Orville and

Heidi Thompson

Orville and Heidi Thompson believe that struggle and failure formed the foundation that led to the success of Scentsy Inc., the popular purveyor of wickless candles, warmers and accessories.

In 2004, however, the Thompsons were in a different situation. More than $700,000 in debt, on the verge of bankruptcy, they were cleaning out their children's piggy banks to buy groceries.

In the early 1990s, Orville Thompson lost his job and struggled to find another. Their response, creating a family business selling gadgets and cleaning supplies at fairs and shows, taught them entrepreneurial and customer-service skills but also led to catastrophe in 2001 when, in the wake of 9/11, they were unable to sell a huge inventory.

Poor choices for business partners added to their burdens, and investing the last of their resources in a venture that failed left them with a mountain of debt.

But the Thompsons hoped things could change, and they had a strong determination to work their way out of debt to avoid hurting the people from whom they had borrowed.

They bought the inventory and brand assets of two women who had been selling wickless candles. They moved the business to a shipping container on their farm in Meridian, Idaho, and did everything themselves, by hand: melting wax in a crockpot, using stainless-steel pitchers for mixing and pouring and jewelry molds for forming the wax.

Now, Scentsy boasts more than 750 employees, more than 100,000 independent "consultants" and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales.