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
Co-Founder and CEO, Stampin’ Up!
“Executive” never landed on Shelli Gardner’s to-do list. “My career path kind of chose me,” the Co-Founder and CEO of Stampin’ Up! says. “My goal in life was to be the best mom ever! I grew up not being told I had to be a mom, but valuing motherhood and family.
“I worked when I was young and was motivated to be busy, productive and self-sufficient,” says Gardner, who earned her first paychecks tending her six younger siblings.
“I never focused on money except for what I needed to pay bills,” she says. Even starting the company, money wasn’t the motivator. A longing for creativity, a love of stamping and the assumption others would want it too, ultimately sent her on this path. “I didn’t think that it would turn into this,” she says.
Inner conflict sometimes left Gardner feeling guilty about time spent away from her daughters. “What happened to the perfect mom?” she would ask herself. But hindsight tells her, “God had a plan and I was moldable enough to execute the plan.” Her daughters, now grown, are Gardner’s best friends and great mothers, she says. “They understand about business and work hard, and they learned that from me.”
Flexibility draws most women to the sales field, but Gardner is still amazed at the Stampin’ Up! demonstrators who apply for corporate positions and are willing to move across the country; or dedicated, talented, career-minded women at corporate who start a family and want to work from home.
“She’s still a career person, but she’s a mom too and she can do both. Her priorities have shifted slightly and her demeanor has changed too. The point is: People need to decide to move forward, and if you change your mind, be OK with that too,” Gardner says.
Sue Johnson: “She runs a metal fabricating business here in Utah. She is pro employee and very corporate. I watch how she is soft around the edges, intellectual, understanding and a great boss.”
Doris Christopher: “She carries herself poised but approachable and friendly. Some women have this air about them that they are better than you, but she doesn’t. She seems positive and assured. From everything I hear about The Pampered Chef, it is a business run with integrity. That starts somewhere and it has to start with her. She’s a woman of integrity who followed her path and dream.”
Stampin’ Up!: Designing Women
Shelli Gardner and her sister became so intrigued by their decorative rubber stamping hobby that they did what any entrepreneur would do. They built a business around it.
Rubber stamps are traditionally offered in craft stores, and originally the women hoped to work with a retail stamp company to market the hobby in a different way—through workshops at home parties. Unable to find the right mix of products, designs, marketing approach and compensation plan, the sisters decided to create their own company.
Shelli Gardner invested her family’s savings to begin Stampin’ Up! in 1988. During the first year, orders were filled from her living room. Today employees fill orders from the company’s 300,000-square-foot home office located in Riverton, Utah. Stampin’ Up! operates a state-of-the-art 80,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in nearby Kanab. The first Stampin’ Up! product catalog was 64 pages; today the Stampin’ Up! Idea Book & Catalog is over 200 pages of full-color photos of stamp projects, rubber stamps and accessories.
Currently more than 40,000 demonstrators from all 50 states and Puerto Rico, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France and the United Kingdom teach and share their enthusiasm for rubber stamping, scrapbooking and card-making. The company has announced that it will soon expand into Austria and The Netherlands.
CEO, The Pampered Chef
It comes as little surprise that Marla Gottschalk loves to cook. A timesaving recipe and having just the right cooking tool for the job fuels her passion for preparing family meals, as well as her role as CEO of The Pampered Chef. “To me, what I do is so much more than a job. I believe what we do makes a real difference in the lives of our consultants and customers,” she says.
“I believe that when you love what you do and feel that you have a purpose, you will be successful,” Gottschalk says. Passion led her to success and it’s that same passion she sees in the eyes of tens of thousands of talented consultants who inspire her to work hard every day.
“Early in my career, I didn’t have a specific goal of being a corporate chief executive officer; it was an evolution as I continually strived for the next assignment and the next promotion,” she says. “It is that spirit of hard work and striving to grow that set me on this path.”
Throughout corporate America, women are under-represented, which disappoints Gottschalk. “I believe a diverse team can be the most successful. Building this kind of high-performance team begins at the top and becomes part of the culture.”
The direct selling industry, as a whole, is fundamentally about helping women “have it all,” and The Pampered Chef is certainly a culture in tune with women. They fill 60 percent of corporate executive roles, and Gottschalk says, “Every day I have the privilege to talk with women across the world—each with their own definition of ‘having it all.’ The Pampered Chef has helped so many women achieve their goals, whether it’s the ability to replace or supplement their income, stay at home with their children or simply provide an outlet for their love of cooking while earning a little fun money.”
Doris Christopher: “Doris’ belief that dreams can come true, her passion for enhancing the quality of family life and her advocacy of the importance of shared mealtimes continues to transform millions of lives. She built a company that continues to flourish today behind the mission and vision she created.”
The Pampered Chef: Heating Up Sales in the Kitchen
Outside of its premium kitchen tools, The Pampered Chef® is probably best known for its current owner: Warren Buffett. Yes, that Warren Buffett, the astute investor. Well, technically, it was his company, Berkshire Hathaway that acquired The Pampered Chef from its founder Doris K. Christopher and her family in 2002.
Christopher launched the company from the basement of her home in 1980, using her expertise as an educator, home economist and mother. She laid the foundation for an industry icon that now has $500 million in 2011 net sales through its 65,000 independent consultants. From its home base in Addison, Ill., it operates in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Germany. Marla Gottschalk was named CEO in May 2006.
Through home cooking shows, the company offers professional-quality tools for cooking and entertaining. Guests can try out the tools before they buy at the million-plus shows that are held annually in the United States alone. The Pampered Chef Test Kitchens keep demonstrations lively by arming consultants with timesaving tools, tips and recipes that enhance mealtime and suit busy lifestyles. The Pampered Chef carries more than 300 items at any one time—some 80 to 90 percent of them are exclusive to The Pampered Chef.
Founder and CEO, Stella & Dot
Fresh out of Stanford, Jessica Herrin deliberated with herself—investment banking or entrepreneurism? She chose the “riskier upside” and joined an entrepreneurial startup. Three startups later, she was 30 and knew “how to get it done and build it from scratch.” But skills for scaling a business eluded her until, she says, “one of my mentors told me if I ever wanted to be successful at running a large company, I should go to work at one.” So she did—at Dell. “I called it my maternity leave job. It gave me the right ‘incubation’ period for having both real babies and business babies.
“It was something I had to do to develop as a leader,” Herrin says, and she later created Stella & Dot with just such an emphasis on personal development. “We try to provide a rich, learning, professional environment and life coaching for our stylists.… My goal is to help women lead better lives, and to me that is more than just about climbing the career plan. It’s about helping her feel bold to take action and dream big in all areas of her life. If it’s training that she gets from us that helps her get promoted in her corporate job, we’ve been successful,” she says.
Herrin confesses hers is a corporate dream job and wants other women to live the lives they want, be the wives and mothers they envision and still thrive professionally. But, she says, “If we want women to lean in and stay engaged as executives, a lot needs to shift culturally. The first and biggest thing has to do with women’s split of the responsibility of the household. If women are going to be equal at work, they have to be equal at home. It has to be 50/50.”
Herrin renegotiated her contract with her husband and splits child transportation and homework tasks, as well as sick days and business trips. “When I see women executives, they have a very supportive spouse, or a lot of creativity in how they divide those jobs, or they get leverage and they get help,” she says.
On Motherhood and Work…
“I am a mom working! I put it in that order because for me the ‘mom’ part is most important.”
Sheryl Sandburg, COO of Facebook: “It’s incredible how much time she spends nurturing and developing other professional women both inside and outside her company.… Women need each other for that continual support and development.”
Stella & Dot: Glittery Growth
In 2003 Jessica Herrin began devoting nights and weekends to designing jewelry, DIY jewelry kits and a website to show and sell them. The success of her first show inspired her to form Luxe Jewels. By the end of 2006 the company had grown to $1 million in sales.
In 2007 Herrin and her new business partner and Chief Creative Officer Blythe Harris rebranded the company as Stella & Dot, naming it after their beloved grandmothers.
Today’s Stella & Dot is an Inc. 500 Fastest-Growing Company based in San Bruno, Calif., near San Francisco. This year Inc. magazine ranked Stella & Dot the 57th fastest-growing company in the country. It reported that the company’s 2011 revenues were $175.3 million and three-year growth rate was a staggering 4,315 percent. Stella & Dot’s more than 10,000 independent stylists show its boutique-style jewelry and accessories line exclusively through in-home gatherings called Trunk Shows and also online.
Stella & Dot’s in-house designers create jewelry collections using a mix of materials, such as semiprecious stones, resins, crystals, glass, .925 sterling silver, bronze, 18-24 karat gold vermeil, and hand-painted enamel. And the company makes sure that it regularly adorns celebrities, ranging from Katherine Heigl and Katy Perry to Kathie Lee Gifford, Elle MacPherson and Brooke Burke Charvet.
Executive Chairman and former CEO, Avon Products
When Andrea Jung graduated college, her heart pined to make a difference and join the Peace Corps. But lack of income tugged at her pocketbook, so she entered management training with Federated Department Stores. “I thought the two were mutually exclusive options,” she says. But 15 years and one Avon project later, “I realized it was possible to have a career in business and make a difference in the world.”
Women remain disproportionately affected by the world’s most serious problems. In fact, “600 million women globally live on $1 or less per day; women account for two-thirds of the population living below the poverty line; and despite strides in developed countries, women in most of the world have little access to the mainstream economy. These are serious numbers and serious issues,” Jung says. Direct selling opens doors to opportunities for women empowerment and family support that otherwise wouldn’t exist. More than 80 percent of U.S. direct sellers are women.
Yet women lag behind in corporate America. Jung sites 2011 Catalyst research indicating that only 14 percent of all officer-level positions in Fortune 500 companies and less than 8 percent of top earners were women. “At Avon, we’re proud that we have more women in management than any other Fortune 500 company. We have a 50/50 male-to-female ratio throughout our ranks of management,” she says.
Gradually, more women are rising to operating heads, CFOs and other leadership roles in the direct selling industry. “I believe they will champion and role-model the next generation of women leaders. I think the next 10 years are going to look a lot different than the last, which is great,” Jung says.
True throughout her career, and extremely relevant for today’s up-and-coming leaders, Jung says, “Follow your compass, not your clock. Do what you’re passionate about and let each opportunity lead you to your next. In this unpredictable economic landscape where nothing is secure, the only real security comes from having a passion for what you do and knowing in your heart that it is the right fit for you.”
Mrs. P.F.E. Albee, the first Avon representative in 1886: “Whenever I think of breaking down boundaries and opening opportunities to empower women, I think of Mrs. Albee. I learned from her passion and tenacity that just because something hasn’t been done before, there is no reason to believe it can’t be done now. That was Mrs. Albee’s attitude about taking on a traveling door-to-door sales job in an entirely male industry, and it’s an important lesson for us all today.”
Avon: Leader of the Pack
Traveling book salesman David H. McConnell didn’t originally intend to create a beauty company. But he found that his women customers—isolated at home while their husbands went off to work—were often much more interested in his free perfume samples than in his books. So he created the California Perfume Company. Women had very limited employment opportunities in 1886, so his company was a revolutionary concept. The company was rebranded as Avon in 1939 and became known as “the company for women.”
With headquarters in New York City, Avon is now the world’s largest direct selling company. With $11.3 billion in net sales in 2011, today’s Avon is the industry’s highly respected mother ship. It has 6.5 million independent representatives in 100 markets around the globe. Avon acquired silver-jewelry direct seller Silpada in mid-2010.
Avon is one of the few direct selling companies with women at the helm. Andrea Jung joined Avon in 1994, advancing through the company until she was named Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO in September 2001. She held that position until April 2012, when she became Executive Chairman. Her successor: scientist-businesswoman Sheri S. McCoy, CEO and a director of Avon Products Inc.
Bonnie Kelly and Teresa Walsh
When Bonnie Kelly and Teresa Walsh put their names on the “Room Mom” list as their oldest children started first grade, they got way more than they bargained for. Soon they were best friends, not only making plans for holiday parties at school, but also laying the foundation for Silpada.
“We started designing our own jewelry and hosting what we called ‘A Fun Ladies’ Night Out Playing Dress-up With Jewelry!’ ” Kelly and Walsh recall. One party turned into two, then three. “It wasn’t long before hostesses and customers began telling us, ‘You look like you are having so much fun. We wish we could have your jobs!’ ”
“For six years prior to starting Silpada, we pursued our passion by helping women reinvent their wardrobes and hosting home jewelry parties,” the co-founders say. It was immensely valuable time spent. “It’s important to do something you believe in and make sure there is a need for your product or service by testing the market.”
By 1997, friends and customers became the first independent Silpada Designs representatives, the very first catalog of high-quality sterling silver jewelry was sent to press, and a direct selling company was born.
“Designing jewelry and making women feel good about themselves has been our biggest motivator,” they say. Silpada enriches lives by giving women the ability to balance family life and work hours, earn as much income as they want and feel beautiful. Take it from this pair of best friends: The positive impact of friendship is immeasurable.
Kelly and Walsh agree, “This industry provides endless opportunity and value for women, both in the field and at the corporate level. In the 1960s, the direct sales industry empowered women to untie their aprons and get out of the house to make money. Today, direct sales is empowering women to have the best of both worlds—the opportunity to have a career they love while maintaining the freedom and flexibility to take care of their families.”
Each other: “We’ve always looked to each other as mentors. As best friends, we know we can always count on one another.”
“There are many ways women can transition from field leadership roles to corporate leadership positions. Having knowledge and experience within different dimensions of the business can be extremely valuable.”
Silpada Designs: Silver Sizzle
Best friends Bonnie Kelly and Teresa Walsh loved silver jewelry so much that the stay-at-home moms each took $25 from their grocery money to start a company they called Cool Jewels. They achieved an impressive return on investment. For each of the next five years, Bonnie and Teresa averaged 125 parties and $175,000 in sales.
They knew they had started something special. So in 1997 Bonnie, Teresa and Bonnie’s husband, Jerry, launched Silpada Designs. They photographed their first catalog in the Kellys’ home basement. It featured more than 275 sterling silver jewelry designs and helped them recruit their first 14 independent sales representatives.
By the time the company joined with Avon in mid-2010, Silpada Designs had become the largest, fastest-growing direct seller of sterling silver jewelry, with $280 million in sales. It has operations in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, and boasts 33,000 independent representatives who have average party sales of $1,000.
Tom Kelly, a longtime Avon executive and formerly President and COO of Silpada Designs, was named CEO and President of Silpada in August. Jerry Kelly remains Silpada’s Chairman, and the two run the company from its headquarters in Lenexa, Kan. Bonnie and Teresa continue to lead and inspire Silpada representatives and the company’s jewelry design team.