In pursuit of the magnificent success
Chuck Slaughter, founder and president of Living Goods, invests in PATH because he believes our model has “a very high potential for impact.” Photo: Esther Havens.
Chuck Slaughter is good friends with risk. As a die-hard entrepreneur, he knows firsthand that trial and error are vital to success.
While some of his start-up ideas have failed, he has had plenty of success: first as the founder of the direct mail company TravelSmith, then by turning around half a dozen major consumer businesses that were on the verge of failing. Now he’s transformed a business model born in rural 19th century America—the Avon Lady—into a social enterprise that is improving access to basic medicines in Kenya and Uganda.
And in all of this, he sees a kinship and complementarity with PATH.
Avon in Africa
In Living Goods, networks of community health promoters go door-to-door teaching families how to improve their health. They also make a living by selling an assortment of health products, from malaria treatments to fortified foods. The hybrid approach combines the power of proven public health interventions with the sustainability of a successful business model.
It’s this intersection of business and health that drew Chuck to PATH. “One of the main things that animates me is the potential for using the tools and economic power of business to solve big public problems,” he says. “That’s a notion that’s at the heart of what Living Goods does and what PATH does.”
In particular, he was inspired by how PATH provides the “missing piece” for innovations that have the potential to improve the health of the poor, but not yet the profits that pharmaceutical or device manufacturers require in order to risk investing in research and development (R&D).
“PATH does the R&D and attracts innovative funding to bridge that financing death valley,” Chuck explains. “That struck me as having a very high potential for impact.”
Through the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, Chuck has supported early stage work in new health technologies, or what he calls PATH’s “skunkworks.” The term skunkworks is used in business and technical fields to describe internal units empowered to explore new ideas with big potential but higher risk of failure. Chuck applies the word to the “smart people at PATH who come up with ideas that are too early for most philanthropists to finance.”
In 2014, the Foundation gave a grant to PATH’s new Global Health Innovation Hub. The Hub, based in India and South Africa, is seeking out the most promising technologies being developed by local innovators and nurturing them to fruition by providing funding, technical assistance, and access to global health networks.
Chuck decided to invest in the Hub because, “it’s a smarter, faster way to discover ideas that are likely to work. You’re closer to insights that can drive ideation and development, and you’re closer to the customer.”
While he knows that not all ideas will turn out to be breakthrough solutions, he’s confident there will be the occasional “magnificent success.”
How to reach farther
Chuck believes so strongly in the power of PATH that he contributes his time as well as his money to the organization. He serves on the committee for PATH’s Reach Campaign, which is raising $100 million to accelerate high-impact innovations for women’s and children’s health.
And he takes the “reach” in the campaign name very seriously.
“I chose to work in the developing world for the very simple reason that my limited resources will go so much father in terms of the number of lives I can touch and improve,” he explains. “Over 90 percent of the money Americans give to charity stays in America. Imagine how much greater impact PATH could have if the Reach Campaign can move that needle just a bit.”
For more information about the Reach Campaign, visit reach.path.org.