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
Founder and CEO, Jeunesse Global
Wendy Lewis admits it. She’s a serial entrepreneur. The summer camp she started from her parents’ back patio when she was 8 foreshadowed a lucrative career building companies and selling them. Lewis laughs about it now. “I charged neighborhood kids to come make arts and crafts projects and play games like Mother May I and Red Light, Green Light,” she says.
In the ’80s and ’90s, Lewis’ medical software and computer hardware maintenance companies both ranked nationally for performance and both sold. Lewis tried retirement, but it didn’t stick. Expertise in mathematics and statistics had Lewis back in the entrepreneurial game developing back-office software for companies with a multilevel marketing structure and constructing compensation plans.
Launching Jeunesse Global was a natural progression.
“When we did this, it was more for the gratitude we feel and to help other people achieve their goals and be successful,” Lewis says. “I love working with the salesforce distributors and leaders, helping them find personal success and seeing people who have never been successful rise and become successful entrepreneurs.
“What this industry does for people is make it a level playing field. It doesn’t matter if you have a Ph.D. or graduated high school. If you can listen and learn how to do the business, you can be extremely successful,” she says.
But, Lewis believes, “Personal development needs to transcend to our corporate employees as well as the salesforce.” Lewis loves to hire women, but sometimes it’s not easy to find them for high-level positions. “I think the problem is women are still trying to gain the self-confidence to let their voices be heard. They are often afraid to be assertive, afraid of criticism. I even find that in myself sometimes.”
Her mother: “She taught me the most important things: compassion, patience and independence. I hope that’s what I’ve taught my daughter. Be your own person, have your own career and your own life besides having a husband or significant other.”
Hillary Clinton: “Not necessarily from a political standpoint, but I respect that she is brilliant. It takes a lot of independence, compassion and intelligence. First we saw her as the wife of a president, but now we see her as a person who can do so much more in her own right, not just as the first lady.”
On Building a Company…
“If you listen to what the customers are telling you, you know what you have to do. You have to listen to what the distributors think. You can’t build a company on just how you see it in your mind.”
Jeunesse Global: Youthful Aging
The founders of Jeunesse™ Global have a special fondness for baby boomers—the company’s best customers.
Husband and wife team Randy Ray and Wendy Lewis, now CEO and Chief Operating Officer, respectively, founded Jeunesse in September 2009 to market an anti-aging serum, Luminesce™. The couple learned about Luminesce from its creator, Dr. Nathan Newman, a world-renowned cosmetic surgeon. Ray was considering a trip to Singapore for stem cell treatments for his injured knee, but he heard about Newman’s work with stem cells. He visited Newman in hopes that he could receive the treatment he was seeking closer to home. That discussion led to the foundation of Jeunesse. Since then the company has expanded the product line, maintaining focus on anti-aging solutions based on cutting-edge science, such as adult stem cell technology, DNA repair and nutrigenomics. Products are made in the United States and are exclusively formulated for Jeunesse.
The company, located in Altamonte Springs, Fla., is fully operational in 11 countries across the globe, with shipping available to 81 countries. In 2011 its 92,000 salespeople produced $65 million in net sales. Jeunesse uses a single-level compensation structure.
Earlier this year, Jeunesse acquired direct seller GreatLife International.
Hear Longaberger, think baskets—a family tradition dating to the 1890s. Depression-era basket making helped feed 12 Longaberger children, including CEO Tami Longaberger’s father, Dave, who started the direct selling company nearly 40 years ago.
Fresh from college, Tami Longaberger took a seat outside two offices: VP of Sales and company founder. “Sit there for the next five years and learn something,” her dad told her. And she did—manufacturing and distribution, customer service, sales and marketing, product development and promotion. “When you are a part of a family business, you do what needs to be done—even running errands for Dad—to keep things going,” she says.
“Life throws challenges at you, you are going to have the ups and downs, and you really have to have a backbone of steel in this industry and keep moving forward,” Longaberger says. With her dad’s gift for perseverance, she sees herself “as a guardian and a keeper” of a great American tradition of handcrafting, and she also loves crafting relationships between the salesforce, employees and basket makers. “That’s the point of differentiation that makes you sustainable.”
While the male-to-female ratio in corporate direct selling leadership weighs heavily in men’s favor, Longaberger says, perhaps, “Women have figured out the right spot to be in, in this industry.… If your goal is to contribute to your family, personal development and growth, economic opportunity… if your goal is to do what you can as a woman to keep the traditional roles as a mother and wife intact, I’m not sure you can find anything better in the corporate world than what you can get in the sales field owning your own business and working from home,” she says.
Juggling motherhood, marriage and work is difficult, but Longaberger says, “When you push yourself to do things in the industry that you don’t feel like you have time to do, you are rewarded with relationships that become so important in your life.” That’s really the gift of direct selling, whether in the salesforce, a corporate job or reaching out to the entire industry through the DSA.
The composite woman: “I feel like every woman I have met, I have learned something from… mostly what to do, but sometimes what not to do! From every conversation, I gain something that contributes to this relational business that we have.”
“We are moving all our manufacturing to the U.S.… I truly believe with all my heart that it’s this kind of action that will rebuild this country, and I felt like we had to step up and do our part.”
Longaberger: Thinking Outside the Basket
You wouldn’t think that anyone with a stutter would create a direct selling company. But Dave Longaberger actually took a job as a door-to-door salesman to overcome his affliction. His lifelong goal was to improve lives. To follow that dream, he expanded his basket-maker father’s craft when he founded The Longaberger Company in 1973 and began selling products through direct sales in 1978.
Tami Longaberger, the company’s current Chair of the Board and CEO, as well as Dave’s daughter, had worked for the company in college and joined her father full time after graduation. She took over his responsibilities after his death in 1999.
Under Tami Longaberger’s leadership, the company leveraged the reputation of its artisan, hand-crafted baskets by adding other products for the home, including pottery, wrought iron, fabric accessories, specialty foods, and most recently, coffee, which independent home consultants offer in home shows. The Longaberger Company has announced that its full product line will soon be made in the United States.
Longaberger also owns three guest destinations: Longaberger Homestead®, Longaberger Golf Club®, and The Place Off the Square™. The destinations attract Longaberger devotees who come by the busloads to take the basket-making tour. And then there’s The Longaberger Company’s home office—a seven-story replica of the company’s Medium Market Basket.
Global CMO, Amway
Rock star status still shocks Amway’s Global CMO Candace Matthews every time she steps on stage at an event. Distributor excitement and enthusiasm is palpable. “Direct selling is about motivating people, not putting a promotional coupon in the Sunday circular. It’s about helping people achieve their human potential,” she says.
“Five years ago, I had no idea how global Amway was, the actual opportunities that existed, how wonderful it would be to be part of a global enterprise and bring the skills I’d developed into the organization,” Matthews says. Today she’s a student of world cultures, relishing the warmth and reverence of a Thai distributor’s bow or the connectedness of karaoke to a Korean Amway event. “I encourage people to look beyond what they believe is traditional to wonderful opportunities that exist in our industry.”
With Amway, Matthews makes good on a pay-it-forward promise made years ago to Ann Fudge, her first mentor and recruiter. She taught Matthews how to successfully advocate for herself and her career, perform and deliver with the utmost distinction, get her “game face” on amid difficult circumstances, and the necessity of a sponsor in the company and in the room when decisions are made. “It made a huge difference to have someone like that in my life from the outset of my career,” Matthews says.
“It’s flat-out hard,” she says, for women to rise to the top in male-dominated corporate environments. Even though a recent Folkman and Zenger study shows women outscore men on 12 of the 16 attributes most associated with great leaders, corporate realities change at a glacial pace. “I view it as my job as a woman in the room with the men to bring these things to their attention. Every woman in those roles is going to have to do this for it to get better. I don’t believe men are intentional about it. It’s just not top of mind,” she says.
Candace Matthews augmented her metallurgical engineering degree with an MBA from Stanford just as the steel industry shifted away from her home state of Pennsylvania. She says, “The advisor told me, ‘Make that MBA count.’ ” Matthews did. She not only met her career goal of division president by age 50, but beat it by eight years.
Amway: Entrepreneurial Family
As huge as it is—$10.9 billion in 2011 net sales, generated by 3 million independent business owners from 80 countries—Amway is still all in the family. Chairman Steve Van Andel and President Doug DeVos now lead the company that their entrepreneurial fathers Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos launched in their Ada, Mich., homes.
Jay and Rich started their business in 1959 to sell one of the first biodegradable products, L.O.C.™ (Liquid Organic Cleaner) Multipurpose Cleaner, but today’s Amway is known primarily for its health and beauty products.
With ingredients that are grown, harvested and processed on certified organic farms, Nutrilite® is the world’s leading brand of vitamin and dietary supplements, based on 2010 sales. Nutrition product sales accounted for 45 percent, or $4.7 billion, of Amway sales in 2011. Amway is fueling those sales by investing nearly $180 million to expand U.S. manufacturing and processing capacity to meet growing global demand for supplements.
Amway’s beauty brand, Artistry® skincare and cosmetics, was the brainchild of Edith Rehnborg, wife of Nutrilite brand founder Carl Rehnborg. Artistry is now among the world’s top five largest-selling premium skincare brands. Artistry is a phenomenal success in most of the world, and Amway is working to raise its U.S. profile through prestige sponsorships, such as the Miss America pageant.
Founder and CEO, Thirty-One Gifts
“We have to make sure and be careful how we define success in our industry,” says Cindy Monroe, Founder and CEO of Thirty-One Gifts. “I believe success is defined by positive change, personally and financially.”
A desire to help others make that change is why Monroe started Thirty-One Gifts when she was still in her 20s. “We built the company on helping women find financial freedom that enables them to make choices. We want women to be able to make the right choice at the right time and dream bigger than they ever imagined,” she says.
But often, women don’t realize there are choices within the direct sales industry, beyond products and companies. “We do have huge opportunities in the field. These are careers, and the impact you have on so many families and the power you have as a leader in the field is crazy,” Monroe says. “We also have some of the most fabulous corporate jobs out there, but people don’t know about them.” Thirty-One Gifts has 300 professional jobs at its headquarters.
Often the direct selling industry is so focused on marketing to the field, they forget to market from a corporate standpoint. “I don’t think we’re doing a great job helping people understand the difference between working in an executive position at a bank and one within our direct sales industry,” she says.
Monroe feels she was called to entrepreneurship to support her desire to make a difference in the world. Many women are drawn to philanthropic organizations for the same reason, she says. “Direct sales is the best of both worlds.”
To keep pace with younger demographics, it’s essential to “make young women, who want to be part of an impactful career, understand that direct sales is a great industry to be part of,” Monroe says.
Mary Crowley, Mary Kay Ash and Doris Christopher: “They were willing to put themselves out there when it wasn’t necessarily popular for women to do it. They loaned me the confidence that I needed to build Thirty-One.”
On Starting a Company…
“It was kind of like being a mom. There’s no instruction manual. There are lots of books and advice, but you have to find your way.”
Thirty-One Gifts: Principles Rule
The first question executives at Thirty-One Gifts, based in Columbus, Ohio, often hear from those just learning about the company: What’s behind the company’s name?
The answer surprises a lot of folks.
Thirty-One refers to Proverbs 31, which describes the characteristics of a good woman: virtuous, business-minded, always taking care of her family. That Scripture has also become the working description of the company’s 72,000 consultants who offer handbags, fashion accessories, totes and organization solutions at home parties. Chief Branding Officer Scott Monroe explains, “We are a company that was founded by Christian people and run by Christian principles; and our business, therefore, is really an extension of who we are.”
Founder and CEO Cindy Monroe created the company in 2003 to offer expanded career, income and shopping options to busy women. Since then, its culture has fueled furious growth. During its first three years, it saw 300 to 400 percent annual growth. Since then, growth has consistently ranged between 200 and 500 percent annually. Its 2011 net sales were $482 million, and on the Direct Selling News Global 100 list, it shot from No. 83 in 2010 to No. 24 in 2011.
The company keeps customers coming back by introducing lots of new products. Some 60 to 80 percent of its product line is new every fashion season.
Kay Napier built a career in blue-chip business. Thrust into a man’s world, or at least a man’s set of norms in the business environment, Napier adapted. It took a great deal of energy to learn effective approaches, strategies and styles, but she persisted. “You’re growing and developing every day but it’s important to grow in your core of who you are,” she says. “You have to be comfortable in your own skin and be the best you can be personally. Go with your gut and armed with good business experience and factual information.”
Napier believes in checking out every angle, so when Arbonne came knocking three years ago she did her homework. Between increasing Internet capabilities and a declining retail sales model, direct selling made sense. She was also intrigued by the incredible talent direct selling was pulling from corporate America. “There are a lot of women, and now increasingly more men, who want balance to spend time with family. At one point, there were more women choosing to stay at home than have full-time jobs. I saw so many friends do this,” she says.
Most striking to Napier is the opportunity for personal leadership development. Direct sales transforms everyday people into extraordinary leaders, who are part of a broader community of support. “There’s nothing else like it. It’s an amazing phenomena—an opportunity for greater financial growth, which buys them all sorts of freedom and flexibility in their personal lives,” Napier says.
But a paradox exists with direct selling that reflects the broader business world. Women make up a small portion of corporate leadership positions. Napier says, “A lot of these companies were founded by men. At the time they were founded, women weren’t working full time and that created a culture of management by men.
“It’s changing in the broader world in which we live as people become more comfortable across cultures. The best people will get the jobs, whether they are male or female,” Napier says.
As for Arbonne, this CEO says, “The field seems to relate better to me being a woman because I understand what they are dealing with.”
Claudia Kotchka: “I’ve only had one female boss in my entire career. She came to be my boss after the birth of my first child, my daughter. She so believed in me and wanted me to succeed that she took projects off my plate and guided me.… She did it out of kindness, but it was a smart business decision. Me getting burnt out and quitting would not be good for the company. She made me feel valued and that was quite remarkable.”
Arbonne: Goodbye Debt, Hello Health
In 2010, personal-care and wellness company Arbonne celebrated its 30-year anniversary in the United States with a high-speed financial restructuring that reduced its debt by 80 percent and gave it the financial flexibility to invest in growth.
Since then it has added about a dozen new products to its portfolio, amped up consultant training and achieved media recognition. It reported 2011 net sales of $353 million through more than 550,000 consultants.
Petter Mørck founded Arbonne in Switzerland in 1975 and brought the company to America five years later with 19 original products that reflected Swiss quality and an integrative approach to beauty, health and wellness. The company’s U.S. base is in Irvine, Calif.
This year Arbonne launched its official philanthropic organization in the United States: The Arbonne Charitable Foundation™. Registrations are pending for foundations in the other three countries where Arbonne currently does business—Canada, Australia and the UK. Together, the four entities will work to drive support for programs that build self-esteem in teens. The Foundation established a national partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America that rolled out with a pilot program featuring the delivery of Arbonne products and the volunteer efforts of Arbonne Angels—the foundation’s corps of donors and volunteers. Similar partnerships will be formed in Arbonne’s other markets.