October 01, 2012
The Most Influential Women in Direct Selling
by Beth Douglass Silcox and Barbara Seale
Mona Ameli, Belcorp
Dr. Oi-Lin Chen, Sunrider International
Angela Loehr Chrysler, Team National
Kathy Coover, Isagenix
Marjorie Fine, Shaklee
Shelli Gardner, Stampin’ Up!
Marla Gottschalk,The Pampered Chef
Jessica Herrin, Stella & Dot
Andrea Jung, Avon
Bonnie Kelly and Teresa Walsh, Silpada
Wendy Lewis, Jeunesse Global
Tami Longaberger, Longaberger
Candace Matthews, Amway
Cindy Monroe, Thirty-One Gifts
Kay Napier, Arbo
Joani Nielson, Tastefully Simple
Jill Blashack Strahan, Tastefully Simple
Connie Tang, Princess House
Heidi Thompson, Scentsy
The Icons of our Industry
Throughout the world, more than 65 million women find direct selling to be the answer to gaining control of their own time, often while working in other full- or part-time careers and while being wives and mothers—managers of households. All 65 million, and the hundreds of millions who have gone before, demonstrate the special skills and attributes women bring to an industry built upon the power of relationships.
In celebration of their efforts, along with the celebration of all women in the corporate home offices, Direct Selling News asked 20 of the most influential executive women in direct selling questions about motivation, inspiration, leadership, career advice, opportunity and mentorship.
The path each woman took to the heights of direct selling corporate management is as unique as the individual. Yet all 20 are inextricably linked by the influence they have on the lives of hundreds of thousands, even millions of women across the globe who work in direct sales to enrich their families, make a difference in their communities and in the lives of others, and reach for their own dreams.
Direct Selling News selected this group of women based upon their executive leadership roles in companies that achieved the DSN Global 100 list and $100M Club. It comprises women who help guide our industry through their leadership and vision. There are many women hard at work in far more companies than we’ve listed here. But by proudly honoring these 20, Direct Selling News salutes every female leader—corporate or field—who strives for more, respects those who blazed the trail, and reaches out to those on the way up.
USA General Manager, Belcorp USA
Mona Ameli’s executive career path was a deliberate one, with written career goals and a timetable before she graduated college. But the best-laid plans often hold surprises. “I thought it was about diplomas and technical skills, but it’s really about passion, commitment, nonstop learning and adjusting myself to this ever-changing industry,” she says.
Ameli relocated to the United States 16 years ago for a consumer packaged goods job and worked for a woman who embodied passion and commitment, but struggled with balancing personal, family and work commitments. Eventually, Ameli says, her boss’s health suffered. “For a lot of women it’s hard to find that balance and manage,” she says.
It takes increased flexibility and better understanding from corporate to help women juggle motherhood, family and corporate life. Ameli says, “In our industry, I’m not really sure we’ve been great at providing this internal flexibility. But as companies with distributors, shouldn’t we reflect that same value and opportunity for the women at the corporate level, so they can rank, advance and shine?” Belcorp USA, the company Ameli leads, believes so and proudly boasts 75 percent of managerial positions filled by women.
“We need to adjust the mentality of the industry. I’m not saying become direct selling feminists, but having a more balanced executive management would be healthy for growth and a better reflection of the industry,” Ameli says.
After all, the common denominator in direct selling is personal development and growth. It motivates Ameli every day. She’s seen how women change and become more empowered, regardless of the challenges and long hours. “It’s my true passion as a person and I get paid for it. It’s rare to have this harmony between your true values and what you strive for in life and what you do for a living,” she says.
Connie Tang: “She has a contagious passion and energy. She inspires me. She is who she is—genuinely herself. I’m amazed by her cultural flexibility. For me, she impersonates the women we work with, both distributors and on the corporate side.”
Ameli’s Belcorp Foundation gives 100 scholarships based on financial need to women for entrepreneurial training and to young girls to become their family’s first generation to graduate from college.
The Beauty of Belcorp
Lima, Peru-based Belcorp is the 10th-largest direct selling company in the world, even though it didn’t expand into the United States until 2005.
The company was started by Eduardo Belmont—still its international CEO—45 years ago, to make beauty, prestige and economic opportunity accessible to women in Latin America and the United States. It now offers its prestige beauty products through more than 938,000 beauty advisors in 16 countries throughout the Americas.
Belcorp USA is known for its brand, L’Bel. Five years after it established its San Francisco headquarters, Belcorp USA made a strategic move: It broke away from its single-level business model and adopted a multilevel compensation structure, which awards team building as well as personal selling. It also blends its focus on philanthropy with its growth strategy through its non-profit arm, Belcorp Foundation.
Belcorp’s Foundation is present in each country in which Belcorp conducts business. The Foundation has helped thousands of women and young girls create a better future for themselves and within their communities through two key programs: The Amazing Woman program, aimed at providing scholarships to disadvantaged women for comprehensive business training, and Women Enlightening Women, a program providing financial aid to young girls to help them get access to quality education.
Dr. Oi-Lin Chen
President, Sunrider International
Dr. Oi-Lin Chen is a medical doctor, a mother, a wife, an immigrant and President of Sunrider International. Each facet of her life directed her path to the top of the direct selling industry.
She and husband, Dr. Tei-Fu Chen, a world-renowned herbalist and founder of Sunrider International, immigrated to the United States from Taiwan with suitcases in hand, and through hard work and determination they built a $100M Club direct selling company.
Thirty years ago, Dr. Oi-Lin Chen worked part time as a physician at a Utah clinic while raising her family of five children. Flexibility was a priority for her and she understood how fortunate she was to have the part-time option. It was a luxury most mothers of that era did not have.
Fast-forward five years and her children are growing, and so is Sunrider International. They have relocated to Los Angeles, but staffing the business proves difficult. Dr. Chen, using hands-on management skills learned while running the Utah medical clinic, steps into an operations role and helps create the kind of flexible, moneymaking opportunities mothers need. To this day, making those opportunities possible for women is her greatest motivator. “I’m happy to help people just like me, who take care of children and family,” Dr. Chen says.
Among other benefits, direct selling can provide consistency for families who relocate due to a spouse’s job. Dr. Chen’s life is a testament to that. “We moved from Taiwan to the United States, and we were alone. Once we started Sunrider, it was different. If I move from one city to another, I move my home only. My work is the same,” she says.
Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell: In 1849 she became the first woman to receive a medical degree from an American medical school and later opened a hospital in New York City with two other women doctors.
“It was very hard because the medical field was a man’s world,” Dr. Chen says of Blackwell’s accomplishments. “Even when I was in residency 40 years ago, female doctors had to share rooms with nurses. Only 10 percent of residents were women. Now there are more than 50 percent women. Being a woman is not an obstacle, you just have to work.”
Sunrider International: International Entity
As a sickly boy, Dr. Tei-Fu Chen ate and learned about herbs from his paternal grandfather in order to improve his health. He became fascinated by his grandfather’s ancient manuscripts on herbs. As a young man, he attended Kaohsiung Medical College and earned a degree in Pharmacy.
During college he married Dr. Oi-Lin Chen, a licensed medical doctor, and they immigrated to the United States. In 1982, after doing research and development for another company, Dr. Tei-Fu Chen seized the opportunity to buy that company and start Sunrider in Utah. His initial mission with Sunrider® was to make a franchise-like opportunity available to anyone without that person needing to invest millions of dollars.
When Sunrider moved to Torrance, Calif., in 1987, Oi Lin Chen closed her medical practice and joined Sunrider as its President. Their five children all work with them at Sunrider.
Sunrider has grown into a global company doing business in 42 countries, with around 2,000 retail stores. The company manufactures more than 415 award-winning health, beauty and household products.
Sunrider independent business owners (IBOs) in the United States, Canada, Israel, Western Europe, Hungary, Eastern Europe, Russia and East Asia operate direct selling businesses with multilevel compensation structures. In China, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan Sunrider authorized business owners own and operate Sunrider retail stores and sell brand-name Sunrider products.
Angela Loehr Chrysler
President and CEO, Team National
Angela Loehr Chrysler strives to be the person who sees more in someone else than they do in themselves. The quicker the better, she says, “because it makes the difference in their outcomes.”
Loehr Chrysler’s father, Team National Founder Dick Loehr, did that for her. He lured her away from an unfulfilling career in medical sales and marketing to do “free research” on the travel industry for Team National. The company’s positive energy opened her mind to entrepreneurship and she was hooked.
“He expected me to do well and rank up and lead the company. He believed in me, so it gave me the confidence as well,” Loehr Chrysler says. Today she relishes doing the same for others by helping them see the best in themselves by making a positive difference on their self-esteem and offering personal growth within a family culture. “I really believe that as a company we can make a positive difference in the United States by making one positive difference at a time, family to family.”
Loehr Chrysler takes pride in the varied roles of women in direct selling companies, including those who choose to distribute, lead or launch. “It takes an entrepreneur to start a direct sales company. The first five years are incredibly difficult, whether it is a male or female,” she says. “There is so much sacrifice and commitment in that first five years, I don’t know if it’s so easy for women to do that with all that’s going on in their lives. Not that it is easy for men, but they have a different set of rules.”
Still, Loehr Chrysler sees so much positive influence that women make in other roles in direct sales, she says, “I think we’ll see more women start direct sales companies as opportunities arise.”
Mary Kay Ash: “She built relationships and connected people. She lives on through all of them today. I’ve utilized that with my dad’s passing. I want people to know the founder and keep learning from him.”
Andrea Jung: “While still [CEO at Avon] she said, ‘Sometimes as a leader of a growing organization you have to fire yourself on Friday and hire yourself on Monday with fresh eyes.’ I passed it on to our staff. We’ve been in business over 10 years and sometimes we need a fresh approach.”
Team National: Spend Smart
Team National has unlocked the power of volume purchasing to provide savings in more than 20 industries. Products range from automobiles to furniture to face creams—or even electricity or natural gas, which the company announced as new products at its August convention. The company’s secret: It negotiates contracts with suppliers so it can offer products and services at discounted rates through BigN.com, the company’s website. But access to those discounted products is available only through a membership savings package that U.S. consumers purchase from one of Team National’s 300,000 independent marketing directors.
The idea for the company was the brainchild of the late Dick Loehr, who founded the company in 1997. Dick’s initial focus was simply to provide savings to people who purchased “benefits packages.” In 1999 Team National became a direct selling company.
In 2000 Dick enticed his daughter Angela to join the business, grooming her to become its President and CEO when he was ready to step aside. By the time he died of prostate cancer in May 2008 she was in full stride as the company’s leader.
Team National’s ability to help consumers save money, plus its mid-2011 rollout to the Hispanic marketplace, helped it reach $230 million in net sales last year.
Co-Founder and Executive Vice President, Isagenix
Kathy Coover absolutely loves network marketing, and why shouldn’t she? Hers is a field leader success story—three times over—culminating in starting her own wellness company, Isagenix, with husband, Jim, 10 years ago.
“We started Isagenix as an ambassador to the industry,” Coover says. Network marketing is a worthwhile career path for men and women, but Coover’s experience told her she needed the right people, the right vision and the right focus on the needs of the field to give Isagenix a culture worth believing in. “You have to attract the right quality of people to your company. If it’s not right for our associates, it’s not right for our company,” Coover says.
“I really want the field to know that we care about them. We are there for them because we’ve walked in their shoes,” she says. So she surrounds herself with a team of dynamic, supportive people who enable one another to do what each does best. “I do not just make decisions. I work with my team. We talk things through, think things through financially, logistically. We ask a lot of questions before making decisions,” she says. “Success takes time. You work step by step. You are always re-evaluating looking into the future, looking at what you’ve done right and considering adjustments.”
“Women,” Coover says, “bring a whole new life, heart and spirit into the industry. There’s a huge opportunity for women to be part of the corporate world in network marketing when they come to us with that experience of the field and have built successful businesses. They bring a brilliance of information.”
Why then the shortage of women in corporate jobs? Coover says, “I believe that 82 percent of the field are women and 82 percent of the people who make six-figure incomes in direct sales are women. That’s a clue.”
Mary Kay Ash: “I admire her and respect her for everything she’s done for women. I know she had struggles and fought through them. I believe like she did: God first, family second and career third. We have to have priorities in our lives. So many women make the family as their excuse for not doing the business, but really the family should be the reason why they do this business.”
Marilyn Evans: “She taught me how to do a great presentation, empower other people and be so authentic in yourself that you let your heart come out and really care about people.”
Isagenix International: Challenging Growth
Why do accomplished, financially secure people come out of retirement? For Isagenix® International Founders John Anderson and Jim and Kathy Coover, it was because they had a vision: to impact world health and free people from physical and financial pain, and through that goal, create the largest health-and-wellness company in the world.
Their new product category, nutritional cleansing, gave them a solid start. But growth skyrocketed when Anderson created the Isagenix Cleansing and Fat Burning System and the company teamed it with the IsaBody Challenge. The result: Isagenix sales shot up an astonishing 1,300 percent in just five years. It achieved 2011 net sales of $262 million, fueled by its approximately 200,000 independent associates in eight markets.
Inspired by its vision, Isagenix focuses charitable efforts toward protecting and uplifting children. In August Isagenix became a supporter of Make-A-Wish®, the organization that grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. Isagenix associates in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Australia and New Zealand may make tax-deductible donations to Make-A-Wish to impact young lives in their own communities. Isagenix has helped fund the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-4-A-Child, since 2004. As the organization’s sole sponsor, Isagenix and its independent associates, customers and employees have raised nearly $3 million in support of the organization.
Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Shaklee
From her beginnings as Associate General Counsel at Shaklee 23 years ago, Marjorie Fine’s focus was a broad one. Her responsibilities to the company’s legal department proved a stepping-off point for a unique set of internal job responsibilities and external involvement at the Direct Selling Association, which eventually led to industry-wide changes to the DSA’s Code of Ethics.
Fine’s legal acumen led her to become the DSA’s first ethics and self-regulation committee chairperson. “I got to take a hard look at ethics and rewrite the code with the committee. We updated it and put teeth into it, so that bad actors could be expelled from the DSA,” she says.
Fine grew at Shaklee with every promotion, expanding beyond legal to the direct selling side. “It’s an unusual job put together over many years,” Fine says. She loves being part of an organization and industry that develops people. “Women with no business skills, who lacked self-esteem, years later have poise and can stand up in front of an audience and address thousands,” Fine says.
“If you’re not drawn to owning a business and the sales field isn’t what you see as your future, direct selling companies are looking or should be looking to recruit and retain talented women because such a large portion of our field is women,” Fine says. “Direct selling companies have the same departments as other companies. But the thing we have that’s missing in other companies is the people side of our business—the ability to help develop people and transform their lives. You can make a great contribution from either vantage point.
“Women have attained and are attaining more leadership positions in the industry, but women may not be as visible as men because they are not leading our trade association.” Fine encourages DSA involvement for the industry’s women leaders. “You will get back what you put in. I think women are finding that to be true. There are phenomenal women leaders in this industry and you will see them step up and take leadership roles.”
Doris Christopher: “She taught me it’s possible to be a great businessperson and great human being, simultaneously. She built The Pampered Chef and is personally responsible for the success of the company. She gave generously of her time and financial resources.”
“I recommend to women to develop relationships with people they admire in and outside their company and learn from them.”
Shaklee—Green to the Core
Shaklee was providing premium-quality, natural products in nutrition, personal care and household categories when “green” was just a color—since 1956, in fact.
The vision of the company’s founder, Dr. Forrest Shaklee, was to give people the wealth of health. He helped pioneer both the nutritional supplement industry and the direct selling business model. Although Dr. Shaklee died in 1985, his spirit is very much alive at his namesake company.
A thriving company with 2011 net sales of $515 million, Shaklee has more than 1.2 million members and distributors around the globe. Since 2004 Shaklee has been led by Chairman and CEO Roger Barnett. It currently operates in the United States, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan and China. In 2000, Shaklee became the first company in the world to be Climate Neutral™—certified to totally offset its CO2 emissions, resulting in a net-zero impact on the environment. Its Pleasanton, Calif., headquarters was built to be a people-friendly, earth-friendly space that reflects Shaklee’s commitment to its motto: Living in Harmony with Nature®.
Shaklee’s commitment to being green is so pervasive that it even extends to its distributor incentives. At its August convention Shaklee kicked off a new car incentive program that included extra incentives for those who lease or purchase hybrid vehicles.