It Works!: Taking It to a Whole ‘Notha Level

by Jeremy Gregg

Click here to order the November 2014 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.


Photo above: The official ribbon-cutting at the new It Works! headquarters in Palmetto, Florida.


Company Profile

Founded: 2001
Headquarters: Palmetto, Florida
Executives: Mark Pentecost, CEO; Pam Sowder, Chief Networking Officer; Mike Potillo, Chief Sales Officer; Doug Nooney, CFO; Chris Burns, CIO; Don Klein, COO; Janne Heimonen, President of International Operations; Don Hamilton, Senior Director of Operations.
Products: Skincare and Nutrition


Founded in 2001, It Works! is one of world’s fastest-growing skincare and nutrition direct sales companies. Ranked at No. 290 on the Inc. 500 list for 2014, the company has enjoyed an impressive 1,565 percent growth rate over the past three years.

Originally based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, It Works! recently invested over $10 million to build a new global headquarters in Palmetto, Florida. Reaching across the U.S. and into at least 17 other countries, the company has amassed 90,000 active independent distributors, supported by the 100 full-time employees of It Works!.

Of the company’s 32 different products, the largest seller remains its first offering: the Ultimate Body Applicator, a non-woven cloth wrap that is infused with a powerful, botanically based formula. The company’s distributors—called “Wrapreneurs”—primarily market this product through home parties that offer their friends and families a way to achieve a tightened, toned and firm body in as little as 45 minutes.

Origin

Before It Works!, Mark Pentecost was a high school teacher and basketball coach living in the small town of Allegan, Mich., with his wife, Cindy, and their three children. Around 1995, the Pentecosts had joined a home-based business in the telecommunications industry, through which Mark Pentecost had become a top-10 earner. While they did not know it at the time, the Pentecosts’ success in direct selling had given them a vision for the future of It Works!.

In 2001, It Works! was founded on Pentecost’s belief in the impact of operating “debt-free” as an individual, but also as a company. He embraced the opportunity to share this message with the company’s distributors. “Debt Free Is the New Sexy” then became the mantra to align the field with the corporate philosophy of debt freedom.


It Works! achieved a 1,565 percent three-year growth from 2010 to 2013, placing it at No. 290 on Inc. magazine’s annual list of the 500 fastest-growing privately held companies in America.


Growing through a Tough Economy

It Works! was entering a major growth period when the economy began to fall off the cliff in 2008 and 2009. Catastrophic economic events were leading many other businesses to retreat in their expansion plans, take on enormous debt to maintain existing operations, or both. Despite these trends, Pentecost and the leadership team at It Works! were inspired to go against the grain: Pursue rapid growth while becoming debt-free.

The move paid off. Unencumbered by debt, the company grabbed a new vision for its future. It Works! achieved a 1,565 percent three-year growth from 2010 to 2013, placing it at No. 290 on Inc. magazine’s annual list of the 500 fastest-growing privately held companies in America.

“I truly believe we have a great team in our field leaders and corporate,” Pentecost says. “I’m confident in our strategic plans to grow both our U.S. and international markets. It Works! will be a recognizable force around the globe.”

Mike Potillo, Mark Pentecost and Pam Sowder welcome guests to the new It Works! headquarters.


Offering a Different Kind of Incentive

In January 2012, It Works! formalized its debt-free concept with the launch of the G.O.O.D. Bonus, which stands for “Get Out of Debt.” Based on performance, the bonuses have ranged from $10,000 to $75,000 on top of commission. Qualifiers are encouraged to use the money to pay off student loans, mortgages, credit cards and other debts.

Pentecost states: “The world today needs to hear about fiscal responsibility. At It Works!, we …”. See the full story on at Direct Selling News!!

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Amway Contribution Spurs Ada Redevelopment Project

Photo above: Amway World Headquarters in Ada, Michigan.


Global direct selling leader Amway is taking part in a community-led effort to redevelop its hometown of Ada, Michigan. Amway will contribute $3.5 million in support of a plan to bring $13 million in improvements to the rural township, located on the eastern outskirts of Grand Rapids. The redesign centers on the quaint Ada Village area across the street from Amway World Headquarters.

“The community has long held hopes of further developing the small village and, since 2006, has led community planning efforts to help shape what it could become in the future,” Bill Payne, Amway Chief of Staff, told DSN. “We’re pleased to extend our support, from initially assembling land under one ownership group to speed advancement of the vision, to now offering financial support to cover a portion of public infrastructure improvement costs.”

Amway houses more than 4,000 employees at its world headquarters, which spans one mile from east to west and comprises 80 buildings and 3.5 million square feet of office and manufacturing space.

The proposed Ada Village redesign will make the area friendlier to bikes and pedestrians, improve traffic flow, and develop community spaces like a farmers’ market and an outdoor performance area on the Village’s riverfront.

“Amway is a good partner that has been a part of our community for more than 50 years,” said Ada Township Supervisor George Haga. “We are quite excited about this private-public partnership to redevelop Ada Village, and we look forward to tentatively starting the first project next spring.”

At the same time, said Payne, Amway is leading a separate community fundraising effort called Envision Ada. The initiative will contribute another $3 million to the planned improvements, with the final $6.5 million coming from the township.

“We look forward to great progress in the coming months and are excited by the efforts of the township to make the community’s vision a reality,” Payne shared.

The Most Influential Women in Direct Selling

by Beth Douglass Silcox

Order reprints of Pam Sowder’s profile here.


It Works! Global Products
It Works! Global


Pam Sowder
Co-Founder and Chief Networking Officer, It Works! Global

Pam Sowder often feels like she straddles two worlds. She comes from the field, a direct-selling veteran who understands the everyday challenges associated with building a team. But at It Works! Global, she resides in a corporate world now, where the daily needs of distributors must mesh with the company’s big picture strategies.

“I’m out there every day building with our distributorship, but I am not a distributor. I think understanding and appreciating the field and being grateful for my role is important,” Sowder says. Stepping into direct selling corporate took some adjustment on her part. “I’ve never had that role before. I’ve never been in that type of position before. But I understand what my gifts are and what my challenges are.”

Sowder has learned to stay focused, listen, balance her emotions and, above all else, communicate effectively. “I feel like I’m a big part of the field, but then I go back to corporate and feel that I can really communicate and execute there as well,” she says. Striking a balance between both worlds is challenging, but it’s made easier for Sowder because she has a tremendous belief in herself, the product and the company.

Pam Sowder, Co-Founder and Chief Networking Officer, It Works! Global“I was the first to try the wrap, recruit distributors and train them,” Sowder says. She spends nearly 100 percent of her time working with a distributor field that is 80 percent female. “I have a real passion for who they are, what they do daily and all the ups and downs of belief they have in themselves.” As she sees it, her job is to inspire these women to be great and make real connections with them as people.

“Women are powerful in this industry. We can have a home and care for our spouses and children while building strong businesses without feeling guilty. We are worth a six-figure or more annual income,” Sowder says. It just takes support, which she works to provide each and every day.

Bridging the field with corporate will grow in scope and fun in 2014, when the company moves into its new Palmetto, Fla., headquarters situated on the water and sporting an adult slide the likes of Google. This new venue for the company’s Green Carpet Experiences, where members of the whole It Works! Global team get to know each other, will undoubtedly help the corporate office and the field connect. “One doesn’t work without the other, and we want them to all feel that they are acknowledged and vital,” Sowder says.

“Our business is a blast, and we do everything we can to keep it simple and keep it fun. That doesn’t mean that selling is always crazy fun, but we keep it light. We talk about life and the things that we’ve learned about each other’s families, what we’re wanting for our kids, and the life skills that we’re building. I like being around our people. They’re not just colleagues. They’re not just distributors. They’ve become our best friends,” Sowder says.

Strengthening those bonds is of utmost importance to the company in 2014. “I want our team to know that we care. We are there with them. We know what they go through every day. We have been there and we get it,” Sowder says.

Pam Sowder on personal development…

“I’m an avid reader. Now it’s Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath. I love Daniel Pink and John Maxwell too. I’m reading a lot right now on social media and trying to get a grasp on teaching the etiquette of Facebook.”

Pam Sowder on staying connected…

“I answer all my own Facebook messages. I just don’t feel comfortable delegating that out. I am still very much in touch with my leaders, and we text message throughout the day and week. If they need me, they have access and I have access to them. I think that’s important.”

It Works! Global

It Works! Global offers the world’s first naturally based body contouring line of products that delivers maximum results in minimal time. The company’s first and still most popular product, The Ultimate Body Applicator, is a site-specific body contouring treatment commonly called a “wrap.”

In addition to body contouring, It Works! Global offers products designed to reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scars, while making the skin look younger. Other products include nutrition supplements, as well as those designed to help detoxify impurities, relieve menopausal symptoms, provide muscle and joint relief, and lose weight.

It Works! Global products are marketed by a team of primarily female direct sellers through home “wrap” parties. Recently 10,000 distributors gathered for the company’s largest conference ever.

In 2011, the company made the move from Grand Rapids, Mich., to the Sunshine State. In 2014, they will move into a brand-new, waterfront headquarters in Palmetto, Fla.

It Works! Global had $200 million in sales in 2012 and ranked 56th on the 2013 Direct Selling News Global 100, a list of the top direct selling companies.

Order reprints of Pam Sowder’s profile here.

Teacher Turned Entrepreneur Shows How It Works!

Photo above: Mark Pentecost (left), Founder and CEO of It Works! Global, accepts the Bravo Momentum Award from DSN Publisher and Editor in Chief John Fleming.

In the early 1990s, Mark Pentecost was teaching math and coaching varsity basketball in Grand Rapids, Mich. Today, he is putting his number-crunching and coaching skills to use as President and CEO of It Works! Global.

Pentecost, who co-owns It Works! with his wife, Cindy, began his sales career in the early 1990s with Excel Communications, reselling long-distance deals for landline phones. His natural skill as a salesman soon became apparent, and just two years later Pentecost quit teaching to work his business full time.

During his time at Excel, Pentecost developed an enthusiasm for entrepreneurship in general and direct sales in particular. That enthusiasm reignited in late 2000 when he became aware of the instant-result toning wraps that now anchor the It Works! product line. It Works! launched in 2001, but gained traction slowly. The pace changed when the company hit profitability in 2005 and growth began to come in leaps and bounds. It Works! paid all its debts by 2008 and rocketed from sales of $46 million in 2011 to $200 million in 2012.

At the DSN Global 100 Celebration in April, Pentecost accepted the Bravo Momentum Award in recognition of the company’s significant growth, as well as its achievement of the most significant first-time ranking on the DSNGlobal 100 (It Works! debuted on the list at No. 56). This year, Inc. magazine ranked It Works! No. 436 on its Inc. 500 ranking of America’s fastest-growing private companies.

Read the full feature from Forbes.

Amway CEOs Named Business Persons of the Year

Amway

Amway co-CEOs Doug DeVos and Steve Van Andel received special honor in their hometown this week from the Economic Club of Grand Rapids. The group honored Amway’s leaders as Business Persons of the Year at its annual dinner.

Former Secretary of State, U.S. senator and first lady Hilary Clinton headlined the event, which took place at the city’s DeVos Place Convention Center—named in honor of Doug DeVos’ father, Richard, who co-founded Amway with Jay Van Andel.

The CEOs received recognition for leading Amway in its year of global growth and record-breaking sales. Amway (Alticor Inc.) generated $11.3 billion in revenue last year, making it the No. 1 direct selling company in the world.

Doug DeVos and Steve Van Andel serve in many other capacities both locally and nationally. Van Andel is a board member at the Metro Health Hospital, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation. DeVos serves as Chairman of the executive committee of the National Constitution Center and on the boards of The Right Place and the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations.

Click through to read more on the event and honorees.

ViSalus Co-Founder Donates $1 Million to Support Entrepreneurship

Nick Sarnicola, Co-Founder and Global Ambassador of ViSalus™, has pledged $1 million to the Sarnicola Foundation to support young, aspiring entrepreneurs.

Sarnicola grew up in a blue-collar, middle-class family in Grand Rapids, Mich., and was exposed to entrepreneurship at a young age. While building a national salesforce for a telecommunications company, Sarnicola found his calling to inspire young adults to follow the path of entrepreneurship.

After co-founding ViSalus with Ryan Blair and Blake Mallen, Sarnicola’s passion for encouraging this career path carried over, and he created the Sarnicola Foundation in 2011 with his wife, Ashley Sarnicola. The mission of the foundation is to foster entrepreneurship by providing mentorship, scholarships and funding to young aspiring entrepreneurs.

Founded in 2005 with headquarters in Los Angeles and Troy, Mich., ViSalus is the company behind the Body by Vi™ Challenge, a 90-day health transformation platform. ViSalus™ is majority owned by Blyth Inc.

Click here to see all February 2013, New In Brief

Executive Announcements – August 2012 – Amway

Amway -Steve Van Andel

Steve Van Andel

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors elected Steve Van Andel, Chairman of Amway, as its Vice Chairman for a one-year term. He succeeds Edward Rust Jr., Chairman and CEO of State Farm®.

As Chairman, Van Andel is responsible for managing the daily operations of Amway and has led the expansion of the business, growing it into a stronger, more diversified company. He has been Chairman since 1995. Previously, Van Andel was Amway’s Vice President–Americas, overseeing the company’s business operations in North and South America, and also served as Vice President of Marketing. Van Andel is the oldest son of Amway Co-Founder Jay Van Andel.

Van Andel served a one-year term as Chairman of the Chamber from 2001 to 2002 and subsequently was Chairman of the board’s Executive Committee. He is Vice Chairman of the U.S.-Korea Business Council, where he works on behalf of free trade.

He serves his home state of Michigan and the community of Grand Rapids by supporting the Grand Action Committee, the Van Andel Museum Center, and the Van Andel Institute, a health research center. He is on the dean’s advisory board for the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., and on the boards of Business Leaders for Michigan, the Gerald R. Ford Foundation, the Grand Rapids John Ball Zoo Society, the Metropolitan Health Corp., and the Metropolitan Hospital Foundation in Grand Rapids.

Amway is one of the world’s largest direct selling businesses. Founded in 1959 and headquartered in Ada, Mich., Amway offers consumer products and business opportunities in more than 80 countries and territories worldwide.