December 01, 2013
Zija International: Living ‘Life Unlimited’
by Lin Grensing-Pophal
- Founded: 2005
- Headquarters: Lehi, Utah
- Executives: Founder Kenneth Brailsford and President and CEO Rodney Larsen
- Products: Weight management, liquid nutritionals, energy and performance, and skincare
Moringa oleifera packs a powerful punch. In fact, Moringa, a tree that produces green leaves, seeds and fruit, is rich in multiple nutrients. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI): “It has an impressive range of medicinal uses with high nutritional value. Different parts of this plant contain a profile of important minerals and are a good source of protein, vitamins, beta-carotene, amino acids and various phenolics.” Native to the Himalayas, Moringa oleifera is the superfood behind the success of a super company—Zija International.
It comes as no surprise to anyone that health and wellness is big business. In a world where the population is getting older, but where individuals are refusing to age as their parents and grandparents did, a focus on health, energy and vitality has become a part of the culture of not only the United States but also countries around the globe. Companies that have been able to meet this growing demand for products that promise health, wellness and vitality are poised to capitalize on the demand, while serving up positive benefits for a growing market.
Zija International is one of those companies. Started in 2005, Zija has a presence in more than 30 countries. In 2012—its best year to date—it achieved more than $100 million in revenue, and it currently has more than 100,000 independent distributors worldwide in dozens of countries. “Revenue numbers are expected to jump dramatically this year,” says Rodney Larsen, President and CEO of Zija International.
Zija’s motto is “Life Unlimited,” based on a four-pillar concept that encompasses nutrition, active lifestyle, financial freedom and personal development.
Talented Founder—Committed Leadership
The company’s success has been astounding, certainly driven by the growing global demand for health and wellness solutions, but there’s more to it than that. There are plenty of companies attempting to capitalize on the growing focus on health and wellness—not all have been successful. What’s the key for Zija?
“A big part of the reason that we’re successful is because of Ken Brailsford, our founder,” says Jarom Dastrup, Director of North American Sales with Zija International. Brailsford was no newcomer to the direct sales model—he had formerly led other organizations to success before retiring. But he didn’t stay retired for long.
Brailsford had long been interested in pharmacology, and his interest was piqued when he watched a documentary about a plant, actually a tree—Moringa oleifera—which is native to the Himalayas and renowned for its high levels of vitamins, minerals, vital proteins, antioxidants and omega oils. It is, according to the company’s website, “the most nutrient-rich plant ever discovered.”
Brailsford’s interest drove him out of retirement and led him to consult with scientists and researchers, including Russ Bianchi, a scientist and food formulator, to create ways of capturing and delivering the benefits of Moringa through a wide range of products, such as supplements, energy drinks, teas and even moisturizers and oils. Brailsford has become known as the “Father of Herbal Encapsulation”—he was the first to deliver herbs via capsules back in the 1970s. His prior direct sales experience includes co-founding two other companies, and he was also the publisher of The Herbalist magazine.
Still, despite his passion for the products—and his many years of experience in direct sales—Brailsford is not solely responsible for the company’s phenomenal growth. It takes a team. In fact, it takes a large team of leaders, staff and distributors to drive success. Ryan Palmer, Zija’s Vice President of Sales, also credits the company’s success to its founder, but points to a very strong leadership team, including Larsen, who leads this team day to day.
Research and development has been another critical component of the firm’s success. “Our Director of Research and Development, Dr. Joshua Plant—it just worked out that his last name is plant—graduated first in his class from Harvard Medical School with a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and currently works to formulate our products,” Larsen says. “He puts a lot of time, effort and research into how to get the most out of not only the Moringa plant we use, but all of the other ingredients we choose to put in our products.”
And of course, there are the distributors. Their value is recognized and supported through a focus on technology and training that takes advantage of a combination of both legacy and new technology solutions to enhance productivity and drive sales.
Zija has a strong focus on its distributors, recognizing the critical role they play both in selling the products and in ensuring positive customer experiences.
|Different parts of the Moringa tree are rich in multiple nutrients.||Moringa seeds|
Training and Technology Drive Services and Satisfaction
“Too often people quit this business because it’s harder than they thought it would be,” says Palmer. “They want it to be easier or faster. Don’t ever wish for it to be easier, rather know that you need to become better; once someone realizes this, personal development can come into play. We try to be there to provide as much personal development as possible to our distributors so that they can become better.”
This commitment starts at the beginning of a distributor’s journey with Zija. “We take our recruiting process very seriously,” Dastrup says. “We realize that people are putting their names on the line and devoting their time and energy to building a business or acquiring customers. If they’re not given the right information and they go to build their business based on the wrong information, it will eventually come back to bite them—and bite us.”
Zija has developed an app that provides distributors with information and training focused on four key areas, says Dastrup:
PR1ME90 weight management shake
- Nutrition. The app provides key information about the product line and helps educate distributors on what sets Zija apart from other similar products in the industry, along with recommendations on healthy recipes and different protocol to help customers achieve their desired health goals.
- Financial Freedom. A handful of lifestyle videos have distributors telling how they have achieved financial freedom through Zija.
- Personal Development. Videos and audio share Zija leaders giving input on personal development designed to serve as “personal development gems” for the day.
- Active Lifestyle. Videos show distributors living an active lifestyle—what that means to them—along with tips on how Zija products can help. For example, says Dastrup, “one of our products that helps with energy may help someone who is into road cycling.”
Training for corporate customer support is also considered and involves multiple tests for employees that help to make sure that distributors have a very clear understanding and can use the tools offered through the back office and on the replicated website that they receive.
New hires are sent through a process for customer support, says Dastrup. “We believe that they need to be properly trained on all of the materials and tools that Zija has to offer the distributor force. As they gain knowledge they can study for the tests and, as they pass them, they will get a raise in pay,” says Dastrup. “The first test is basic knowledge of the compensation plan, products and tools that we offer. As a person passes each test they will move to a queue that may involve more in-depth knowledge of the company.” Agents are recertified every 90 days to ensure they are up to date on any changes that may have occurred.
This all comes back to taking care of the distributors. “We become very interested in our distributor organizations as they’re growing,” Dastrup says. “These are people who have many, many people in their downline. When people are building at that level they’ve got to have a very good understanding of how to move to the next range. So we have that department to help them advance.” As he notes, when distributors succeed the organization succeeds and “our products are being shared exponentially.”
Technology also helps drive much of that success, and Zija is very innovative in its approach to the use of technology to support distribution of its products and the success of its distributors.
“We are constantly striving to stay on the cutting edge of technology and provide a useful suite of tools for our distributors,” Larsen says. “From Facebook tools to our unique replicated websites, and beyond, our goal is to accelerate relationships and take advantage of social media trends.”
Embracing Social Channels
Beyond traditional legacy support systems, Zija has recognized and is leveraging the power of social media technology to help deliver its brand messaging and engage with consumers—both current and potential customers. Its corporate Facebook page boasts almost 30,000 likes. Independent distributors also take advantage of the power of social media through the use of their own pages. The Zija International Twitter account has thousands of followers and is growing.
On LinkedIn, the Zija International page brings employees and distributors together as yet another place to network. Zija has also embraced some of the more recent entrants to the social media world, including Instagram and Pinterest, where they have the opportunity to share product photos as well as before-and-after photos showing the dramatic results achieved by Zija customers.
Most recently, Zija unveiled its newest tool—the Zija Life Unlimited Mobile App—which allows distributors to “take their business with them wherever they go.” It includes back office access, enrollment capabilities, personal development materials, an exercise tracker, shareable media, Zija’s own social network and various ways for distributors to share Zija with their contacts.
The app is available to all Zija independent distributors for a small monthly fee. That fee will help fuel another important initiative aligned with Zija’s commitment to providing support to those outside the organization—including those who live in the region of the world where they harvest their Moringa.
The organization is grateful for the power of the plant that launched their company, and they’ve found ways to demonstrate in a tangible way just how grateful they are.
Zija believes in giving back, Larsen says. “As a company, we have been so blessed.”
Recently the firm launched a charitable arm called The Zija Miracle Foundation. “I had the opportunity in September to travel to northern India, near one of our Moringa farms, and get things started,” Larsen says. “We are beginning our efforts at an orphanage for elderly individuals and children who have been abandoned. I was able to meet and interact with the residents as well as hand-deliver supplies such as stoves, mixers and bedding.” Profits from the company’s monthly mobile app fees will be used to drive the charity, providing a way for distributors to give back as well.
Distributors are, after all, the force behind the success of any direct sales organization, and Zija is no exception. It’s something that Brailsford’s years of experience have taught him and something he has leveraged in building this organization.
Big Benefits from Direct Sales
“It really is amazing and comes back to Ken Brailsford’s being in the industry for 35 years and knowing and understanding what’s worked, and what hasn’t, and funneling it all into Zija,” Dastrup says. “He’s taken the best of what he’s seen and put it into this vehicle.”
As a result, Larsen says, “We fully expect to keep thriving within the direct selling model and continuing to flourish, even evolving and becoming more and more technical, specialized and developed. There is a lot of opportunity here for Zija to be successful.”