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April 02, 2011

Publisher's Note

Letter from John Fleming, April 2011

John Fleming

As we prepared to go to press with this issue, I received news of the loss of Leslie Campbell, President of TARRAH Cosmetics. A car accident took her from us far too soon. Leslie was a former colleague at Avon and friend throughout the years who gave much of her time to Direct Selling Association activities and committees. I know that TARRAH Cosmetics had many loyal and faithful consultants, and I hope they will be able to continue their journey, for that is what Leslie would have wanted. My heartfelt thoughts and prayers go to her husband, family and many friends.

Our cover story this month was one that caught our attention quite some time ago. As always, we search for stories we deem valuable to you, stories that meet your desire for intel on what is happening within the industry. I have always been amazed at what products emerge in response to very innovative approaches to trends. Every so often a product category that has been with us for some time is re-energized by new entrepreneurial thinking and raised to new levels of consciousness by a new vision. It’s amazing to watch an existing product or service transform into a success story utilizing the direct selling channel of distribution, yet we have seen this time and time again.

One could certainly say that Art Williams did this when he founded what is known today as Primerica Services. Insurance as a product had existed for many years. Kitchen utensils had certainly been in existence for many years, but Doris Christopher, Founder of Pampered Chef, saw them differently. Mary Kay Ash saw cosmetics differently. Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel of Amway saw ordinary cleaning products and food supplements differently. Shelli Gardner, Co-Founder of Stampin’ Up!, saw rubber stamping differently. Orville and Heidi Thompson saw candles differently. Jessica Herrin, Founder of Stella & Dot, saw fashion differently, as did Teresa Walsh and Bonnie and Jerry Kelly of Silpada.

For those who see things differently, direct selling offers ease of entry through a channel of distribution that continues to mystify some, yet gives so much to those who see its potential. Such is the case described in this month’s cover story about energy companies. For so long, we’ve been flipping switches to turn on the electricity and turning knobs to turn on the gas. Who would have thought just a few short years ago that energy companies would be buying and selling a commodity like electricity or gas through the direct selling channel? Who would have thought that brand-new energy companies would be able to compete against Goliaths like the Edison companies and account for billions of dollars in revenue from just a few states?

What this month’s cover story shows us is that the power of ideas and the quest for solutions have every chance of winning when a channel of distribution composed of people from all walks of life is suddenly unleashed! As I watched this story unfold, I found myself becoming more and more confident in the possibilities associated with the future of direct selling. While, overall, the industry is challenged (like many others), and growth in a more competitive environment has been elusive and challenging for many, the winners have seemingly found ways to increase value when new definitions for value continue to emerge … almost weekly.

I was reminded of that recently when I purchased a $16.99 DVD from Best Buy and I received a thank-you note! To me, this was simply amazing, and yet it was just another example of the new standards of expectations and excellence that are constantly being set by those who compete not only for consumer market share, but also for consumer mind share. Personalized service is truly being redefined.

Some of us will attempt to predict the new standards of excellence that will determine how current direct sellers will be judged in a more competitive marketplace. What appears to always be most difficult to predict is what type of product or service might be next for this amazing channel of distribution, and how current direct sellers will redefine their own services and value propositions to satisfy sophisticated consumers. What new products will direct sellers invent that will shock the competition and raise the direct selling channel to even greater levels of acceptance and respect? Such questions fuel our enthusiasm for what the future might hold. Just as the visionaries behind the energy companies in this month’s issue fueled our enthusiasm, we hope their story does the same for you.

One last note: We are pleased to announce that Direct Selling News is now a free iPad application and can be easily downloaded for your reading pleasure.

I look forward to seeing many of you at our DSN Global 100 banquet on the evening of April 27. (Please go to for more details.)

Until next month!

John Fleming
Publisher and Editor in Chief