By Staci Hauk, GSN Contributor September 25, 2020
In 2002, retired entrepreneurs Jim and Kathy Coover partnered with formulator John Anderson to create a company that specialized in nutrition products.
That partnership gave birth to Gilbert-based Isagenix, which has achieved a global reach by holding to Anderson’s desire for a business that did not compromise product quality for lower costs.
The Coovers appreciated Anderson’s sentiment, and had some ideas on how to optimize a direct-selling model that focused on the field sales force as well as consumers.
And the trio’s combined efforts over the last 18 years have turned Isagenix into a company with 175 products, more than 550,000 customers worldwide, independent distributors in 26 markets; and 700 employees – including more than 500 at its 166,000-square-foot world headquarters in Gilbert that was built in 2016.
The Coovers did not see themselves immersed in the industry when they moved to Arizona shortly before partnering with Anderson.
They agreed to a consulting role to help him shape his new direct-selling company. Anderson was a successful nutritional formulator and contract manufacturer who knew the Coovers had something special to offer.
But they didn’t stay consultants very long.
“Over the course of a month, I realized that maybe we were in a unique position to fulfill the promise of what this profession could really be about – to have a company that was based on very efficacious products that people would buy and consume, said Jim Coover, Isagenix co-founder and chairman.
“With my background in building infrastructure and sales organizations and Kathy’s in developing leadership and field organizations, we just felt that ‘yeah, maybe we should join John.’”
Kathy, the company’s executive vice president, added, “We knew if we did it right and had the right values, the right people would show up. It was the best decision of our lives.”
The Coovers started Isagenix with Kathy’s focus on developing tools for independent distributor success. Jim crafted its internal infrastructure, including the compensation plan Isagenix distributors still follow today.
Anderson focused on formulating and manufacturing products.
They started with six employees. “Everybody wore different hats. We did whatever it took,” Kathy said.
From warehouse work to processing commissions, the Coovers worked nights and weekends when needed, saying that drive, discipline and determination to do it right motivated them.
“Our desire was to create a foundation for wellness, recognizing that a lot of people were not getting proper nutrition,” Jim explained.
“And just as important,” he added, “people didn’t have a strategy for dealing with the toxic overload that all of us are confronted with because of environmental toxins in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the chemicals in almost everything that is around us.”
The first line of products involved the Cleansing and Fat Burning System, which included four products – Cleanse for Life, the IsaLean Shake, Natural Accelerator and Isagenix Snacks.
While those products laid the foundation, Isagenix’s goals would not be solidified without the independent distributors.
At the company’s first event in 2002, about 80 of the 600 in attendance took on a leadership title of “executive” on the field sales force. Many are still with the company today.
While Isagenix had 14 markets at the start of the year, acquiring Zija International (a Utah-based direct selling company offering high-quality plant-based products) allowed it to launch in 12 additional markets.
Kathy said the company’s growth is due in large part to its products.
“People getting great results with our products causes them to share their results with others,” she said, adding, “We keep reinventing ourselves to take the company to the next level.”
In July, Isagenix announced it was evolving its branding.
While the business continues to offer weight wellness and nutritional products, it is shifting to a more holistic approach that supports physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
The Whole Blend IsaLean Shake, Plant-Based Whole Blend IsaLean Shake, and Whole Blend IsaLean Bar are some innovative products launched in conjunction with the brand changes.
These meal replacement options feature 21 vitamins and minerals naturally sourced from whole food vegetables.
Also, in July, Isagenix launched Kathy’s book, “Resilient: Lessons Learned, Lives Changed,” written to inspire independent distributors to create and achieve their direct selling goals.
“Resilient” details how Kathy became a highly respected leader and entrepreneur and shares secrets to success of 20 top independent distributors at Isagenix.
“Sometimes people see all the glory,” she explained, “but they don’t know what someone had to go through to get to that place.”
As Isagenix moves forward, it is maintaining a strong family feel for independent distributors and employees alike.
“Family is one of our core values and so we have tried to make sure as we’ve built the company that we really are able to cultivate that with all of our employees as well as our field,” Jim said.
The Coovers acquired Isagenix in 2005 from Anderson and today, their son, Erik, is chief visionary officer.
Erik joined the company in 2010 and was an Isagenix independent distributor. His wife, Peta Kelly, still supports her team of Isagenix independent distributors while also having input on the company’s evolution.
“I think every parent really wants the best for their family and I think that as your child grows up and gets older, a lot of people lose that connection,” Kathy said.
“What’s so great about Isagenix and having our family involved is we’re all connected. We all have a common goal, a common mission, a thing we’re driving toward to really improve ourselves.”
Employees at the Gilbert location enjoy a close-knit atmosphere complete with stock ownership, free products in break rooms and a substantial product discount, along with healthcare and a 401(k) plan.
“We just think the whole community (Gilbert) is very progressive and that speaks well for our ability to continue to attract quality people as we continue to grow,” Jim said.
The employees are also motivated by watching the weight loss achievements of product users,” the Coovers said.
“Our employees feel they are making a difference in people’s lives,” Kathy said. “It gives them passion and purpose, and this keeps them charging forward.”
Jim said the company’s more than $7 billion in cumulative global sales shows that many people are benefiting from Isagenix products, but added, “We like to think we’re just getting started because there are billions of people on this planet who can benefit from better nutrition.”