September 01, 2017
Cloud-Based Technology and Customer Acquisition Power Le-Vel’s Explosive Growth
by Angela E. Soper
Headquarters: Frisco, Texas
Top Executives: Jason Camper and Paul Gravette, Co-Owners/Co-Founders and Co-CEOs
2016 Revenue: $449 million
Global 100 Ranking: 44
Products: Nutritional/Health and Wellness Products
Celebrating its fifth anniversary, Le-Vel Brands is the proverbial train barreling through the direct selling terrain as it picks up speed with new product offerings and a growing base of entrepreneurs and product users. With 6 million customers, about 850,000 Brand Promoters, annual revenue of more than $449 million in 2016 and lifetime sales of more than $1 billion in less than five years, the company shows no signs of slowing down.
It all started in September 2012 when the company began taking product orders. Jason Camper and Paul Gravette, co-founders, co-owners and co-CEOs, were direct selling veterans and knew they wanted to create a company that did things a little differently. First, they wanted Le-Vel to be cloud-based. Second, they primarily wanted to attract people who had never been in direct sales before. And third, they wanted product sales to drive the growth of the company. Five years later, they have managed to score top marks in all of these segments of their operation.
The First Virtual, Cloud-Based Company
Perhaps the partners’ most radical decision was to make the company completely cloud-based. Le-Vel has no brick-and-mortar corporate headquarters, so there are no expenses in a building housing the company’s day-to-day operations and current employees. This offers two benefits: One, it enables the executive team to access information and make changes immediately, and two, it dramatically reduces overhead. Although cloud-based technology was gaining momentum back in 2012, creating a direct sales company that was completely cloud-based was novel at the time.
Camper and Gravette say being cloud-based is more about operations and infrastructure than anything else. When they started the company they wanted to “work smarter not harder,” which meant finding programs and applications that could be created to help them achieve the most automated and efficient infrastructure possible. They say being cloud-based has enabled them to utilize their in-house smart APIs to link up directly with all of their vendors and, therefore, create more and greater access to information.
“When we were first getting going, it was odd to people,” says Camper. “Nowadays it’s something that everybody definitely celebrates—the field loves it, our employees and executive team absolutely rave about it… it’s helped us attract talent all over the country because we’re not asking that people uproot their families to move [to a corporate location].”
And when it comes to actually managing the business, Le-Vel’s cloud-based operation is proving just as powerful as the partners envisioned. Gravette and Camper often refer to themselves as a “technology” company as much as they do a “product” company. That focus has additional benefits. Camper says, “It’s been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. From a CEO standpoint, we’ve been able to scale the company in such a different dynamic than I’ve had to do in companies before Le-Vel.”
As a completely virtual, cloud-based company, Le-Vel has its own cloud and owns its own software. “We are as paperless as it gets,” says Gravette. “Being able to pull a report on the fly or write our own code and be in control of our entire infrastructure—it completely changes the game.”
A Brand People Can Relate To
Appealing to people unfamiliar with direct sales was, and continues to be, very important to Camper and Gravette. The duo’s desire is to be recognized as a mainstream brand among other brands. Camper says, “Sometimes direct sales is a little weird looking to the people who’ve never been in it before. We want to be viewed as just another great brand.”
The partners also feel that pushing people toward the opportunity right off the bat may do more harm than good. They feel this approach can turn people off, and it is better to promote the product and its benefits when meeting new people. Once these people—as customers—realize what the products can do for them, they may be more willing to hear about the opportunity. Camper and Gravette created their foundational product line, the THRIVE Experience, to be simple and quick to use as well as effective. The partners believe that has helped generate both product sales and interest in the company overall.
As former promoters themselves in other direct sales companies, Camper and Gravette say they understand the business at a high level, and the decisions they make are designed to promote a positive environment for the Promoters and their businesses. They say one phrase that has really resonated in the field is “Le-Vel—a company built for Promoters by Promoters.”
A strong part of Le-Vel’s appeal to Brand Promoters is also its emphasis on making everything associated with the business opportunity free. There are no up-front charges to create an account, no website fees, no yearly distribution fee. “If you’re trying to create basically a social network, why do you want to charge people to sell your products? It makes zero sense to me,” says Camper.
Taking the free concept a bit further, the company has always offered free product. If a Promoter has two friends who sign up and order products as a customer, the Promoter gets his or her product free.
This focus on product sales and the built-in motivation to get two friends on the product has definitely created momentum that adds up to big numbers. Gravette says, “We are a free social network, and we are an explosive customer acquisition model. On any given day we have around 4,000 to 7,000 new customers and maybe 700 new Promoters.”
Adds Drew Hoffman, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Legal Officer: “As a company we focus on product first, second, third, and on, and opportunity is way down the ladder because the foundation of the company is the product.”
Building on the THRIVE Experience
Le-Vel’s main product line—called the THRIVE Experience—is a simple three-step regimen consisting of THRIVE capsules, THRIVE Lifestyle Shake Mix and the company’s patented Wearable Nutrition, Derma Fusion Technology (DFT). The system has never changed: Take the capsules when you first get up, drink the shake 20-40 minutes later and then apply the DFT patch—that’s it for the day. Today the company also offers products featuring sequential gel technology—a multi-phase delivery system where the product begins absorbing and delivering in the mouth and continues absorbing on its way to and in the stomach. This offers a sequential release of the formula that drives the high absorption ratio in the body.
Le-Vel’s product line also includes activated beverages to promote enhanced energy and performance; Balance, a supplement that offers digestive support; Pure Premium Lifestyle Shot, an ultra-premium vitamin and amino acid supplement in shot form; and Expand, a premium nootropic (brain-enhancing) supplement designed to modulate cognitive function and to support mental and cognitive capabilities. Its newest product is a DFT patch designed to support weight and appetite management (more on that later).
This unique offering is actually what convinced Hoffman, a former professional soccer player turned attorney, to leave his legal and consulting business and join the company full time. Hoffman’s association with Le-Vel and direct sales began when the company was one of his clients about three years ago. “I started taking the products and loved them. If I didn’t love the products, Le-Vel would have remained a client, but I would not have joined the company. I have to believe in something in order to attach my name to it,” he says.
The THRIVE Experience has been the hallmark of the company’s growth. The company’s increase in product sales—as well as number of Promoters—all loops back to the THRIVE 8-Week Experience that features the three products working together. Camper and Gravette say these three products fill in nutritional gaps and deficiencies, fueling the Promoters’ belief that “the quality of our ingredients will create the quantity of our customers.” Promoters evolve from this customer base and steady customer acquisition process, which results in growth for the company.
Le-Vel’s newest product is designed to support weight and appetite management: DFT DUO. Considered the biggest product launch since the company’s inception, DFT DUO is the newest iteration of the company’s Derma Fusion Technology. Introduced in April at the company’s annual convention in Dallas, which was attended by nearly 30,000 people, the product has driven significant sales in recent months. Camper says it offers a more effective and efficient delivery uptake to the body with its two-patch application: left and right positions on the body as opposed to just one central location.
According to Hoffman, the company sold $7.5 million in DUO product in the first six hours, followed by $5 million in sales in about eight hours when more product was available the following week. Gravette says DFT DUO sales have boosted monthly revenue tremedously.
All Le-Vel products are manufactured in the United States, with different manufacturing partners for the different types of products. Camper says the product development process starts with him. “It really starts on my end in terms of the architecture of it,” he explains. “I’ll come up with a product that I want… and the R&D team actually does the chemistry behind it to get all the ratios and all the pharmacology put in place.” Supporting the company’s product development is its scientific and medical advisory board, which consists of experts located around the country.
The company has now expanded beyond American borders. It sells product in Canada (its second-largest market), Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and most recently, Mexico, which Hoffman says is growing by about 50 percent a month.
Further expansion is a given, but Gravette and Camper plan to do it carefully. “We’re exploring certain segments of Asia right now,” says Camper. “We don’t have a timeline simply because I think you can only grow a company so fast in an effective manner. We’re not going to jeopardize the hyper growth that’s happening in our other markets just to do business in a new market.”
“We like to prepare ourselves way ahead of time before announcing any international plans,” adds Gravette. “We are slowly, strategically and quietly expanding our international presence for future surprises.”
Attainable Rewards Make the Difference
Le-Vel also prides itself on really rewarding its Promoters—something its executives say it can do well because of the company’s low overhead—and it starts with a philosophy that people don’t want to hear grandiose speeches about becoming rich. Camper and Gravette both emphasize that they never talk to new Promoters about “becoming a millionaire.” They don’t believe people want to hear that. “For a lot of people it’s not attainable or believable for them,” says Camper.
|Jason Camper and his wife, Tracy, (on left) along with Paul Gravette and his wife, Leigh Ann, close out Le-Vel’s convention.|
Instead, they explain how they can qualify to go on one of the company’s four Getaway trips a year, earn a luxury car and free iPad, and get their product for free, since they feel Le-Vel’s qualifications are set at attainable levels. The next Getaway is Oct. 13-16 in Puerto Vallarta, where Hoffman says a completely unique and new directional product as well as a new edition of its quarterly THRIVIN lifestyle magazine will be announced.
Increasing revenue so it can reward its customers and Promoters is only one part of the company’s mission. It regularly supports various charitable causes, including the National Breast Cancer Foundation ($255,000 in 2016), the Hoyt Foundation ($240,000 in 2016) and Toys for Tots ($140,000 in 2015). Funds are raised by purchases of limited-edition DFT patches, with $5 from each sale going toward a specific charity.
And while Le-Vel is built primarily on social media networks and via smartphones and computers, company executives do make a point to meet company leaders and customers. All three executives attend regional events held by leaders, especially Gravette. “I like to go out and just say thank you and get face to face with everybody and talk about the vision of the company and where it’s going,” he says.
With their sights firmly set on reaching $1 billion in annual sales, Camper and Gravette are confident their cloud-based business model and focus on customer acquisition will lead them to the continued success they envision.