Global Impact Comes From Female Cofounder’s Success With $1B Enterprise
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
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“The reason I get up in the morning is to be able to truly give back to humanity. I think we’ve been given a responsibility to do that, ” says Emily Wright, co-founder of dōTERRA, the private manufacturer and distributor of essential oils.
The scale of the business gives her an unusual ability to have an impact. She notes that the company generates a profit on more than $1 billion in annual revenue. Her current title is founding executive, sales and marketing.
Working with a founding team of six men, she says of women, “I think we think a bit differently.” Of working with an all-male team, she adds, “I love the way they think and everything they contribute; I think they appreciate what I contribute.”
It wasn’t always like that. In a prior company, she says she sat on a board of four, working her way up from executive assistant to a become an executive herself. “I had to work a lot harder in order to achieve that position,” she says, adding, “I was paid about half the amount of the men.”
Because of challenges she faced early in her career, Wright says, “What I love most is empowering other women.”
Emily Wright, dōTERRA
“I know what it feels like to be in their shoes,” she says of other women. “I know what it feels like to have $26 in my checking account, wondering how in the world I’m going to put food on the table for my children. I know what it feels like to go hungry. I know what it feels like to lose my identity. I know what it feels like to get beaten up and tossed aside by the world.”
DōTERRA reports having 2,000 employees and 3 million “Wellness Advocates” who buy the products and sell them to their friends in a network marketing program. Most of the Wellness Advocates are women, giving Wright influence with millions of women.
Since the founding of the company, Wright has had responsibility for sourcing raw materials and for the company’s social responsibility initiatives. She has helped to infuse sourcing with a sense of mission and purpose. Even before the company became profitable, she says the founders agreed to “create a culture of giving back.” The founders personally funded the creation of the Healing Hands Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
She recalled a sourcing visit to Haiti in 2013. During the visit with local suppliers, she was taken aback by a gentleman who got up and said through a translator, “I have a dream to someday have clean water.” She learned that the community had to travel three hours each day to retrieve water that then had to be boiled to be safe to drink.
Since then, Wright reports that dōTERRA has not only provided clean water by drilling wells in the community, but has constructed schools, clinics and community centers as well as providing them with “sustainable income” via the purchase of essential oils.
One of the most challenging environments for sourcing its raw materials is Somalia, its primary source of frankincense.
Wright recalled her first visit to the country. Upon her arrival with CEO David Sterling, she saw in the faces of the people a complete lack of hope. “We have to change this,” she says they immediately agreed.
It has taken time, but the company has invested in the community that grows frankincense, providing warehouses with running water and sanitation for processing as well as schools for both their boys and girls. They have also built a clinic and have begun work on a hospital there as well.
Wright boasts that the income of the frankincense growers has increased fivefold as dōTERRA worked to eliminate middlemen who leveraged the desperate situation of the growers to buy from them at abusive prices.
Similarly, dōTERRA established sourcing operations in Bulgaria in 2015. Stoyana Stoeva, co-founder and partner in the local social enterprise called the Social teahouse, said that dōTERRA has been a partner since they were founded in 2016.
The Utah-based company paid to reconstruct a three-story building that hosts a “tea saloon,” seminar space and coworking space. With help from dōTERRA, the Social Tea House has created a line of locally sourced merchandise that helps fund its social mission.
Stoeva credits dōTERRA with helping to accomplish its goals, to mentor young people with limited opportunities, providing them with skills, from non-violent communication to responsibility and financial management.
Wright remains optimistic. She describes the Somalia project as “probably” the hardest project they’ve completed. “What’s next?” she asks.
Still, she says, “What I want to be known most as is the world’s greatest mom.”
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