GreenTree Nutrition and its founders Don Kendall and Eric Budin have some seriously golden contacts.The San Francisco-based company's quest to become the dietary supplements superstore of the Web is profiled in "What Level Playing Field?" in the May 1999 issue of Inc. magazine. Kendall and Budin's first-stage contacts helped them assemble a powerhouse board, including John Sculley (one-time Apple Computer king and current start-up guy), Perk Perkins (CEO of the Orvis Company), and Scott Blum (CEO of, a multibrand online computer store).

Evidence of the board's advice and influence are everywhere at GreenTree:

  • In July 1998, Sculley introduced Kendall and Budin to executives at community-site Talk City, on whose board he also sits. Under the agreement that came out of that meeting, GreenTree's banner ads appear throughout the Talk City site - especially in health-related chat areas - with Talk City receiving a commission whenever someone purchases a product as a result of one of those ads. By March 1999 Talk City was listing Green Tree prominently on its homepage.
  • GreenTree's decision to outsource fulfillment was the result of Orvis CEO Perkins' counsel, and GreenTree's director of fulfillment received two weeks of training at the Orvis factory in Virginia.
  •'s Blum helped to develop much of GreenTree's marketing material. (In October 1998, Blum resigned from GreenTree's board to focus on running his company.)

As important, GreenTree's board gives the company tremendous credibility with investors, according to company managers. "The quality of our board ensures our ability to raise money in the future, which is the lifeblood of any start-up," says Brad Oberwager, GreenTree's president and COO. "They're smart, experienced, and know everybody."

Marc Ballon, formerly with Inc., now writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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