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When Tom and Kate Chappell founded Tom's of Maine in 1970, it was a reflection of their idealistic, creative and entrepreneurial aspirations. Enjoy this look at some fo our early products, advertising and photographs — they capture our unique spirit.
Tom wrote his first business plan in the summer of 1970.
The first Tom's of Maine product: Clearlake Laundry Detergent, with a homey hand-drawn label designed by Kate.
Clearlake was the first non-phosphate cleaner on the market, inspired in part by Tom and Kate's concerns about rapidly degrading water quality in the U.S. Today the company continues its involvement with that issue through our Rivers Awareness Partnership.
The reusable container included a request to mail it back to Tom for refilling — little did he know that so many people would take him up on that! Needless to say, the post office wasn't altogether pleased to be receiving so many bottles.
Kate and Tom worked closely together from the very beginning, with Tom leading the charge from an entrepreneurial and business standpoint and Kate focusing on creativity and community within the company.
Tom and Kate both actively participated in product development, and their lack of formal knowledge helped them to innovate because they had no preconceptions about what was and wasn't possible.
In 1972, Tom's of Maine moved into natural personal care, developing a line of soaps made from vegetable (not animal) glycerin. Kate herself designed most of the early advertising and branding.
Early on, Tom sought ways to provide value and a little bit of natural luxury to his consumers.
In 1975, the company debuted its shampoo and toothpaste lines. Early advertising often included the Chappell's growing young family, and many new products were inspired by their needs as parents, like this baby shampoo.
Not only did the Chappell children appear in ads, they were also frequent testers of products. In fact, they even dabbled in product development — Matt was given some raw ingredients and told to play, and came up with our cinnamint flavor!
From the very start, Tom and Kate encouraged their consumers to write in and share their thoughts. Sometimes, they shared just a little too much!
We housed our original factory in the former Kennebunk railroad depot building. The tracks were right outside and every time a train came by, the building rattled and people in meetings or on the phone had to stop momentarily because of the noise. In front, Kate planted an herb garden.
There wasn't much space inside the factory — just one line, that had to be cleaned and set back up every time a new product was made.
In 1981, Tom's launched the first natural toothpaste with fluoride. We've always felt it's important to serve all of our consumer's health needs, so we like offering choices like fluoride or fluoride-free.
Tom and Kate were inspired to move to Maine and live more simply — and the products they created also subscribed to that idealistic idea.
Tom's has always focused as much on what's not in our products as well as what is. Sometimes, it's what you don't add that makes all the difference!
In the late 1980s, Tom attended divinity school at Harvard, and his intellectual approach permeated the company culture. During the development phase for our formal mission documents, he assigned readings by Kant and brought the esteemed professor Richard Niebuhr to speak to the management team on philosophical topics.
By the end of the 1980s, growing awareness of our impact on the environment made companies like Tom's a more and more popular choice. Our product line had developed to include, in 1995, the American Dental Association's Seal of Approval on our fluoride toothpaste — the first natural brand to receive the designation.