Early in 1972, having been discharged from the U.S. Army, I was desperately trying to figure out how I was going to support my wife and 2 small children. Many times in my life, I have often said that I could never find a job, so I had to create my own. This is the period of my life when this saying came about.
One evening, Linda and I were visiting with several of her aunts and uncles. We had pooled $1,050 to start a family business, but found that it wasn’t large enough. What kind of a business could we begin that wouldn’t require much money? Linda’s Aunt Kristine spoke up and said, “Why don’t we put cayenne pepper in capsules?” We all looked at her and I said, “Why would we want to do that?” She said “Several years ago Gene (her husband) had surgery for his bleeding ulcers. His doctor told him as he was being released, “We’ll see you for another surgery in a few years.” This statement was depressing for Gene. That afternoon, a neighbor saw that he was depressed and asked him why. Gene repeated what the doctor had told him. She responded, “There’s an easy solution; take a teaspoon of cayenne pepper followed with a glass of water everyday and you will never have ulcers again.” After sharing this, Kristine said, “He has never had an ulcer since then, but I would rather die than take cayenne pepper like that.” We decided to see if we could turn that concept into a business. With a $30 investment, we purchased 3 pounds of cayenne pepper, 3,000 gelatin capsules and 30 plastic bottles. We sat around the kitchen table as a family and filled 3,000 capsules by hand, getting runny noses, watery eyes, and stained fingers from the cayenne. In general, we had a good time, even though we were miserable. This took hours to accomplish. Finished, we had 30 bottles of cayenne pepper capsules.
It then fell upon me to be the salesman and for Gene to assist me. We went to a little store called the Cottage Health Food Store in Provo, UT. Gene drove us in his Volkswagen beetle with the 30 bottles in the backseat. With one bottle in my hand, we walked into the store. Upon entering, a little, old lady walked around the counter, introduced herself to me as Emma Chittock and said, “What can I do for you?” I handed her the bottle of cayenne pepper capsules and said, “I think we have a product that you would be interested in.” Taking the bottle, she stared at it in complete silence for what seemed like an eternity. I didn’t say a word, as I didn’t know what to say. Finally, she said, “I will take 6 of these.” I was in shock as I had not even figured what price to charge. I knew that every bottle cost us $1.00 to produce (not counting the hours that it took to fill the capsules and put them in the bottles). I quickly thought a 15% markup sounded pretty good. I said, “How about $1.15 per bottle?” She retrieved her checkbook and wrote a check for the product., As she was doing that, Gene went out to the car and brought in an additional 5 bottles. She placed the bottles on a shelf in a less than ideal spot. We thanked her and left. We were elated – our first store and first sale!
As we didn’t know of any other health food stores in the area, we went to the nearest grocery store. Once again, I took a bottle and Gene and I entered and found the manager up on the 2nd floor. As we approached the manager’s desk, he looked up and said “What can I do for you?” Because my last sales approach with Emma had worked, I handed him a bottle and said, “I have a product that I think you would be interested in.” He took the product in his hands and looked at it – again that quiet, silent moment that seemed like an eternity, and said something much different than Emma, “Why would I be interested in this product?” I quickly thought of Gene’s story so I related it to him. He thought some more and finally said, “I will take a gross.” 144 went through my mind and I knew that we only had 24 left. That is the only time in my life that I ever reduced somebody’s order as I said, “Would you settle for 24 bottles?” He agreed, so Gene went out and grabbed the additional 23 bottles. The manager wrote us a check, found a spot on the shelves next to the candy and placed them there. We were ecstatic – 2 stores and 2 sales. What a successful day! We hurried home and put the family members back to work producing more capsules by hand. It quickly dawned on me that at $1.15 we would never make a profit to pay for the labor that it too so we readjusted the price. A week later, Gene and I went to the health food store, and found that one had already sold. We then knew that we had a product that would sell. We drove to the grocery store, counted the bottles and found that none had sold. Our product sold well in the health food store and never sold any in the grocery store. That was the beginning of our little company that came to be known as Nature’s Sunshine Products, at which I was the first President and first full-time employee. Two years later, we turned it into a MLM company. During those two years, we expanded the number of products we were selling and the number of stores. Every health food store bought our products. Our second product was chaparral because I remembered my experience with chaparral as a young teenager. Now you see how the invisible hand of God (see Part 1 blog post) was playing a role in my life, creating a new multi-billion industry in the next 40 years.
In my next blog episode, which will be featured the week of July 19, we will continue the journey to see why God led us into the MLM field.