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September 01, 2012

Industry with Heart

PartyLite: The Fragrance of Giving

by Karyn Reagan

PartyLite presented its 2012 donation to honored guest Dr. Susan Gapstur, Vice President of the ACS Epidemiology Research Program and principal investigator for the Cancer Prevention Study-2.


Click here to order the Direct Selling News issue in which this article appeared.


PartyLite

Company Profile

  • Launched: 1973
  • Headquarters: Plymouth, Mass.
  • Presidents: Worldwide, Robert B. Goergen, Jr.; North America, Michael Norris
  • Products: Candles, candle accessories, fragrance

The gift of a candle over 100 years ago ignited a culture of charity that still permeates the PartyLite philosophy today.

Whether it’s at a conference, a marathon or a Ronald McDonald House, you can find PartyLite consultants and employees giving. They may be fundraising, but they also may be cleaning, cooking or holding bake sales in order to assist those in need of help in their time of illness. These seeds of generosity were planted early in the life of PartyLite through the foundation laid by the original founder, Mabel Baker, in the early 1900s on Cape Cod.

Baker’s original product was a bayberry candle she made for friends and family. The candle became popular among its recipients, inspiring Baker to create a business making the candles available to anyone for purchase. A woman-owned business was a rare entity in those days, but Baker persisted and when she died in 1965 at age 94, what had begun with a single bayberry candle had become a business worth $6 million.

The company has changed hands but has maintained the integrity and entrepreneurial spirit of its early founder.

In 1973 the current company name was created and the leaders of the business adopted the direct selling model as its mode of marketing. According to Director of Communication for PartyLite North America, Joyce Elven, PartyLite was acquired by its parent company, Blyth Inc., in 1990, and the Plymouth, Mass.-based company was given the boost it needed to reach its potential. For the last four years PartyLite has been listed in the DSN Global 100, and in 2011 was ranked No. 22 among the world’s top revenue-generating direct selling companies.

ACS PlaqueIn 1997, PartyLite adopted the American Cancer Society as its charity of focus. “Lighting a candle has a lot of different meanings to people, including ambience and favorite fragrances,” says Michael Norris, President of PartyLite North America. “One of the special meanings for us is to shine a light on the needs of others.” He mentions that a majority of the employees and consultants working with PartyLite are women and some have been affected by breast cancer or know someone who has been affected by another form of cancer. “It’s easy for them to support the Society because it gives them a tangible way to combat the disease that has affected them personally.”


“Lighting a candle has a lot of different meanings to people, including ambience and favorite fragrances.” —Michael Norris, President, PartyLite North America



This season, PartyLite is helping in the fight against cancer by donating a portion of proceeds from the sale of its pink GloLite by PartyLite® Jar Candle in a customer favorite, Strawberry Rhubarb fragrance. “You might say it’s the ‘fragrance of giving,’ ” says Norris, who expects the item to raise significant funds during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.


PartyLite North America President Michael Norris was among nearly 250 to participate in the Cancer Prevention Study-3 during the July conference.
PartyLite North America President Michael Norris was among nearly 250 to participate in the Cancer Prevention Study-3 during the July conference.
PartyLite Consultants raised $4,400 for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer in a conference 5K event.
PartyLite Consultants raised $4,400 for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer in a conference 5K event.
The bucket pass at its conference kicks off a new year of PartyLite giving to the American Cancer Society.
The bucket pass at its conference kicks off a new year of PartyLite giving to the American Cancer Society.

Walk, Run, Give

Shining a Light in the Community

Shining a Light in the Community

PartyLite has worked with the Department of Children and Families’ Family-to-Family Program in Plymouth, Mass., for the past 13 years. “PartyLite staff members have sponsored more than 600 children at Christmastime fulfilling their Christmas wishes,” says Joyce Elven, Director of Communication for PartyLite North America. “Gifts are purchased, wrapped and delivered with the hope that these children will have a happier holiday.”

PartyLite employees also help out the Greater Plymouth Food Warehouse. “In the last year we have donated nearly 500 pounds of food,” Elven says. “A food drive is held to support children during the summer months when they are out of school and another food drive before the holidays.”

PartyLite Canada Lights the Way for Children

In Canada, PartyLite Consultants and customers raise funds to support the Children’s Miracle Network (CMN), which raises funds for research and life-saving equipment at 14 CMN hospitals across Canada. Donations stay in the community from which they come, ensuring that every dollar helps local kids.

At the 2012 PartyLite Canada National Conference in Ottawa in August, Country Manager and Vice President of Sales Tracie Graham helped present a check to CMN for $74,599.80, taking the 15-year total giving to $3,675,294.20. “We are grateful for the dedication and commitment of so many of our Consultants in Canada who inspire even the newest among them to sign up for the auto-deduction programme to donate earnings to the important work of the Children’s Miracle Network,” Graham says.

In addition to donations from product sales, each year funds are raised through ongoing initiatives involving the entire PartyLite family of leaders, consultants and customers who get involved in their communities, according to Judi Rogozenski, Executive Assistant to the President and PartyLite liaison with the Society. One of those initiatives is the annual American Cancer Society Relay For Life. Rogozenski says that, since 2008, PartyLite has fielded more than 1,700 teams with more than 15,000 team members participating in community Relay For Life events. These efforts alone have raised more than $2.4 million to date.

The Relay For Life website describes the relays as more than just a walk or run. Due to the fact that cancer never sleeps, they are actually overnight events held in the springtime. Teams camp at the track and team members take turns walking or running the track around the clock at these family-friendly events. Cancer survivors lead the walk, and later in the event candles are lit to memorialize friends and relatives who lost their lives to the disease. PartyLite donates candles to nearly all of the Relays in which PartyLite teams participate.


“In 2010 and again in 2011, PartyLite had 90 teams and raised more than $40,000 for [American Cancer Society’s] Making Strides.”
—Judi Rogozenski, Executive Assistant to the President and PartyLite liaison with ACS



The PartyLite family also participates in the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks held every fall throughout the United States. “In 2010 and again in 2011, PartyLite had 90 teams and raised more than $40,000 for Making Strides,” Rogozenski says. The teams consist of consultants, family members, customers and anybody who wants to participate. “The teams enjoy great success throughout the country because people have a tendency to support what they help create.”

Funds raised through these events help in many areas of the fight against breast cancer. The Society reports that the money is used to help people stay well through education on the importance of regular screenings, free email reminders to get those screenings and a Breast Cancer Update newsletter. They also help people get well by providing transportation to treatments, free lodging for those who must travel far for their treatments, cancer education classes and various emotional support programs.

One of the easiest ways PartyLite customers can support the Society is through the PartyLite Change the World™ program. “We invite hosts and customers at parties and online to round up the purchase price of their PartyLite order to the nearest dollar or up to $10,” Rogozenski says. “This change goes directly to the Society.”

Comfortable clothes play a role in fundraising efforts at the PartyLite home office in Plymouth. “About four or five times each year, employees are given the opportunity to dress casually for an entire week at the office for a small fee of $5,” Rogozenski says. “The funds raised during casual weeks are donated to the Society, along with profits made from bake sales and various other fundraising efforts.”

It All Adds Up

SidebarThe heartfelt efforts of the consultants, leaders, employees and customers involved in the numerous methods of raising funds for the Society culminate in the presentation of a check to the Society at the annual PartyLite National Conference. “It’s an exciting part of our conference as we witness the fruits of our labors and learn how we are making a difference in the fight against cancer,” Elven says. “In 2012, our $556,508 donation took our 15-year total contribution to nearly $14 million.”

When Norris was asked why his company is committed to raising such large amounts of money for the fight against cancer, he says, “We’ve raised millions because millions are needed.”

And those efforts do not go unnoticed by the Society. PartyLite is included in an elite group of corporations that have national teams participating in both the Relay For Life and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. The Society also awarded PartyLite its Corporate Impact Award for Philanthropy in recognition of donations of $1 million or more in a calendar year for six consecutive years.

In 2010 PartyLite was also awarded the Corporate Impact Award for Employee Engagement, honoring a company that demonstrates outstanding volunteerism in support of the Society’s mission.


“We’re grateful to be able to offer a vital support system that reflects the Society’s principles of working together and helping people prevent and manage all aspects of cancer.”
—Michael Norris


In addition, Norris is a member of the New England Chapter of the American Cancer Society CEOs Against Cancer®. “We’re grateful to be able to offer a vital support system that reflects the Society’s principles of working together and helping people prevent and manage all aspects of cancer,” Norris says. “I’m eager to help further those principles by sharing with and learning from other CEOs whose companies are equally committed.”

A Deeper Commitment

In an effort to further assist in the fight against cancer, this year Norris and others did more than give money. They made a 20–30-year commitment to be part of the Society’s Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3). Enrollment took place at the 2012 PartyLite National Convention in St. Louis in July. “Michael was one of the first ones to sign up,” Rogozenski says. “Our goal was to register 150 participants and we ended up with nearly 250!” The researcher for the previous study, CPS-2, which determined the link between smoking and cancer, delivered a speech at the conference and was impressed with the depth of the commitment and concern of the PartyLite family and others who pledged to become involved for several decades.

In addition to supporting the American Cancer Society, the company and consultants are also extremely supportive of Ronald McDonald House Charities. “If there is a House in the city where we hold our annual convention, that is the House that receives our support for that year,” Elven explains. Over the years, seven of the conventions have taken place in St. Louis. “One of the Ronald McDonald Houses there has received so much financial support from us that they officially named one of their guest rooms the PartyLite Room.”

Throughout the country, Consultants volunteer at Ronald McDonald Houses in their own communities, embracing the opportunity to help where they can. They do whatever is needed, from washing dishes to cooking a meal to sitting with a sibling of a child in the hospital who might need someone to talk to.

Philanthropy is so important to the PartyLite family that one of the unique aspects of its annual conference is the passing of the bucket. “After we present a check with our donation to the American Cancer Society from the prior year, we actually pass buckets to kick off the new year of giving,” Elven says.


In 2011, PartyLite participated for the sixth year in the TODAY Show Children’s Holiday Toy and Gift Drive by donating more than $2 million in products, taking its giving total to $16 million.


Of course, a company with such generosity in its DNA would have a hard time letting the Christmas holidays slip by without notice. In fact, PartyLite donates to the TODAY Show Children’s Holiday Toy and Gift Drive providing gifts that children can give to their parents. In 2011 PartyLite participated for the sixth year by donating more than $2 million in products, taking its giving total to $16 million, according to Elven.

When asked what the future of PartyLite philanthropy looks like, Norris says, “PartyLite has a culture of generosity and commitment to others that is so clearly demonstrated by our field leaders and consultants. Going forward, we will continue to rely on individuals in each PartyLite region to spearhead community outreach. And, for the first time, this fall we will organize a nationwide ‘day of service’ during which consultants in Canada can volunteer to help out the Children’s Miracle Network, and U.S. consultants can volunteer at an American Cancer Society Hope Lodge. Truly, the heart of PartyLite never stops beating, and there is no limit to what can be accomplished for good.”