Life Innovations began when Dr. David Olson, then director of the Family Social Science graduate program at the University of Minnesota, was approached about figuring out a way to better engage couples in premarital counseling and, thus, developed a revolutionary assessment format.
"The assessments really got the couples talking and thinking," says Dr. Olson. "It personalized the process, an innovative concept at the time believe it or not."
Excited by the opportunity and the reception they had received, Olson went to the university about funding the work, but officials weren't interested. So David and his wife Karen, who was previously in real estate, took out a second mortgage on their house and officially launched Life Innovations.
"At first I didn't know what I was supposed to do, but I liked the idea and the concept," says Karen. "Eventually I came to coordinate the training, do the hiring, manage the personnel and the bookkeeping, while David did the product development and research."
To date, over 2.5 million couples have taken the Olson's "PREPARE/ENRICH" program globally, however, the Olsons have always been driven by mission more than money.
"You will never understand our company by looking at the balance sheets," says David. "However, we do have a company president now in Dr. Peter Larson who shares our vision and values and has allowed us to begin to back away from the business."
As for the future as a family business, Karen Olson says that is still being determined.
"Our oldest daughter, Amy Olson-Sigg, has her Master's in marital and family therapy and she has been actively involved for 10 years, including co-authoring three books with David. Other family members have also had various duties at the company and two granddaughters say they want to come back and help run the business some day."
"It was never our expectation that any of our kids would necessarily work here full time," adds David. "Our vision for our family is to facilitate the growth of each individual, whether or not they are directly involved with the company."
Life Innovations, Inc.
Type of ownership: S-Corp
Employees: 20; 400 independent contractors
Description: Developers of the PRPEPARE/ENRICH program designed to prepare couples for marriage and enrich marriages.
Principal owners: David and Karen Olson
Family members employed by the business: 3
Family members involved with the business: 5
Number of generations involved since inception: 3
Generation currently running the business: 1st