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MERIDIAN -- Did you know there's a company in Meridian that did over $500 million in sales last year? In fact, it's on track to be a billion dollar a year company in the next few years.

We're talking about Scentsy, a wickless candle company that's experiencing amazing success in a down economy.

The owners of the company, married couple Orville and Heidi Thompson, who say growing the business from the ground up has been a labor of love, but keeping people working here in Idaho and worldwide is their top priority.

Imagine taking your small business from a shipping container to a 60-acre campus in a prime Meridian location in just eight years.

It's a fairy tale, said Heidi. I'm thinking it's more of a freak story, Orville added.

I don't know if I will ever grasp it. I still look around, and it's unbelievable, said Heidi.

The Thompsons say Forbes magazine has called their business one of the most promising companies and INC 500 Magazine claims they were the fastest growing consumer products company in America.

There was nothing in our past that indicated we'd be able to do what we did, said Orville.

So how did this all begin?

It was March of 2004, and we were in the worst financial shape we'd ever been, Orville started. The Thompsons had five young kids, and Orville was in sales. We scraped, said Orville. A lot of Ramen and mac and cheese, Heidi added.

Taking a big chance, they bought the Scentsy concept from two Utah women Orville met at a home show. I think that's when he was like WOW, this might be something big, said Heidi.

With little money, and no idea if a wickless candle company would take off, they went to work. We did it all. We've done every job, explained Heidi. Orville adds, We had to figure out how to make it ourselves, and we didn't have any money. We had to use what we could, so we used crock pots to melt the wax.

Working around the clock, the Thompsons poured and cooled the wax bars themselves with help from family and friends. We bootstrapped everything, Orville said.

Heidi and Orville set out to recruit people to sell Scentsy. As more and more people were signing up, the orders were coming in from all over the U.S. so they moved into an actual office space.

I think that's when I realized something was going on, said Orville. But they had no idea it would grow a home fragrance company with a vast product line. Last year we did $535 million in sales, 40 percent of that was paid out to consultants and their families, explained Orville.

We started our Scentsy career six years ago, said Stacey Stanciu, a Nampa mother of four, and one of over 150,000 Scentsy consultants worldwide. I started doing some parties, and started recruiting, and it just took off from there. The first year I had about 68 people beneath me, and it grew, and now I have just shy of 4000.

Consultants have the potential to earn a 20 to 30 percent commission on retail sales, plus more when they recruit new consultants. Stanciu makes a percentage on what they make too.

It's flexible. You can do what you want with it, Stanciu says. Because of Scentsy, she's now able to stay home with her kids and work from her home office. To be able to stay home like I do. I never thought it would be this big, never.

Scentsy is now sold all over the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, Guam, and recently expanded into the U.K., Ireland and Germany. Even more expansion in Europe is planned. We have three distribution centers here in the U.S., and we have one small distribution center in Poland actually, Orville explains.

The manufacturing process is now automated right here in Meridian. We have a million pounds of wax that we go through every few weeks. That's 6 million Scentsy bars. You can't be doing that by hand, said Orville.

But shipping is not automated for one reason. We like having employees. We've purposely not automated our distribution centers, explains Orville as Heidi adds, They are like family to us. It would be hard to let them go.

The company has over a thousand employees, with plans to hire even more. We've hired on average one person every working day since 2007. People are what make a culture. Machines don't make a culture, says Orville.

The Thompsons know this success will be hard to maintain. Growth at some point has to slow down. It was easy to get a Scentsy party in Meridian, Idaho three years ago. It's not so easy right now. They are not going to a party because they know what it is. We know that is a challenge, said Orville.

To keep their consultants selling, Scentsy is launching new products and brands. Constantly re-inventing the company is a big goal.

The other goal is to become a Fortune 500 Company, or a $5 billion company which is 10 times its current size. We're still growing, so this year we'll average close to $2 million a day in sales, said Orville.

The Thompsons also say they want to keep people working right here in the Treasure Valley, they've had huge offers come their way, but they have no plans to sell or move this booming homegrown company. Now, we're here to stay, said Orville.

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