November 01, 2017
SeneGence International: A Whirlwind of Growth
by J.M. Emmert
Headquarters: Irvine, California
Executives: Joni Rogers-Kante
Products: Skincare, Anti-Aging, Cosmetics, Body Care
SeneGence International, the orange county, California-based direct seller of skincare, body care and cosmetic products, has achieved dramatic growth over the past four years. Since 2013, the privately held company founded by Joni Rogers-Kante in 1999 has seen revenue grow by 100 percent year over year. In 2017, executives anticipate more of the same as sales revenue numbers are again on pace to achieve such results.
For many years, Rogers-Kante, always one to lead with tenacity and fearlessness she learned at a young age, had focused on connecting with the women in the field and supporting them in their endeavors; however, the recent rapid growth has necessitated a revisiting of all areas of the company. New positions have been added—both in the employee base and to the executive management team—to keep up with the current and future expansion of the company. New office and facilities spaces are being developed, with an eye toward expanding the company to the Midwest and Rogers-Kante’s roots. New entries to the product line are in the process of being launched, and innovative technology platforms and support tools are being developed to help Independent Distributors grow their businesses.
For Rogers-Kante, who serves as Chairman and CEO, the future of her company looks bright. The pieces are all coming together for what should continue to be an exciting future, she says.
New Leaders, New Initiatives
To guide the ramp-up in production and company growth, SeneGence hired Philippe Guerreau in May as President. A SeneGence Advisory Board member for four years, Guerreau was previously Vice President at L’Oréal USA, overseeing finance for North American manufacturing operations as well as plant expansions and manufacturing cost optimization projects.
“We are so grateful to have the experienced leadership he brings to our company,” Rogers-Kante says. “In the past months, Philippe has been working diligently on overseeing operations and manufacturing process improvements, assisting in the hiring of numerous new professionals, managing the considerable increase of our production capabilities, and preparing for the company’s future as it continues to grow.”
To meet new demands, Steve Jarvi (formerly Vice President of Operations) was promoted to Chief Operating Officer in November 2016, and two other seasoned professionals—Jerome Kaiser and Tom Doria—joined the executive team.
Jarvi has been concentrating on operations improvements and advancement, including increasing product inventory levels and product quality across all SeneGence product lines. His team of professionals in each country play a critical role in ensuring immediate delivery of products to Distributors from varied “pick-n-pack” locations, expanding vendor-partner relationships and adding more talent to the Supply Chain department.
Scaling the finance department also required someone experienced in such buildout. For this, SeneGence brought in Kaiser as Chief Financial Officer. Previously with PricewaterhouseCoopers, Liz Claiborne and Mikasa, Kaiser and his team are focused on supporting Independent Distributors with new finance tools and sustaining a high-quality international cross-border compensation plan. “Jerome and his team have immensely enhanced many aspects of the finance department to improve payments to Distributors, support services and options to employees and our partner vendors alike,” Rogers-Kante says. “He plays a key role in helping SeneGence navigate the way to expand globally.”
Chief Information Officer Doria brings a wealth of global IT technologies and implementation experience to the team. With more than three decades of experience in network architecture, video conferencing, application development and systems engineering development in large-scale operations, Doria is leading his team in the development of new technology initiatives at the company. These range from migrating all systems toward cloud-based applications and platforms to the creation of a new quick-order page for the web. Among many other improvements, he and his team implemented new security features to provide a more secure online experience for Distributors. The coming months will see the launch of more innovative tools and technologies that will benefit Distributors and streamline internal processes for employees. In addition, Doria and other key personnel will be instrumental in helping to “connect” SeneGence as it expands across the globe.
In order to strengthen and expand company personnel, SeneGence also recently brought in James Roh as the Chief Human Resources Officer. With more than 24 years of global management and business advisory experience, Roh is skilled and proficient at driving results and organizational effectiveness while executing HR best practices. As SeneGence continues to grow their business, he will play a crucial role in managing employee growth and future personnel development in other countries.
Finally, to provide added focus to staffing in the midst of this change, Rogers-Kante’s oldest son, Alan Kante, was named the company’s first Chief Experience Officer. His role is to ensure SeneGence remains inclusive and receives value for all who interact with the company internally and externally, while taking actions to ensure the health and well-being of its workforce.
New Headquarters, Future Home
One of the major challenges of a growing company is space, and SeneGence certainly has had its share of pains in this area. Last fall, the company made its third move, relocating its corporate offices and warehouse into a much larger 50,000-square-foot space in Foothills Ranch, California. However, this will not be the last move for the company.
The long-term plan is for SeneGence to expand from California to a 225-acre campus in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, where Rogers-Kante grew up. The company already has broken ground on a 150,000-square-foot distribution center and a 250,000-square-foot warehouse, both of which are slated for completion in mid-2018. The next construction phase will include developing corporate offices with manufacturing, research and development, and convention facilities on site. Buildout is estimated to take five to seven years
In March, former Oklahoma State Senator Ted Fisher was hired as SeneGence’s Economic Development Officer. A longtime trusted adviser to Rogers-Kante, he has been guiding the expansion to the additional benefit of Creek County and the state of Oklahoma. “His role as an active civic leader in Sapulpa as well as in the business community through Oklahoma has been critical to our success,” Rogers-Kante says. “Ted’s growing SeneGence team of community-minded professionals are helping to ensure that the company’s impact upon local citizens and within the surrounding communities is nothing but positive.”
In addition to the future campus, Rogers-Kante and her husband, Ben, who serves as the company’s Chief Strategy Officer, bought historic buildings in Sapulpa to restore and turn into functional facilities for visiting executives overseeing the expansion. One building will become eight individual apartments, with a storefront on the bottom floor to contain a soda fountain-type establishment, a bakery and a lounge for the hotel guests. The second flow-through connecting building will become a boutique hotel, with rooms on the second and third floors and a café on the bottom floor. A third will be used for company private offices and facilities; a fourth building, once the town feed store, has already been transformed into a beautiful open-air company call center featuring a park to help beautify the area. The facilities also will be open to the public and aid in attracting additional traffic to the quaint downtown area of Sapulpa where Rogers-Kante spent her childhood.
“In the short term, this expansion will bring hundreds of jobs for citizens in the surrounding local areas; in the long term, it will mean thousands,” Ben Kante says. “The effect of service providers of all kinds and independent contractors, ranging from land care to floral design, to builders and contractors, printers, photographers, hotels, and the food industry, will be—well, let’s just say the positive effect upon the business opportunities are boundless.”
Product Innovation, Broadway Recognition
So, too, are the choices Distributors and consumers have when considering SeneGence’s product line. In 1999, the company began with LipSense® Liquid Lip Color; today there are more than 300 products and accessory items available among the patented LipSense® long-lasting lip color, SenseCosmetics®, SeneDerm® Anti-Aging Skin Care, and Abundance Parfums categories.
In charge of managing the formulas for SeneGence products is Chief Research and Development Officer Jose Fermin. “Jose monitors the manufacturing processes to make sure our products maintain the highest level of quality, and creates laboratory test protocols to ensure our products are safe and effective to use,” Rogers-Kante says. “He builds strong relationships with ingredient suppliers from all over the world to incorporate unique ingredients and innovation in SeneGence products.”
In January, the company will introduce additional items to the product line, including new LipSense colors and selections for other product categories. Until then, some of the company’s current products are being displayed to a captive audience of an estimated 84 million through a 5,000-square-foot digital billboard in New York City’s Times Square.
|Founder Joni Rogers-Kante (far right) is pictured in Times Square with her husband, Ben Kante, and two sons, Alan and William.|
Ticket-seekers for today’s hottest Broadway shows can see the SeneGence ads, which appear approximately 40 times a day, through New Year’s Day. The media company that owns the billboard space approached SeneGence about the opportunity because Broadway professionals using the company’s products were raving about them. In addition, LipSense is being recognized as the smudge-proof makeup of Broadway, used by performers of such hit shows as Hamilton, Wicked, Cats, Kinky Boots and Lady Gaga’s new show.
“It has been an exciting and rewarding experience to display our company and its amazing products in the heart of Times Square,” Rogers-Kante says. “We decided to include our Distributors in the experience by launching a contest to offer the chance for them to submit photos/videos for the billboard. Each of our billboard ads feature the winning entries of our lovely, hardworking Distributors, as our Distributors are our models and our business builders.”
Tools, Training and Events
SeneGence has achieved consistent growth in the number of new Distributors over the years; however, like the recent substantial growth in other areas of the company, this segment of the business also enjoyed tremendous success in 2016. The company reports the Distributor growth rate increased 100 percent in each of its seven markets.
Overseeing the growing legion of Distributors, which now numbers in the hundreds of thousands, is Christopher Simonian, who was hired as Chief Sales and Distributor Development Officer in March. “Chris has been an integral addition to the company,” Rogers-Kante says. “His initial efforts have mostly been spent in growing and managing his team, which is necessary to accommodate and serve the Distributors with their immediate needs.”
Simonian is leading the development of more efficient and user-friendly sales tools, support programs, rewards programs, and field events to support Distributors. Those tools include a new program called Jump Start, a recruiting tool that offers discounts for new and current Distributors, and a customer mobile app called SeneBiz™ that was launched in April. “SeneBiz is a fantastic prospecting and lead gathering tool that our Distributors enjoy using,” Simonian says. “It also gives us a great portal to provide content for social media sharing, a platform that our field heavily relies on for marketing their businesses.”
|SeneGence holds a grand opening for one building of its soon-to-be 225-acre corporate campus in Sapulpa, Oklahoma.|
Improvements to the company’s SeneSentials training packages are continuing, as are the rollouts of new webinars and both distributor-led and company-sponsored training events. This fall, the company is preparing for a training road show called “Road to Royalty,” where executives and trainers will be visiting destinations across the country to deliver impactful business knowledge.
“We are looking to reach out to as many Distributors as possible to help them meet their goals and find the success they deserve,” Simonian says. “We conduct global events each quarter, each with a specific intention and purpose that responds to immediate business needs, including social media training, product education and leadership coaching. We replicate each event, giving our Distributors in the U.S., Canada, and Australia the same experience and caliber of guidance and recognition, no matter where they are representing SeneGence. It’s an exciting endeavor, and our team is constantly refining our program to bring in incredible industry trainers and educational entertainment as well as source the best venues for our gatherings.”
International Growth Aspirations
SeneGence International currently operates in seven markets: the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Poland and Indonesia. While Rogers-Kante anticipates expansion into additional countries in the coming years, the current focus is understandably on expansion and relocation efforts here in the States.
Even with that focus, Rogers-Kante remains confident that her company will continue to grow and prosper given the growing popularity in the products and through the talented and entrepreneurial-minded Distributors leading the way.
“The past five years have been a whirlwind experience of growth,” she says. “We imagine that the next five years will likely see the same rapid expansion as we continue market penetration in our current countries and expand into other global markets.”