Dr. Forrest C. Shaklee & the Shaklee History
Dr. Forrest C. Shaklee founded Shaklee in 1956 at age 61 and lived to see it transformed into a Fortune 500 company during his 80s. A man of many talents, Dr. Shaklee’s diverse career path included chiropractor, inventor, author, pastor and radio personality. Each experience helped shape his vision. Today, Shaklee’s “Better You. Better World.™” philosophy directly reflects Dr. Shaklee’s initial vision.
A Life of Passions
The young Dr. Shaklee’s interest in health started because of a childhood illness: tuberculosis. Instead of hospitals or medicines, his treatment was rest, nutritious food and spending hours outdoors in the Iowa countryside. Living in Harmony with Nature® became a way of life in his formative years.
Dr. Shaklee’s interest in good health led him from the fields to the lab and the exam room. He firmly believed that good nutrition was the foundation for overall health and wellness. Always experimenting, Dr. Shaklee developed techniques to extract nutrients from food. His “vitalized minerals” were introduced in 1915, before the concept of vitamins was fully understood. He went on to build successful chiropractic practices and clinics, where he learned from treating patients that good health required nurturing wellness, not just treating illness.
Dr. Shaklee was also an early adopter of self-help practices. He wrote several books on the importance of positive thinking, which he copyrighted as “Thoughtsmanship”. He also taught the concepts of harmony, health and the secrets of a successful life on his own weekly radio program.
Form Follows Philosophy
Nutrition, prevention and the concept of positive living converged in 1956, when Dr. Shaklee and his two sons, Forrest, Jr. and Lee (Raleigh), founded Shaklee Corporation. At that time exercise was a walk to the store, processed foods were a sign of progress, and few even thought about food as nutrition—not entirely unlike today.
The Shaklee family founded their company not just to earn healthy profits but also to help people live healthier lives. This simple but profound difference drove the decisions that set the company apart then and now.
First, Dr. Shaklee demanded that every product should be the best of its kind and fill a real need, not just a shelf.
Second, his experience working one-on-one with patients led to the company’s direct sales model. He knew personal conversations were the best way to explain the benefits of preventive health. Dr. Shaklee said, “We’ll teach some and they’ll teach others to teach others to teach others.” So the Shaklee men did, talking to people up and down California, using a Plymouth station wagon as their distribution center. They talked, people listened and told others. Even without formal “salespeople” the message spread. The father-and-sons team created a grassroots movement hundreds of thousands strong and a company that today is worth $500 million.
Dr. Shaklee’s innovations didn’t end with nutrition. He practiced “Living in Harmony with Nature®” in home care, inventing a biodegradable cleaner decades before environmental safety was a concern. He pioneered new discoveries in nutrition that went mainstream years later. He wouldn’t have thought much about contemporary labels like eco-chic, organic or self-actualization, but he was a pioneer in all of them. Fifty years later, his company has led hundreds of thousands to better, healthier lives—and helped all of us live in a better world.