In 2009 Donald Trump launched a multi-level marketing program called the Trump Network aimed at distributing nutritional supplements. According to Trump, the Network was intended to compete with other successful brands like Mary Kay and Amway. In fact, Trump would bail on the idea less than three years later. National Review reports:

In early 2009, Trump purchased Ideal Health, Inc., founded in 1997 outside Boston by Lou DeCaprio and brothers Todd and Scott Stanwood, who became Trump Network executives. They got to work selling two products: Donald Trump and nutritional supplements. “If you know anything about network marketing — and anything about the power of the Trump brand — you’ll know this is an extraordinary opportunity,” Scott Stanwood wrote on his LinkedIn page. Meanwhile, in a promotional video for the Trump Network, DeCaprio touted the “best nutritional formula in the world.”

The Trump Network website advertised a chance to, “Get involved in the greatest financial opportunity in America today!” At the launch event for the Network, Trump himself said, “you are going to be successful, we’re all going to be successful together.” Eventually about 21,000 people joined the Network to sell products including a special urine test which would allow the creation of a personalized supplement package. Stat News reports:

The Trump Network sold many health and wellness products, and its main one was a customized nutritional supplement whose composition was determined by a urine test, called the PrivaTest.

A former marketer provided STAT with a kit for Ideal Health’s PrivaTest. It contained a urine collection cup, five test tubes, a cold pack, a biohazard bag, a prepaid FedEx mailing label, and detailed instructions. Customers collected their urine and shipped it to a lab for analysis. That lab analyzed the urine with three tests and produced a report, which was sent to The Trump Network.

The Trump Network bundled the report with a package of pills and shipped it all back to the customer. The pills were marketed as “Custom Essentials,” formulations based on the results of the test and manufactured by another lab. In all, there were 48 formulations.

Less than three years later, the company was struggling. A former marketer in the Trump Network tells Stat News, “They weren’t being able to pay [the lab]. They weren’t paying vendors. They weren’t paying us.” According to Trump’s attorney, his licensing agreement with the company ended on New Year’s Eve 2011 and was not renewed. In other words, Trump bailed on the Network. The Network’s products were handed over to a company called Bioceutica (which still sells the urine test).

Needless to say, not everyone who became part of the Trump Network was successful. A 2011 report by New York magazine contains this example:

[Richard] Chester was skeptical when a neighbor approached him about joining the Network, but the video of Donald Trump telling a version of his life story on the company’s website won him over. “I felt like he was speaking to me,” he said. “This is a man who was down in the dumps and came back! Now everything he touches turns to gold!”

So he joined as a FastStart Gold, “the best level to start at.” He spent $1,200, which got him two kits containing samples of the products. But, actually, now that he thinks about it, it cost a little more than that. The business cards were extra ($85, though there is a $50 one if you want to be cheap about it). And so was his Trump Network web address (the first three months were free, but it now costs $19.95 a month). Then he ordered the Custom Essentials vitamins ($59.95 a month) because he felt his belief in the Trump Network wouldn’t seem genuine if he didn’t take them. For the same reason, he bought a set of BioCé products, even though “I’ve never used a skin-care product in my life,” but now he’s been using them twice a day, and “I do feel like my skin is nicer.”

So far, Chester hasn’t gotten much of a return on his investment. He signed up one person, this guy Ed, for whom he got $110, and Ed signed up one person, so Chester got another $10. And he’s received a few commission checks here and there: for $62, $50, $15. Not exactly Trump money.

The Trump Network didn’t work out for Richard Chester and ultimately Trump himself gave up on the idea just a few years after announcing it as a “great organization” he was really excited about.

Tags: Donald Trump