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And came from humble beginnings to become the pioneer of the essential oils industry.

How Mary Young co-founded Young Living Essential Oils

And came from humble beginnings to become the pioneer of the essential oils industry.

The Founder Series is a column by and about Utah founders and how they got to where they are today. Click here to read past articles in the series.

If someone had told me 40 years ago I would be the co-founder and CEO of a multibillion-dollar company, I would have never believed them. I was introduced to the network marketing industry back in 1985. When I initially enrolled, I was only interested in the products, not the business opportunity. 

My whole attitude changed when I received my first check for $5 and realized there was an opportunity to be financially successful while selling something I loved. I learned a lot and became successful in many ways as I used my knowledge to help others succeed.   

Little did I know that my experience with network marketing would play a massive role in my life when I crossed the path of Gary Young. I met Gary in October 1992 at an expo at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he was lecturing and working to build his first business. 

A young teenager in his booth invited me to a meeting, but I had a prior commitment, so I had to decline. However, I suggested the young man send me an invitation the next time they visited the area. With that, I left, never expecting to hear from them again.   

To my surprise, they called me a month later. I decided to go and see what the company was all about, and what I learned from the meeting was very intriguing. The idea of essential oils was foreign, yet it made sense, and I felt determined to learn more. I was fascinated with Gary’s knowledge, his discoveries and the products. I have always been a truth seeker, and the wheels started turning in my head about sharing what I was feeling with others.  

A month later, Gary’s office called to ask if I could pick Gary up at the airport during his layover to Egypt. I was reluctant, as I didn’t want to get personally involved because my life was so busy and I was always on the move, but I gave in and went to pick him up. I found him to be thoughtful, charming, funny and very engaging with the excitement of knowing his purpose.  

Before returning to the airport, he invited me to lunch at the Salt Lake City Hilton, where he offered me a job as his director of marketing. I remember laughing and saying to him, “I don’t want a job. I have my own business and am financially independent, but I will help you.”

Little did I know what had just started, but I felt compelled to pursue it. Gary was a brilliant man who wanted to share his knowledge with the world. His business needed help, and I knew I could help him. I wanted to see the success of the powerful belief growing inside me.   

His first business started with nothing. There was no literature, and anything that did exist was written poorly and filled with grammatical errors. I began by taking the information I had and turning it into a trifold, for which many thanked me. When I saw how impactful that small piece of literature was, I realized how much my knowledge of the network marketing industry could help Gary. We were together all the time—talking, writing, sharing ideas—and I was helping him in any way I could.   

The original company was in heavy debt, and I was not about to take that on, so I suggested we start a new company together. I would run the office and business logistics, and Gary would formulate products, travel and educate. We decided we would start the business together on sound business principles, accept no investor money and build with what we had—meaning incurring no debt yet working to pay off the debt of the first company.  

We moved everything to Utah and found a suitable place for an office in Riverton. The building was old and dilapidated and needed a lot of renovation. We put up walls, built the lab and painted. On Thanksgiving Day in 1993, we arrived with everything left of the old company. In April 1994, we registered Young Living Essential Oils with the state of Utah. It was rough; sales were only about $900 a day, but we were growing. By the end of the year, sales had grown to $1,800 a day.   

In September of that same year, we were married, and our adventure together was filled with excitement and momentum. Everything happened so fast, but there was an unspoken, powerful energy between us, as if we had been together forever. It is hard to explain, but we thought alike, had the same life principles, were highly compatible and were driven in the same direction for the same purpose.   

We both had experience in the industry, but Gary left so much of the business side to me because he was consumed with bringing his vision of essential oils into reality. Gary’s vast knowledge of botanicals, distillation and formulating essential oil blends, oil-infused supplements and skincare products honors him as the pioneer of the modern-day essential oils movement. We set the standard for research and discovery, blessing the lives of millions by offering the highest-quality essential oil products.   

I often reflect on those early days and our humble beginning and am filled with amazement and gratitude for how we worked together to build what Young Living has become. I am grateful every day that this is the path of life I was led to follow. 

And came from humble beginnings to become the pioneer of the essential oils industry.

"Young Living’s mission is to empower wellness, purpose and abundance for communities around the world. We do this through so many different channels—our foundation, our products, our farms—but I also aim to do this through my connections with everyone I contact. If I make a positive difference in just one person’s life, this has all been worth it."

Gaining strength through heartache   

When Gary told me he wanted me to take the CEO position at Young Living, I argued against it. I didn’t believe I could do it, yet we had built it together, and I knew it inside and out. I felt pressure, but Gary kept reassuring me I could do it. When Gary passed away on May 12, 2018, it was perhaps the most impactful obstacle for Young Living and one of my life’s most difficult and painful challenges.  

Before Gary passed, he told me he was leaving me with everything I needed to lead Young Living into the future. It was a huge responsibility, but I would not let down Gary and those who believed in the Young Living mission to empower wellness, purpose and abundance for communities around the world.

I grew in different ways and slowly gathered leaders around me who shared the same vision. I have learned to organize, delegate responsibility and empower others to lead and grow our business. My role has changed in many ways over the almost 30 years that Young Living has been in business. We are too big for me to be as involved as I was initially, but I am greatly rewarded by watching employees succeed in many areas they didn’t know they could.   

When things changed drastically in 2020, as they did for all businesses, I knew we had a workforce that could operate through anything thrown at them. Despite all circumstances, we have learned to pivot when necessary, adapt to new situations and continue moving forward.   

I feel so blessed to be a part of a company whose employees feel just as passionate about the business as I do, and I get so much joy out of watching them grow and become successful in their roles. Our goals have never changed, nor has our mission. I am happy and rewarded knowing we are carrying on the Young Living legacy.   

Looking toward a brighter future   

One piece of advice I have is to surround yourself with honest, skillful, intelligent people who care about others and about doing what is best for the business. This company is in good hands because I know and trust the people I work with. 

A great leader can empower others to thrive and grow by challenging their innovative and creative selves. Everyone is born with natural abilities and strengths. As leaders, our responsibility is to help them find those abilities as each individual walks their path of discovery and self-fulfillment.   

Being a leader is so rewarding, but it can also be very emotionally draining. Everyday decisions must be made, but sometimes, knowing the right course of action can be challenging. Whenever your decisions affect someone else’s life, the most important thing you can do is choose the best possible path forward. Be communicative and open to those you hire. Take the time to truly listen, and never jump to conclusions. Think things through carefully, and determine if your decisions are in the best interest of the company, your brand partners and your employees.   

I lead by example, and those who know me know I always speak my mind. Trust is the cornerstone of success. What I say today will be the same tomorrow and the next day. I don’t like dishonesty or games, so people around me always know where I stand. I want to see people achieve what they are capable of, and I strive to make people feel like they are the best at what they do.   

Gary and I have two sons, Jacob and Josef, who are my greatest joy. We taught them by example and constantly involved them in all aspects of the business. They follow in our footsteps, and although they are growing young men, I know they will become great leaders like their father. This brings me a lot of joy as I look to the future.  

Young Living’s mission is to empower wellness, purpose and abundance for communities around the world. We do this through so many different channels—our foundation, our products, our farms—but I also aim to do this through my connections with everyone I contact. If I make a positive difference in just one person’s life, this has all been worth it.    

If I can do it, you can do it. You have all the opportunities you could possibly imagine right in front of you; reach out and seize them and create your reality.

And came from humble beginnings to become the pioneer of the essential oils industry.

Since Young Living’s inception, Mary Young has combined her expansive knowledge and experience in the direct-selling industry with her hands-on approach to help Young Living grow—and remain—the world’s leader in essential oils. She first discovered the direct-selling industry in 1985. Within two years, she had built a successful multimillion-dollar organization.    Mary maintains an active role in Young Living’s day-to-day activities, providing direction to the executive team and employees, mentoring members and leading global philanthropic outreach through The D. Gary Young, Young Living Foundation. She embodies Young Living’s commitment to empowering individuals and communities as they strive to live healthy lifestyles.    Mary also provides her two sons, Jacob and Josef Young, with support and insight into the Young Living business as they take on integral roles within the corporate team and impact company decisions.