Jack Fallon, founder and CEO of Total Life Changes, a nutritional supplement company, says he was trying to figure out a better way to make a living for almost the entire 12 years he was building seats for Ford Escorts and Focuses at the automaker’s plant in Chesterfield Township.
“I quickly realized that wasn’t for me,” says Fallon, who went to work for Ford right after graduating from East Detroit High School in 1991. “I hired in with about 25 guys who were about the same age as me. We hung out before work and after work. We had a lot of free time, so we all picked up a trade on top of working at Ford. I picked up network marketing, which is our business model.”
Following in the footsteps of well-known companies like Amway, Mary Kay, Tupperware, and Herbalife, which depend on independent distributors, Total Life Changes got its start in 1999 in Fallon’s basement.
Since that time, TLC, as the company is known, has evolved from a $10,000 sideline with four employees to an enterprise that sold $800 million in nutritional supplements in 2020, employs more than 400 people, and has 200,000 distributors, half of whom operate in the U.S. “We’re probably 95 percent women as far as distributors,” Fallon reports. “They do home parties. They sell online.”
To serve the 100,000 international distributors and facilitate product delivery to 150 countries, TLC has two facilities each in the Dominican Republic, Columbia, and Ecuador, and one each in Russia, Peru, San Salvador, Ukraine, Mexico, Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines, Guatemala, and Ghana.
“I launched (TLC) and quickly made every mistake you can make and then made some more,” Fallon says. “While I was still working at Ford, we’d do TLC at night in the basement, shipping product and taking customer service emails and phone calls.”
Before it even got to that point, Fallon says he was learning important lessons in how to operate a business, including how to get the first batch of product to send to distributors.
The first two manufacturers he called to produce his initial offering, a liquid multivitamin called NutraBurst, required minimum orders of 5,000 to 20,000 units. “There was no way I could do those types of numbers,” he says.
The third call he made was to a smaller manufacturer in Utah, who agreed to formulate the product and produce it in an affordable volume for Fallon. “I offered to send half the money up front and the other half when sales came in,” he recalls. “He took a gamble, created it for me, and that’s how we got started.”
NutraBurst, which Fallon says tastes like liquified children’s vitamins, is still TLC’s second best-selling product.
In addition to the manufacturer in Utah, which specializes in liquid nutrition products, TLC utilizes companies in Texas and Wisconsin to produce powdered offerings. It also maintains a few other manufacturers, just in case. “You always have to have a backup manufacturer,” Fallon says. “In 2020, we had a manufacturer go out of business due to COVID-19.”
Fallon got his first taste of the network marketing business as a distributor for the Southfield-based American Communications Network, which sells utility services. Once he started TLC, however, he admittedly had a lot to digest.
“I had to learn about merchant (credit card) processing, shipping/receiving, customer service, and the whole industry of product manufacturing,” Fallon says. “Merchant processing is an entity in itself. You’ve got to learn how to play by their rules and leverage them against each other. That was a giant learning curve.”
Fallon recalls one incident, following a particularly good week of sales, when his merchant processor held up 70 percent of his transactions because TLC had exceeded its run allotment. “I had to take out a second mortgage on my house because they were literally going to wipe us out.”
TLC was still working out of Fallon’s basement in 2008 when annual sales reached $100,000, but then came the global financial crisis. TLC had just introduced a new product — Iaso Tea, an all-natural detox and cleanse — that now is the company’s best-seller.
“When we came out with the detox tea and started to get more sales, we understood the business and how to run the business and deal with manufacturing and merchant processing,” Fallon recalls. “The neighbors who were still around were wondering what was going on when big trucks would unload pallets. It was chaos. We probably had 15 to 20 people in my basement on a daily basis, staying until midnight. We had to get the heck out of there, that’s for sure.”
From there, Fallon moved TLC into a 3,000-square-foot warehouse in Chesterfield Township later in 2008. TLC currently occupies three facilities along 26 Mile Road in Ira and Chesterfield townships. A new 100,000-square-foot facility is planned for the same area and slated to open in 2022.
“Space is the feature we need,” Fallon says. “Only about 34 percent (of our operations) will serve as office space.”
TLC’s top three products — Iaso Tea, NutraBurst, and NRG, an appetite-suppression energy capsule — account for 75 percent of the company’s revenue. TLC also offers products that promote full-body nutrition, weight management, energy and fitness, hair and skin care, relaxation and relief, and women’s health.
Fallon says the future of TLC rests on the idea the world is becoming more united.
“If you travel internationally, you’ll find that we’re moving toward becoming one world,” he says. “Where I see TLC fitting into that one world is that technology is going to enable us to speak the same language, and do business freely and easily. Technology is pushing people and governments to be one world. With the human touch behind that technology, using the technology, you’re part of a community.”