companies like Mint.com, Yodlee and Geezeo.
Ain’t nobody got time for mediocre.
“People aren’t a crucial part of a company,” Caldwell says. “They’re everything.”
And he would know. When MX (then MoneyDesktop) started in 2010, the wrong people were in the right roles.
“That first year was intense,” he says. “Since I didn’t have a good team around me, we were literally stuck in neutral.”
Enter the hard conversations.
“We have a culture of candor,” Caldwell says. “Good people want that kind of frankness. The wrong people are repelled by it.”
With the right team moved into place — including Brandon Dewitt and Dave Jaynes — the company switched from neutral to overdrive.
“There are two types of startups — rocketships and ocean vessels. Ocean vessels drift. It may take them decades to achieve anything of significance, and that’s just fine,” Caldwell says. “Rockets are the opposite. They go a high distance in a short amount of time. They’re risky. If you launch a rocket and realize you forgot something, you can’t go back. And just to get the rocket moving, you need to burn a tremendous amount of fuel. MX is a rocketship.”
Quick talk: MX is the fastest-growing digital money management solutions provider in the market. It works with more than 500 banks and credit unions and is partnered with 30 mobile, online banking and payment network providers. Its clients include seven large multi-billion dollar financial institutions, totaling a combined asset size of $74 billion. Its PFM adoption numbers are as high as 60 percent (industry averages sit around 8). MX is building a brand new office at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, set to be open this summer. And notable investors include Greg Warnock, Fraser Bullock, Rick Alden, Todd Pedersen and Josh James.
“For us, 2014 was like our second stage rocket kicked in. We started flying,” Caldwell says. “The distance between us and the next competitor became very, very distant. We differentiated ourselves.”
Caldwell’s crisp leadership is equal parts skill and passion.
“I love everything we do. There is literally nothing else I’d rather be doing,” Caldwell says. “I wish I had thousand-hour days.”
And that’s ultimately what makes the difference between good executives — and great ones.
“You need to have a moral imperative to build the company you’re building,” Caldwell says. “It can’t just be a job. This company is successful because we’re passionate individually and collectively. It’s a culture of passion, truth and chaos — and we’re obsessed with it. ”
Thrive for Five: “Hands down, the best moment of 2014 was winning Finovate for the fifth time and celebrating with the team. It’s a financial innovation conference — a big deal in our industry. And we won. Again. By a big margin. We work so hard at mx that we barely have time to breathe. but after that win, the company celebrated. and it felt amazing.”
Chief Advice: Ryan Caldwell’s 4 tips to future CEOs
1. Meaning mandate. “Do something that matters — Don’t just do something you can win at. pick a company you can sink your teeth into. Contribute to this world.”
2. Culture vulture. “keep the culture pure. you have to protect it. It will literally kill your company if you don’t.”
3. Embrace YOUR role. “Executives are more cog-like than entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are trying to change the world, and executives are trying to keep the train on the tracks.”
4. Hire with care. “plain and simple, You need people on your team who care about the company and its success. don’t oversell the company. be upfront. people who are skilled and talented will be excited by the opportunity to work hard.”
Marketer of the Year — Freshly Picked
Freshly Picked: Marketing with sole
In 2009, Susan Petersen had some tiny shoes to fill.
As founder of Provo’s Freshly Picked, a baby moccasin wonderland, the home-based entrepreneur knew she needed a marketing plan that would leave a big footprint.
And she knew that plan was right at her fingertips.
“I spent all day, every day on Instagram,” says Petersen, now sitting in her new, urban-style offices in Provo. “It was a 24-hour job.”
And one that’s paid off handsomely. Today, the company has more than 370,000 followers on Instagram — the likes of which they’ve converted into good old fashioned sales. In fact, 10 percent of her followers purchase moccs; and out of all her customers who’ve made a purchase, 50 percent of them buy moccs three more times.
“We worked so incredibly hard for those first 10,000 followers, so hitting that mark was a big, big deal,” she says. “And that’s when something magical happened. Our marketing took on a life of its own.”
And that’s the truth of it.
Freshly Picked started keeping up with the Kardashians (on US Weekly covers, no less).
Customers started posting (and tagging) photos of their babies boasting the soft-soled shoes.
And the company landed a spot on ABC’s “Shark Tank” — walking away with an investment deal and 8 million viewers saying, “Freshly, what now?”
But this new marketing life — as magical as it was — was no accident.
“We’ve planned every moment,” she says. “Nothing is posted on a whim. With ‘Shark Tank’ especially, we had pre-show posts and post-show posts laid out from the beginning. We knew what our editorial would be and when we would release it. We got in that ‘Shark Tank’ car — and we’re still riding the momentum. The exposure you get from that show is crazy and intense. And we weren’t about to waste it.”
It’s been more than a year since the “Shark Tank” appearance aired, and the company’s marketing is swimming in consistency and charm. The team regularly posts pictures of babies in moccs and moms with their Freshly Picked carryalls. Every Tuesday, Petersen posts an “Entrepreneur Empowerment Movement” moment with a business-minded thought for aspiring entrepreneurs. She gives peeks behind the scenes and posts of travel plans and business meetings with Vogue and Nordstrom (where moccs are now also sold). She champions Utah, and even came out with a Beehive State Collection of moccs. (“Utah is rad. We’ll be in Provo forever.”) And all posts are peppered with gratitude for the customer.
Freshly Picked’s marketing is a story. And they’re sticking to it.
“I’ll never get sick of moms telling me our moccs are the only shoes that fit their babe,” Petersen says. “I love women. I love relationships. And I love the relationship between mother and child. It’s my favorite love story in the world. And that’s the story we’re trying to tell.”
Magic Marketing Moment: “No question — the ‘Shark Tank’ announcement post when I told everyone I was going to be on the show. it’s at 878,000 likes right now — our highest-liked photo ever — and every morning I wake up to notifications of more likes for it. That post meant so much to me. I thanked all of my followers from the bottom of my heart, because they’ve been on this journey with me the whole time. We’ll hit a million likes on that photo soon, and It just makes me happy.”
Brand Boosters: Susan Petersen’s 4 tips to make marketing matter
1. Be authentic. “It sounds so stupid and cliche, but you have to find your voice. You have to be real with your followers. They have to feel like they know you.”
2. Talk story. “Have targeted, razor-sharp storytelling. Every picture you post and every word you write has to fit the story of your brand. Don’t ever post anything you’re unsure of. There’s no ‘I’ll delete it later’ in marketing.”
3. Know your protagonist. “Too often people make their marketing about the product — not the person. Your marketing needs a character arc. at freshly picked, Our marketing isn’t about our baby moccasins — It’s about babies who wear our moccasins. That little switch makes all the difference.”
4. Be nice. “It’s super simple, but it matters. We work hard. We’re nice. And we’re going to take over the world.”
Philanthropist of the Year — Loveland Family Foundation
Labor of Loveland
Utah Valley and the Loveland name have gone hand-in-hand for nearly 30 years. Lynnette Loveland and her husband, James (who passed away in 2005), founded Xactware — and each of their four children has continued that entrepreneurial legacy with various ventures of their own.
With their success in the business sector, making philanthropy a focus with the Loveland Family Foundation has been work at its most rewarding.
“The foundation is a way for the family to get together and share our passions for different projects and charitable programs that impact our local community,” says their son, Eric Loveland. “We get together as a family every week for Sunday dinner, which makes it easy and natural to talk about what we’re interested in supporting and how we can help each other achieve those goals.”
The projects the family has chosen to support are true local treasures, including the Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point, the United Way of Utah County, Heritage School in Provo, Primary Children’s Hospital, and the Festival of Trees.
But they haven’t put their name on anything — until now with the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Draper.
“This was a very difficult decision for us, as we didn’t — and still do not — seek out recognition for the charitable work we do,” Eric says. “But in an effort to help support the aquarium’s future, we agreed to have our name as part of the project.”
And that future looks bright. As it was approaching its one-year anniversary in March, the aquarium hosted its one millionth visitor.
“Our family is extremely proud of the new aquarium and the tremendous amount of support the community has shown,” Eric says. “But it’s still strange to see the Loveland name on the T-shirts at the gift shop!”
The Lovelands are passionate about corporate philanthropy of all kinds.
“The great thing is you can donate your time and effort and really make a difference,” Eric says. “This is a fantastic place to live and raise a family. People are generally willing and happy to help each other in times of need. We have a lot of people who work hard every day to make sure community outreach programs are available — and companies should take advantage of that.”
Because in the end, giving is getting.
“Our family has grown up, lived, and worked here for decades,” Eric says. “We are actively engaged in making our community a better place.”
Memorable Moment: “A few years back, I did some work through the Utah County home builder’s association around Christmas that was called subcontractors for Santa,” said Eric Loveland, spokesman for the Loveland Family Foundation. “We were assigned a family in Orem. at the time, I worked at the Xactware building at the mouth of Provo Canyon, and this family lived less than a mile from there. We knocked on the door and were met by the nicest lady you’d ever want to meet. She was young — in her 20s. Her husband had passed away in an automobile accident a few months prior, leaving two small children at home. The house needed repairs, and the builder’s association stepped in. Gunthers Comfort Air donated a furnace. Plumbers came in and did work. I helped with cabinet repair, painting and other small jobs. That day I was surrounded by how much work we could do as a community when skilled labor is applied to a specific need. I didn’t have to travel to a different country or make a huge donation of money. I just needed to know where to go and what needed to be done.”
What gives?: 2 ways every company — of every size — can give back to the community
1. On the money. “Philanthropy does not need to be money-based. Involve your employees in a day of service.”
2. Join the ranks. “So many companies try to start their own programs. Look around and see if there’s an organization you can get behind. There are endless programs already up and running that your organization can plug into. There is so much need right here in Utah Valley.”
Headliner of the Year — Qualtrics
Get this. The largest single round of funding in Utah history happens, and it’s news to the newsmaker.
“I found out a week after it all went down,” says Ryan Smith, founder of Provo-based Qualtrics, an insight platform known for its survey engine. “I honestly had no idea what the record was or that we had broken it.”
Well, you did. And it’s kind of a big deal.
In September 2014, the Provo company — valued at more than $1 billion — raised a phenomenal $150 million Series B financing round, bringing Qualtrics’ total funding to $220 million. The backers are Insight Venture Partners, which has invested in more than 200 growth-stage companies, as well as Accel Partners and Sequioa Capital, which led the company’s original $70 million round of funding in 2012.
The best part? Qualtrics has been profitable since inception. The money isn’t so much about need as it is about strategy.
“We really took the funding for the partnerships. These are the largest deals Accel has participated in since Facebook. And when the existing investor is willing to put more money into the deal, it’s always a good sign. We don’t take that lightly,” Smith says. “Plus, when another investor writes a big check to be a part of this — and does the deal in two days — you know the company DNA is little different than having to go on a six-month road show.”
But as big of a deal as the headline is, Smith isn’t buying it.
“People keep telling me congratulations. My response is, ‘Wish us luck.’ Money is not free. It’s like cheering people on when they mortgage their house. It’s like, ‘Congratulations on that interest rate!’” Smith says. “However, the congratulations does come into play when you’re looking at the team you’ve assembled. To that I’ll say thank you.”
Post-funding, life at Qualtrics is largely the same: hard.
“We do hard things at Qualtrics,” Smith says. “Everyone is moving fast and learning at an incredible pace. It’s like dog years here — one year at Qualtrics is like seven years somewhere else.”
And survey says it’ll never be easy. Qualtrics is now in more than 75 countries and has more than 6,000 clients the likes of academic institutions, hotels, airlines, Disney, Coca-Cola and GE.
“Because we didn’t take funding until 10 years after inception, we learned to be scrappy. Our philosophy has been to eat only what we kill, and it gives you a willingness to bet on yourself,” Smith says. “And now? Other people are betting on us.”
To that we say congratulations. And good luck.
Check Yo Self: “Qualtrics is pretty heads down, so this funding announcement was more of a stage in the ranks — a check point, as I call it. Truthfully, we looked up at this check point for just a second and saw all the hard work we’ve put into this company. A billion-dollar milestone? That’s huge. But Then it was heads down again, because everyone can see that we’re just getting started.”
Fund Dome: Ryan Smith on 2 venture capital don’ts
1. Early birds eat the wrong worms. “Too many companies aren’t playing the long game. They take venture capital when what they really need is to pivot a few times. Startups are like a band — Don’t book gigs if you don’t have any songs.”
2. Goal-schmoal. “Raising money is not the goal. Be clear on why you need it. You’re the person who has to get in there and do the work. Funding or not, no one’s going to do it for you.”