Nice Guy in the Toothpaste Biz Makes Good

I met Tom Chappell once, he is also a parent of a student who graduated from Northfield Mount Hermon, my old school. I thought about how the folks there who do fundraising will handle this potential donor. The Boston Globe had this story.

“Chappell, 63, gave up a corporate career in Philadelphia and moved to Maine with his wife in 1968 to pursue a simpler lifestyle. Their company, founded with a $5,000 loan, focused on environmentally friendly products, the first being a phosphate-free laundry detergent called Clearlake. Colgate is purchasing the company for $100 million in cash.

Tom’s of Maine now has 90 natural products, including toothpaste, mouthwash and deodorant, and a work force totaling about 160 at its corporate offices in Kennebunk, its production facility in Sanford and on its national sales force.

The company has gained a reputation for philanthropy, donating 10 percent of its pretax profits to nonprofit organizations that benefit the environment, the needy, the arts and education. It also allows employees to spend 5 percent of their paid time on volunteer work.

The U.S. market for so-called natural oral and personal care products is valued at $3 billion and is growing at 15 percent per year, Colgate said.

“The irony is that although we are growing in the high teens and low 20s, it’s not enough to meet a demand 10 times the size,” Chappell said in an interview. “About 25 percent of Americans are interested in these kinds of products.”