April 2018 - Meet My Network: Max Appel
* Meet My Network is a monthly blog series where Alyce highlights outstanding individuals within her network to share their professional and personal accomplishments
About five years ago I went to an incredible event called Cocktails with a Macher. For those of you wondering, what in the heck is a macher, a macher is a yiddish word that means someone who gets this done, someone of high value, generous etc. This particular series of events highlighted successful, philanthropic, older individuals within my community where the macher or machers had an opportunity to share their personal and professional stories and explain how/why they decided to become highly philanthropic individuals.
Walking into this particular event, and yes, it was a networking event, I had no clue that I’d walk out forming the beginning of what has turned out to be one of the most meaningful and beautiful friendships of my life.
Enter Max and Elaine Appel, the Machers being honored that day. Like all strategic networking events, I walked in, grabbed my name tag and started to mingle. My dear friend, Tiffany Glucksman Appel, who was hosting the event gave me a hug and introduced me to Elaine. Within 10 seconds of chatting, Elaine asked me, “Your last name is Blum? Were you by chance related to the late Peter and Alice Blum?”, to which I replied, “Yes, those were my grandparents.” “Wow,” said, Elaine as she called Max to come over and meet me. As Max approached he and “Elaine shared that my grandparents had hired Max’s mom nearly 50 years ago to work as the baker for their catering business. During that event I learned that Max had an incredible professional journey that ultimately led him, with considerable help from his family, to create the famous cleaning product, OxiClean, which the family sold in 2006 for $325 million.
Within 30 seconds of meeting a bond had formed between Max and I, and the beginning of a beautiful friendship had been planted. We chatted for a few more minutes and exchanged contact information to grab a coffee in the coming weeks. Now, almost 5 years later I’ve had the honor of spending countless hours sipping coffee and learning more about Max and he has become a true mentor to me. Max is truly one of my favorite human beings on this earth. He is constantly saying, “Be aware of your mistakes, learn from them and move on. Life is too short to hold onto that BS. And you have to be sure, in your mind, that all opportunities have been taken advantage of before giving up on an idea.” While Max and his family has had a lot of success it wasn’t always like that.
Growing up in West Denver, Max’s family was poor. His parents were from Russia and Poland and immigrated to the United States around the early 1900’s. Max was born at Saint Anthony’s hospital in 1932 and is a proud graduate of North Denver High School. After graduating High School he studied at Denver University for 6 months and then he volunteered for the Navy and was stationed in Guam for 1.5 years.
When he returned he studied journalism and sociology at University of Colorado at Denver and Boulder. To pay for college he worked part time at Mid-Continent Refrigerator Company. He wanted to become a writer and went off to study at Louisiana State University but ran out of money after two weeks and had to head back home to Colorado. He returned and graduated from CU Denver. He and Elaine met at CU, through a friend and married quickly after meeting one another.
After that he went to Boston University and studied Public Relations but never finished his thesis and thus never received his higher degree. He got a job with United Jewish Appeal and traveled all around the upper midwest fundraising on their behalf.
Tired of traveling, Max and Elaine moved to St. Louis where he became the Director of Development for the Jewish Hospital of St. Louis. After 1.5 years he left and moved back to Denver, where he became the Assistant to the President at National Jewish Hospital and then applied to work at National Jewish Hospital in Denver where he worked for 6 years in fundraising.
During this time his friend Jonas, asked him, “Why are you working for someone else? You should be a consultant!” This planted a seed for Max which enabled him to leave and he started working as a consultant for various environmental and social justice organizations.
Around the same time Max’s mother passed away and he received a small windfall and wanted to start his own business. He started his own company, Orange Glo International (under its original name, Appel Mountain, Inc) and he was very intrigued with a magazine called Salesman’s Opportunity and it talked about environmentally kind products. He started selling a product called Hoky and his territory was the Rocky Mountain Region. He had bissell create an ‘Appel’ sweeper and was introduced to the idea of home shows and state fairs. He would travel and go to as many shows as he could until he burnt out.
Max recalls this time as, “It was so fun mixing my own chemicals and trying to find new products for the consumer. But I always had mentors and I was always blessed to have a lot of people supporting me. Success happened as a result of being exposed to the right people at the right time.”
A chemists at the time told max about a product that you could use to get rid of stains. So max had a friend come up with 20 different names for this and they picked OxiClean and max started having 10-15 people start selling this at home shows all across the nation. He also got into King Soopers in Colorado and then got into stores in Kansas, and California. One of his sons Joel had just graduated from Kellogg School of Management in Chicago with his MBA and moved back to Denver and was the marketing brains behind the product. Their other children joined as well and helped in large capacity. Max always said, “If it’s demonstrable, it will sell.” And demonstrable it was!
Enter Home Shopping Club and Billy Mays which brought rapid success; finding the right medium, TV, helped bring national, then worldwide, name recognition for OxiClean.
Today, Max is still working, developing products that are highly beneficial cleaning products and investing in a myriad of industries. “We’ve invested in medical marijuana for the investment opportunity. What I see happening now is the market moving away from medical and more towards recreational and that’s one reason why we’re moving onto a different investment opportunities.”
While investing is fun and keeps Max on his toes he is most concerned about the forgotten people and and has chosen to live a life helping as many of those forgotten people as he can. “We look at things differently when we’re optimistic and that’s how I try to live each day of my life.” This right here is why I admire and respect Max so much. He had his big break with OxiClean and yet he still continues to work hard so that he can help as many people as possible. It’s this notion that truly sets Max and Elaine apart from other successful individuals and it’s such an honor to spend time with them and their incredible family.
2018 will celebrate 60 years of Marriage for Max and Elaine and they are incredibly blessed to have four children, 8 grandchildren and another one on the way! He and Elaine love exploring the world and mostly love spending time with family, friends and are always wanting to learn new things.
When I asked Max, “What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned?”, he shared:
Get together with positive and productive people as much as you can.
Contribute to others as much as you can
There’s no such thing as a selfless act
Know where you are and know where you want to go.
Max, thank you for sharing your story, your kindness and compassion with me and with so many others in our world. You epitomize hard work, selflessness and dedication to family and community and for those reasons and many others, I’m beyond blessed to know you.