Why ‘maturing’ startup doTerra typifies Utah’s booming success | Crain's Utah

Why ‘maturing’ startup doTerra typifies Utah’s booming success

  • Kirk Jowers is the executive vice president of Pleasant Grove,Utah-based doTerra, which sells essential oils. The 9-year-old company is one of the state's startup success stories. | Crain National photo by Mark A. Kellner

  • An employee at the doTERRA facility in Pleasant Grove, Utah, processes essential oils. | Photo courtesy of doTERRA.

  • An employee at the doTERRA facility in Pleasant Grove, Utah, processes essential oils. | Photo courtesy of doTERRA.

  • An employee at the doTERRA facility in Pleasant Grove, Utah, processes essential oils. | Photo courtesy of doTERRA.

    An employee at the doTERRA facility in Pleasant Grove, Utah, processes essential oils. | Photo courtesy of doTERRA.

PLEASANT GROVE, Utah — As befits a company selling more than $1 billion in essential oils, 9-year-old doTerra’s sprawling headquarters is beautiful, inside and out.

As one drives into the campus, neat flower arrangements, carefully tended by logo-sporting workers, greet you. Inside, the aromas of diffused essential oils waft through the air.

Call it, if you would, the sweet smell of success.

The firm’s thousands of independent distributors—like many similar operations, doTerra is a network marketing firm—are enthusiastic supporters. In September, a record 33,000 are expected to pack Salt Lake City’s just-refurbished Vivint SmartHome Arena. The annual doTerra convention will be the first event in the renovated sports palace.

Tickets for the doTerra-palooza sold out months ago, said Kirk Jowers, a veteran political operative in Utah who is a vice president on the company's executive committee. But, he added, tickets aren’t the only thing that’s selling like the proverbial hotcakes.

“We are selling now more of some essential oils than existed on the face of the Earth when we were founded in 2008,” Jowers said during an interview in an office made fragrant by a misting diffuser.

And while doTerra, which employs 2,000 people in Utah alone, is far from the garage-housed startups not far from its Utah County campus, the firm’s success secrets are the same as many of those budding firms.

Capitalistic state

Topping the list, Jowers said, is the Beehive State itself: “Utah is the best place to grow a global business. We have to source our oils from 46 different countries, and we sell them in over 100 countries. Because of the language skills in this state, both native speakers as well as those who are proficient because of overseas service, religious or other service, you know we can talk to basically every country on Earth.”

Val Hale, another well-known Utah name, directs the Governor’s Office of Economic Development in Salt Lake City. Not surprisingly, Hale agrees Utah is a place to plant, nurture and grow a business, even to the size of doTerra.

“We have very entrepreneurial people in the state,” Hale said. “Utahns are willing to take risks. They serve Mormon missions, they’re out learning languages, living in other cultures and knocking on doors. It gives them confidence in what they want to do.”

Hale said the state also “values and, in fact, admires capitalism. There are some states where it’s almost a dirty word. Willing to gamble everything they have … we don’t vilify them, admire what they’ve done.”

And as might be expected from an economic development official, Hale also touted Utah as having a “regulatory friendly” environment for new and incoming businesses.

Just as important for the growth of doTerra’s business, Jowers said, is the ability to give back to the countries that source its oils, something the firm calls “co-impact sourcing.”

According to Jowers, “Co-impact sourcing brings us to a different level with the people. It's where we partner with them so they benefit alongside us.”

Encouraging worldwide economic growth

What it entails, he said, is increasing the yearly incomes of those growing the plants from which the oils are extracted. “We partner with them to help them become more sustainable in the way they grow, and make them more efficient,” Jowers said.

In Haiti, one of the places where doTerra sources its vetiver oil, one of the great needs was for local distilleries to process essential oils both for export and domestic use. Jowers said the company provides the equipment and training, “so that they could have a co-op and as we go up [as a company] they could go up.” And, the firm’s Healing Hands Foundation backs humanitarian relief efforts there.

Such hands-on development aid has earned plaudits for doTerra, including an “International Company of the Year” award sponsored by GOED, the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce and World Trade Center Utah, which promotes the state’s exports.

According to Derek Miller, World Trade Center Utah president, the humanitarian works a firm such as doTerra performs merits the honor as much as bottom-line results.

“What it really does on the international landscape, outside of their own businesses [is] the connection it makes for Utah around the world,” Miller said.

July 18, 2017 - 6:19pm