Direct Selling Companies Donate Millions in Gifts to TODAY Toy Drive

This holiday season direct selling companies have donated more than $15.4 million in cash and products to the TODAY Show Holiday Toy and Gift Drive, which supplies gifts to underprivileged children across the U.S.

The partnership with TODAY has been an initiative of the Direct Selling Assocation (DSA) for more than a decade. On Dec. 22, DSA Senior Vice President Melissa Brunton will appear on the show to thank the companies that participated and acknowledge the work direct selling entrepreneurs do for their communities throughout the year.

This month a handful of company executives have visited the TODAY set to present donations on behalf of their employees and salespeople. On Dec. 1, Thirty-One Gifts President and CEO Cindy Monroe delivered an assortment of products worth $5.5 million—one of the largest donations in this year’s toy drive. To date, the seller of functional bags, home organization products and accessories has contributed more than $36.4 million in products to the program.

“We are excited and honored to be part of the DSA’s toy drive support,” Monroe said in a statement. “Our charitable mission, through our philanthropic outreach Thirty-One Gives, is to assist organizations that empower girls and women, and strengthen families. The TODAY show makes it easy for us to enable our many sales consultants across the country to be involved with the donation too by selecting local charities where they can deliver the products.”

The following direct selling companies donated cash or products in this year’s toy drive:

•    Amway
•    Arbonne
•    Good Will Publishers
•    Initials Inc.
•    Jordan Essentials
•    Living Fresh Collection
•    Lulu Avenue
•    Mary Kay
•    Origami Owl
•    PartyLite
•    Shaklee
•    SpenserNation
•    Stampin’ Up!
•    Stella & Dot
•    Thirty-One Gifts
•    USANA Health Sciences
•    Vantel Pearls

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Direct Sellers Donate to TODAY Show Gift Drive

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

The Direct Selling Association (DSA) helped ring in the holiday season by presenting the direct selling industry’s collective donation to the TODAY Show Holiday Gift Drive on Nov. 25 at NBC Studios in Rockefeller Plaza in New York City.

Twenty-six direct selling companies donated a total of $14.9 million in products and cash to the Drive. Of the 26, seven were featured in their own spots on the TODAY show during the holiday season. In its 10 years of participation, DSA member companies have donated more than $110 million in products, services and cash to the Drive.

The TODAY Show Holiday Gift Drive is a project of the TODAY Show Charitable Foundation Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Donations are matched with the needs of more than 200 organizations with which theTODAY Show Charitable Foundation works. As part of this year’s Drive, DSA member companies sent items to dozens of organizations in states from California to New York.

DSA is the national trade association of the leading firms that manufacture and distribute goods and services sold directly to consumers. Among its more than 240 active and pending members are companies selling both via a party-plan method and in the traditional person-to-person style. In 2012, U.S. direct sales were more than $31.6 billion with nearly 16 million direct sellers nationwide. The vast majority are independent business people—micro-entrepreneurs—whose purpose is to sell the product/service of the company they voluntarily choose to represent. Approximately 90 percent of direct sellers operate their business part-time.

The following direct selling companies donated products to this year’s Toy Drive: 4Life, All Dazzle, Amway, Arbonne, Avon, Bona Clara, Clever Container, CUTCO, DeTech, Initials Inc., Jewel Kade, Jusuru, lia sophia, Living Fresh Collection, Mary Kay, Nu Skin, PartyLite, Princess House, SeneGence, Shaklee, Southwestern Advantage, Stampin’ Up!, Team National, Thirty-One Gifts, Vantel and Yor Health.

For more information on direct selling, DSA and its Code of Ethics, visit DSA’s website, www.dsa.org.

Direct Sellers Among Inc.’s Fastest-Growing U.S. Companies

Inc. 5000

Several U.S. direct selling companies have earned a spot on Inc. magazine’s annual 500/5000 ranking. The Inc. 5000 is a list of America’s fastest-growing private companies, with the Inc. 500 representing a special ranking of companies in the top 10 percent.

 

 
Direct sellers among this year’s Inc. 5000 include It Works! Global (No. 436); Zija International (No. 504); J.Hilburn (No. 605);  Initials, Inc. (No. 762); YOR Health (No. 1052); Ambit Energy (No. 1996); 5LINX (No. 3009); STEMTech International (No. 3986) and Isagenix International (No. 4556).

Introduced in 1982, the Inc. 5000 ranks companies according to percentage revenue growth over a four-year period. To qualify for the 2013 ranking, each company had to be U.S.-based with a privately held, independent status as of Dec. 31, 2012.

The Inc. 500 | 5000 Conference and Awards Ceremony celebrating the 2013 honorees will take place Oct. 10-12 in Washington, D.C. Click through to read more on Inc.’s methodology and view the full list.

Initials Inc. Co-Founder on Direct Selling and the Modern Woman

Initials Inc. President and Co-Founder Britney Vickery recently spoke to Bloomberg about how her company and the industry are appealing to a new generation of women.

Following several years of triple-digit percentage growth year-over-year, Initials Inc. is on pace to be a $400 million-plus company in a few years. Vickery attributes the company’s success to the philosophy behind its personalized products: “There’s only one you.” Empowering individuals to realize their unique talents and abilities has helped Initials Inc. attract new customers and support its Creative Partners.

As Vickery says in this month’s DSN cover story, knowing who you are as a company enables you to attract the right people. “The better you can hone in to find who you are, the better your ability to go out and grab people who are attracted to that,” Vickery said. “Look at who you are, what you are trying to accomplish in the company. What is that vision you want to grow?”

Click through to see the full video of the Bloomberg interview.

Blurred Lines: Generation C’s Power and Promise Beyond Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y

by Beth Douglass Silcox

Click here to order the August 2013 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.


DSN Cover

Direct selling is a pliable industry. Network marketing or party plan, direct selling can be what distributors need it to be at any given life moment, equally meeting the needs of retiring baby boomers and 20-something moms.

Few industries can boast this flexibility. Yet to stay relevant and competitive, direct selling companies must expand their understanding of a customer and distributor base that’s morphing before their eyes.

Generational lines are blurring and a new era of the connected consumer—Generation C—is at hand. “The connected consumer is the stranger you must get to know, and in contrast to the customers of the past, this group is only growing and it’s traversing demographics,” says Brian Solis, new media thought leader and author of What’s the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences.

“Nowadays, age ain’t nothing but a number. It is how people embrace technology—from social networks to smartphones to intelligent appliances—that contributes to the digital lifestyle that is now synonymous with Gen C,” Solis says.


“Nowadays, age ain’t nothing but a number. It is how people embrace technology that is now synonymous with Gen C.”
—Brian Solis, author and new media thought leader


It matters little to which traditional generational demographic these connected consumers were born. What’s more important is they behave differently than their traditional counterparts. There are now two very different sets of baby boomers fretting over dwindling retirement accounts, and while the majority of Gen X and Gen Y are connected, “pencil and paper” girls still exist outside the digital majority.

For direct selling, these connected consumers are not only customers but also distributors. To better understand the opportunities created by their arrival, it’s important to sample the industry’s current distributor demographics.

Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y

Generationally, baby boomers, Gen X and Gen Y all bring something different to the direct selling table. Maturity, stability and experience make boomers terrific mentors, while Gen X brings an energy and tenacity for finding new ways to do things. Gen Y is out for adventure and understands the hip factor associated with branding.

Company distributor demographics vary based on product offerings as well as the market itself. Some companies skew older, some younger, but across the board direct selling appeals to the full generational spectrum.

Baby boomers, roughly age 48–66, make up the middle of Univera’s North American distributor bell curve, with Matures (over 67) and Gen X (33–47)/Gen Y (under 32) on either end, says President Randy Bancino. Univera’s average distributor age is 52.

A focus on health with Univera’s metabolic fitness products skews the company’s distributor base older. However, an opportunity to make a better future is also in the mix for Matures and baby boomers.

“We have a combination of people who are thinking about how much money they have for retirement and are looking for ways to supplement that nest egg, and people who are reinventing themselves. It’s kind of the second act of their career life. Our business allows people to explore that without jumping off a cliff,” Bancino says.

J.Hilburn’s stylist demographic, on the other hand, straddles Gen X and the baby boom. Co-Founder Hil Davis points out that custom men’s clothing is not a self-consumable product, which sets J.Hilburn up uniquely in direct selling. Their average stylist, between 35 and 55 years old, is first and foremost a salesperson, earning $20,000 a year in revenue by servicing 30–40 personal clients, which typically skew older due to product price point.

Jeunesse, a rapidly growing promoter of healthy living, also occupies this demographic. “We’re right there on the border of Gen X, and then depending upon the market we’re heading into the early years of the baby boomers,” Chief Visionary Officer Scott Lewis says.

But Jeunesse is a global company, and distributor trends vary by market. “In the U.S. we haven’t tapped into Gen Y. But in Thailand, for example, we have our youngest Diamond Director ever, and he is just 29 years old,” Lewis says.

Gen X and Gen Y are Initials Inc.’s “sweet spot,” says Britney Vickery, Co-Founder of the direct seller of personalized handbags and accessories. In fact, 95 percent of their Creative Partners are 25 to 45 years old. They are new to direct sales, and 86 percent have kids younger than 9. “It’s that former professional woman. It’s the one who might still have a job outside of the home. It’s one who might be looking for a job to stay home with children,” Vickery says.



Shifting Young: Is Gen Y the Answer?

While Gen Ys are often the go-to solution for growth there’s more to this demographic than just youth, and understanding why they behave as they do is the only way to truly see the wider opportunities at hand.

“It’s a natural thing to say, ‘How do we get young people?’ ” Bancino says. “But you have to be true to who you are. It depends on what product you are selling and your value proposition. You can’t appeal to a younger generation by just repackaging something that’s not really in their wheelhouse.”

Gen Ys, or the millennials, grew up in a precarious time for the United States. Suddenly terrorism was within arm’s reach inside the country. China breathed down our proverbial necks, altering global competition forever. Then the 2008 worldwide financial crisis pitted large-scale, traditional financial institutions and employers against Main Street and Mom and Dad. Unemployment rose sharply, career optimism shrunk and Gen Y absorbed it all.

Collectively, Gen Y responded in ways baby boomers didn’t understand. Those in this segment put their heads down and their fingers to work on smartphones, laptops and iPads, as cheap computer power let them share goods and information at record speed. They began idolizing the “geeks”—Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg—who made it possible for them to depend less on corporate America and more upon themselves. Pretty soon Gen Y’s social connectivity—the ability to find, create, share, provide and get feedback—rose in value. They turned authenticity into virtual currency and began to influence the way people of every generation lived.

To misunderstanding eyes, Gen Ys look perpetually distracted. They have no focus. Noses buried in screens all day long, they play on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. So an “us versus them” mentality surfaced among baby boom bosses who just didn’t get millennials. “This ‘us versus them’ mentality actually misses the entire point of the opportunity. What ‘they’ do is a shaping of behavior based on how behavior is evolving,” Solis says.

Disruptive technology like social media permeates the lives of Gen Y, and until companies better understand its impact on all customers and prospects, it will remain an “us versus them” expression.

“This is a big challenge because direct selling is often a very traditional business, similar to many traditional business models,” Solis says. “They can still look at demographics, and they may tend to look at trends like technology very reluctantly. But business as usual won’t thrive in an era dominated by ‘business unusual.’ ”

Gen C = Business Unusual

It turns out this younger generation was really just the catalyst that prompted the “business unusual” era. It’s the fast-approaching, multigenerational surge of connected consumers known as Generation C that wields even more potential power.

Fair warning to direct sellers: Disregarding or underestimating this different type of customer who lives online and is always connected will be bad for a company’s health.


Fair warning to direct sellers: Disregarding or underestimating this different type of customer who lives online and is always connected will be bad for a company’s health.


Generation C is “anyone who places increasing emphasis on technology as part of their daily routine. In many ways, their behavior mimics that of millennials, and as a result, they prove elusive or immune to traditional marketing and service,” says Solis, who coined Gen C in his book The End of Business As Usual.

Gen Cs use smartphones to compare prices online while shopping in stores; browse products through websites or apps on their iPads while watching television; search for online reviews, coupons, and retail locations; and even scan barcodes for product and price information.

Look to Nielsen for proof that Gen C is upon us. Between 2002 and 2012, U.S. Internet access doubled from 132.2 million to 274 million. Smartphones dominated and laptops surpassed desktops for the first time.

IBM’s connectivity sampling of 1,056 people predictably lists Gen X and Gen Y leading, but baby boomers don’t lag far behind. Eighty percent report social-site online accounts. Regardless of age, people are connected to media sharing, microblogging and blogging sites, spending 81 billion minutes there in 2012, according to Nielsen.

“Boomers are, in many cases, as tech savvy as Gen X guys,” Bancino says. “Univera’s boomers are more likely to use email where Gen Xers text. They are all using technology, especially social media. I have more baby boomers on Facebook. I have more Gen X on Twitter. The technology is spreading across all of the groups.”

The Connected and the Not-So-Connected

Connectivity is the essence of Generation C, and for direct selling companies that are paying attention this is where everything begins to change. “You start to see that your customer actually is multidimensional and your customer isn’t just one audience anymore. You have the traditional customer, and now you have this connected customer. Where they go, how they talk, how they communicate, what they value is different in so many ways. You’re having to appeal to two different customer sets,” Solis says.

Amber Olson Rourke, Vice President of Marketing and Culture at Nerium International, says, “Traditional ways of doing things are not conducive to reaching all demographics. You have to be able to meet the needs of many types of customers today. You can’t just communicate by email and phone calls anymore. You have to change the format. Younger generations like to receive text message updates. They like to get blogs and podcasts and things they can digest easily when they have a few minutes of downtime.”


“Boomers are, in many cases, as tech savvy as Gen X guys.”
—Randy Bancino, President, Univera


Vickery agrees: “The major shift we’re seeing, particularly within our demographic, is to electronic: Facebook and text messaging. They just want some things quickly.”

Never before has the customer journey been so complex, especially within the direct selling industry, where customer and distributor journeys run parallel. Direct selling companies must deliver product and business opportunity information in compelling fashion for connected consumers, while keeping their eye on an already existing traditional demographic. And that can get muddy.

“The better you can hone in to find who you are, the better your ability to go out and grab people who are attracted to that,” Vickery says. “Look at who you are, what you are trying to accomplish in the company. What is that vision you want to grow?”

Solis adds, “That’s a philosophical discussion, and that’s a discussion that takes vision and leadership qualities to just press pause and say, ‘How can we do all of this better?’ ”


“It’s not about millennials versus boomers versus Gen X. It’s about a series of profiles of customers. What they value, how they think, how they interact, where they interact.”
—Brian Solis


A metamorphosis is necessary for companies to engage both traditional and connected consumers. “This isn’t easy. This is really complicated stuff because what you’re starting to do is essentially change the very model of your organization and at the same time not completely upset it, but expand or augment it,” Solis says.

The first step is acceptance. Things are not as they used to be. Gen C and disruptive technology may have upset the status quo, but that is where opportunity lives. The second step is introspective analysis and digging deeply into the demographics of the connected consumer.

“When you start to profile your customers, you realize it’s not about him or her. It’s not about millennials versus boomers versus Gen X. It’s about a series of profiles of customers. What they value, how they think, how they interact, where they interact. You start to see they actually paint a series of personas that require product innovation, service and sales innovation, and marketing innovation because no one way reaches them and no one product appeals to every one of them,” Solis says.

The third step is finding the components to attract new customers and distributors in the smartest ways for both traditional and connected consumers.

Digital Darwinism

A real fear for companies across all segments of business is falling victim to Digital Darwinism—where technology and society evolve faster than the ability of business to adapt.

Direct selling companies were some of the first to reimagine disruptive technologies like social media as tools for business growth. “It suited us. It suited the industry. It suited the way we did business. Our people figured out ways to utilize it to enhance their relationships and business-building activities,” Bancino says.

But Solis warns, “Businesses tend to think that they’re adapting because they are seeing an inflowing of social media strategy or they’re creating an app or trying new things. But the challenge here is in thinking technology is the solution.”


A real fear for companies across all segments of business is falling victim to Digital Darwinism—where technology and society evolve faster than the ability of business to adapt.


Vickery agrees: “I’m not going to be able to forge a great relationship with you if all we ever do is text, right? I need to be with you. I need to know who you are. I need to understand where you want to go with your business. You’ve got to teach people how to use technology smartly. You can’t hang out on Facebook all day and grow a successful business. You just can’t.”

But when business objectives are clear, properly harnessed social media tools are a competitive advantage. Jeunesse has a unique, patented sampling technology tied to social networking. “Literally right within Facebook, in the window where a free sample video is posted, it has an open shopping cart where consumers can enter their credit card info for shipping costs only and a shipping address,” Lewis says.

“It allows us to tap into any difference in generational groups because it can be offered through really any social media platform.” Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and any number of international social media sites are all compatible.

Typically, online free samples open up a new URL once clicked, but consumers stay put with this Jeunesse technology. Keeping users glued to a familiar online environment makes social media companies happy and it makes life a little easier for consumers as well.

J.Hilburn’s online closet technology keeps its customers and distributors on the cutting edge of men’s fashion. “We build closet features where, as a customer, you go online and it builds outfits based on what you’ve bought in the past. Our customers always see what’s going to be relevant to them,” Davis says.

For J.Hilburn, the customer value proposition drives every decision. “It’s our first goal,” he says. “The benefit of direct sales is going directly to the customer so you can offer a better value proposition because you’re theoretically cutting out the distributor—the middleperson—and passing the savings along to the customer.”

They build customer relationships based on that strong customer value proposition. “The product is so compelling. Tell a guy he can get a custom-made tie and shirt for $89 and it sells. Where are you going to find that anywhere else in the world?” Davis says.

Where Belly-to-Belly Meets the Share Button

Ever advancing connectivity changes people from traditional consumers to connected ones, and as behavior changes so too must the direct selling approach to relationship building. Belly-to-belly relationships will always have a place in this industry, but the opportunity to instigate and nurture relationships in the online world has infinite advantages too; after all, direct selling’s power lies in sharing.

“Just think about how younger generations are growing up. I mean, they are growing up with the ‘share’ button,” Davis says. “They are actually able to find true like-for-likes, someone who pairs with their needs and their wants very well. The Internet makes that very, very achievable. It connects people that you wouldn’t normally have access to, and it serves up all the different things you can do in the world.”

Vickery says, “The majority of who we serve are women, and they are master mavens.” She loves identifying Initials Inc.’s Creative Partners as “mavens” because they so precisely meet author Malcolm Gladwell’s definition in The Tipping Point. “They connect people,” she says. “They can’t go shopping and get a good deal on something and not go home and tell five friends about it, right?”


“Just think about how younger generations are growing up. I mean, they are growing up with the ‘share’ button.”
—Hil Davis, Co-Founder, J.Hilburn


The same thing happens online, but results are exponentially larger in a networked economy of connected consumers. “It’s this influence that changes the game for how consumers and organizations connect in the future,” Solis says.

Not that long ago, Univera’s baby boomers lamented their lack of digital savvy, but Bancino told them, “I frankly have never in all the years I’ve been in this industry seen anybody build a business by sitting at home in their jammies at their computer. It’s still a relationship kind of business, and technology has enhanced relationships, but in no way has it ever replaced relationships.”

Solis says, “This is actually, I think, a big moment in time where every business could go through an exercise to find greater relevance and meaning in what it is that they’re doing. As millennials arrive, and Generation Z behind them, and more everyday people just become more and more connected, it creates a sense of urgency.” He adds, “It’s not too late, but we are on the cusp of going into full-blown crisis mode, where we’re going to have to change from the inside out in order to not just stay in business, but grow in business. This is not an overnight thing. No one is threatened imminently, but ultimately, everybody’s threatened. “One of the inherent values of a direct selling organization is its focus on relationships from people to people because that is where technology is really going,” Solis says. “Technology is making us all a little bit more human even though it’s making us more digital at the same time. Direct sellers have that naturally built into the model. Now it’s just a matter of adapting that into a modern and constantly evolving era.”

DSA Annual Conference 2013 Held in Phoenix

DSA

The conference theme “Celebrate” had wide-reaching application during the DSA Annual Meeting, held June 9-11 at the JW Marriot Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix. Author and speaker Dan Pink opened the first general session with the great news that technology has not eliminated sales people, as was the prediction a dozen or so years ago. National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones enthralled the audience with a spectacular keynote on creative thinking.

U.S. DSA President Joe Mariano announced that the industry grew in the U.S. in 2012 to $31.63 billion, an increase of 5.9 percent. The number of direct sellers in the U.S. also increased from 15.6 million to 15.9 million. Orville Thompson, DSA Annual Meeting Chairman and CEO of Scentsy, summed up the good news with the statistic that about 13.8 percent of households in the U.S. have direct sellers among them.

The Awards Gala was held Tuesday night, and the elegant celebration announced and honored the seven ETHOS Award winners. These seven winners were selected from more than 130 entries submitted by almost 40 companies. They are:

The gala also celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Direct Selling Education Foundation. Dr. Raymond (Buddy) LaForge, Professor of Marketing for the University of Louisville, was announced as the newest recipient of DSEF’s esteemed Circle of Honor award.

The 1 Percent Difference: Direct Sellers Continue to Make Positive Global Impact

by J.M. Emmert


IN THIS ISSUE:

• Cover Story • 10 Things to Know • Line List 
• Topping the Charts • Profiles • Celebration

BRAVO AWARDS: 
• Leadership • Growth • Momentum


Direct Selling News, June 2013

It’s fascinating to consider the numbers: Of the 7 billion people on the planet, a little over 1 percent are direct sellers.

Just 1 percent. At first, that doesn’t sound like much. However, 1 percent actually equals over 91.5 million people worldwide who have embraced the entrepreneurial spirit by choosing to become small-business owners.

Indeed, direct selling—that microcosm of people from all walks of life and from all regions of the globe seeking new opportunities—is having a tremendous impact on the global stage.

What can 1 percent do? Collectively, it can transform millions of lives for the better, effect much-needed social change, safeguard natural resources and stand at the forefront of job creation. And it can do it all amidst challenging economic times and changing consumer attitudes.


Over 91.5 million people worldwide have embraced the entrepreneurial spirit by choosing to become small-business owners.


Impacting the Economy

Challenges always walk hand in hand with opportunities. That is the nature of any business model. And the direct selling industry has certainly faced its share of challenges.

When the global economy began its decline in 2007 there was cause for concern. How would the industry react? Would it remain stable while the economy plummeted to depths not seen since the Great Depression? When U.S. retail sales steadily declined over the four-year period from 2006 to 2009, that concern grew exponentially.

But the industry always seems to reinvent itself. It is that direct selling moxie that always prevails—that spirit and courage and boundless energy—and allows the industry to shake off the threats, pull up its bootstraps and look for new opportunities to help its people succeed.

It is the ability of established companies to embrace change, and the dogged determination of startups that contribute to the continued success of the industry.


Of the Top 10 companies on this year’s DSN Global 100 list, eight reported double-digit dollar growth over the past three years.


Of the Top 10 companies on this year’s DSN Global 100 list, eight reported double-digit dollar growth over the past three years. And if the first quarter of 2013 is any indication, the future looks promising for direct selling. Several top public companies exceeded expectations or set new records for sales growth, including Herbalife (17 percent), Nu Skin (19 percent), Tupperware (3.6 percent), Natura (5.9 percent) and USANA (9.7 percent).

Looking closely at the Global 100 list, there might be something very telling about this industry and the people who comprise it. Seventeen companies with less than 10 years in the business made their way into the DSN Global 100 list for 2012, accounting for $5.3 billion of the $72 billion the listed companies achieved in 2012. Six of those 17 companies are less than 5 years old, proving that economic uncertainty cannot keep the entrepreneurial spirit down.

And that entrepreneurial spirit is what is needed most today. An estimated 200 million people worldwide are without jobs. Last month, the International Labor Organization reported that the youth unemployment rate is expected to climb from 12.4 percent to 12.6 percent, leaving some 73 million between the ages of 15 and 24 out of work.

So where will the jobs come from? According to a recent USA Today interview with the International Monetary Fund, the global organization dedicated to fostering high employment and sustainable economic growth, unleashing creative potential and the enterprising spirit will encourage growth and lead to job creation.

And when looking for companies that show significant growth and provide business opportunities for those millions out of work, look to the direct selling industry.

Greatest Growth Percentage

Impacting Public Perception


Growth companies and not large corporations are where the action is.


When Inc. magazine released its 31st annual Inc. 500|5000 ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies for 2012, it noted that, “Now, more than ever, we depend on [these] companies to spur innovation, provide jobs and drive the economy forward.” Growth companies and not large corporations, the magazine noted, are where the action is.

The Inc. ranking, which offered a comprehensive look at America’s independent entrepreneurs with substantial sales growth, included several direct selling companies: Stella & Dot (No. 57), J. Hilburn (No. 221), Scentsy (No. 516), It Works! Global (No. 662), YOR Health (No. 1220), Ambit Energy (No. 1305), Initials Inc. (No. 1555), 5LINX Enterprises (No. 2900) and Isagenix International (No. 4951).

The success of such companies is just the tip of the iceberg for an industry focused on changing public perception of the direct sales channel of distribution. The Yankee peddler image that has pervaded the consumer consciousness for more than a century is slowly giving way to a new view of direct sellers.

Today, several direct selling companies stand with the giants in the corporate world. Berkshire Hathaway, parent company of direct sellers The Pampered Chef, Kirby and World Book, ranked fifth on the Fortune 500 list of America’s largest companies. Medifast Inc. (Take Shape for Life) was ranked at No. 10 on Forbes’ list of the Best Small Companies in America.

Tupperware was ranked No. 2 in the Home Equipment category for the World’s Most Admired Companies by Fortune. And Ambit Energy and Primerica were both recognized on the 2012 Information Week 500 list of Top Technology Innovators, an annual listing of the nation’s most innovative users of business technology.

Global Direct Sellers

Impacting Small-Business Owners

Over a century ago, Walker Agents, Fuller Brush salesmen and Southwestern representatives were among the direct sellers aided by a new invention that made it easier to reach customers: the telephone. Today, the innovative use of social media and mobile devices by technology-savvy direct selling companies has allowed would-be entrepreneurs to reap the benefits by staying closely connected to consumers.


What remains the greatest advantage is that direct selling is an environment in which all people have an equal right to success.


But technology is just one of the advantages for those testing the entrepreneurial waters in direct selling. What remains the greatest advantage is that direct selling is an environment in which all people have an equal right to success. Age, gender, religion, education or financial resources do not limit the opportunities.

For those individuals willing to put in time and energy, direct selling truly has significant earning potential. However, people get involved in direct selling opportunities for a variety of reasons, from making a car payment or paying off a debt to making a career change or building a large business. Some become direct sellers in order to purchase products or services they love at a discount. Certainly, being one’s own best customer has advantages.

And the industry—one about people and for people—makes the transition to owning a business easier. There are fewer barriers to entry, with most initial investments less than a few hundred dollars, and ongoing support is provided by their companies.

That support includes training in business skills as well as opportunities for personal development and coaching, which are unequalled in other industries.

The industry also empowers entrepreneurs to use their businesses to make a difference in the lives of others. Many direct sellers are drawn by a company’s corporate social responsibility initiatives. Direct selling, recognized as one of most charitable industries, comprises companies that have been founded on the principle of giving back to others.

In addition, many companies are focused on conservation, helping to create a sustainable environment. São-Paolo, Brazil-based Natura, the No. 5 direct seller in the world, was recently ranked the second most sustainable company on the planet by Canadian research firm Corporate Knights. Companies such as Viridian Energy, which is committed to renewable energy, and Momentis, which instituted a green energy initiative to help consumers offset their carbon footprint, are among the direct sellers striving to save natural resources.


Consumer Goods and Services Offered through Direct Selling


Impacting Consumers


Today a company is measured by its products or services as well as its behavior and respect for the community.


In today’s socially responsible culture, a commitment to others is not only a prerequisite of small-business owners, but also consumers. Today a company is measured by its products or services as well as its behavior and respect for the community.

Today’s consumers want to know the company behind the product—how it behaves and if it respects the environment. They want to feel that when they make a purchase, their money is working to help others, benefiting charities and organizations.

This change in consumer behavior—how and why people are deciding to buy—is changing consumer-supplier relationships. But what has not changed is the industry’s focus on providing quality products and services that enhance people’s lives.

Direct selling companies offer a wide variety of consumer goods, from cosmetics and wellness products to telecommunications and insurance. The most common sales method remains person-to-person, which accounts for 70 percent of sales. (The party plan method accounts for 35 percent.) According to the U.S. Direct Selling Association, 74 percent of Americans have purchased products from a direct seller.

The industry is intent on self-policing and protecting consumers by voluntarily following a strict Code of Ethics, set forth by national direct selling associations and overseen by the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations, which since 1978 has pursued the highest level of ethical conduct in the global marketplace.

If the $160 billion in global 2012 sales across the world is any indication, direct selling will continue to flourish. In fact, many companies are expanding their operations into both developed and emerging markets. Last month Amway announced plans to invest $20 million in a second manufacturing site in Vietnam. Nu Skin is expanding its operations in China, which it expects will top $1 billion in sales for 2013.


If the $160 billion in global 2012 sales across the world is any indication, direct selling will continue to flourish.


LifeVantage and Mannatech are launching in Hong Kong; Neways and Stemtech are venturing into Thailand. Jeunesse Global is opening operations in Australia and New Zealand. And Oriflame, the No. 9 direct seller, is expanding into India.


Top 10 Direct Selling Regions


A 100 Percent Difference

Whether the 91.5 million people around the globe who call themselves direct sellers have been attracted to the industry by the products or the business opportunity, one thing is clear: Direct selling empowers them to better themselves, their families and their communities.

This small minority is helping people enjoy the benefits of world-class products and services, live free from debt, join in the efforts to save the environment and reach out to those in need.

It’s clear that just 1 percent can make a 100 percent difference.


Participation in the DSN Global 100 Ranking

Direct Selling News will again host the DSN Global 100 Celebration in April 2014, based on each company’s 2013 performance. If you believe your company would qualify for the Global 100 ranking and you would like to be notified when research begins this December, please send an email with your complete contact information (name, title, company name and phone number) to editor@directsellingnews.com.

Initials Inc. Founders Named Outstanding Georgia Citizens

Britney Vickery and Ivy Hall, Co-Founders of Initials Inc., were honored with the Outstanding Georgia Citizen Awards during their recent Leader Day at the State Capitol.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp presented the awards with District 10 State Representative Terry Rogers and District 28 State Representative Dan Gasaway in attendance. Sisters Vickery and Hall co-founded Initials Inc. in 2005, having recently celebrated eight years in business.

Leader Day at the Capitol was part of the company’s Annual Leadership Retreat held in Atlanta, with over 65 independent creative leaders and directors from all over the country participating.

With a core philosophy of “There’s only one you!” Initials Inc. is a direct seller of personalized handbags and accessories offered through home parties.

Inc. Magazine Unveils the Inc. 500

Inc. magazine

Original Article

Inc. magazine has announced its 31st annual Inc. 500|5000, an exclusive ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. The list represents the most comprehensive look at the most important segment of the economy—America’s independent entrepreneurs.

Direct selling companies included in the list were Stella & Dot at No. 57, J.Hilburn at No. 221, Scentsy at No. 516, It Works! Global at No. 662, YOR Health at No. 1220, Ambit Energy at No. 1305, Initials at No. 1555, 5LINX Enterprises at No. 2900 and Isagenix International at No. 4951.

Started in 1982, the Inc. 500|5000 has become the hallmark of entrepreneurial success.

In order to make the cut for the 2012 Inc. 500, unveiled in the September issue of Inc., companies had to have achieved a minimum of 770 percent in sales growth. The Inc. 500’s aggregate revenue is $15.7 billion, with a median three-year growth of 1,431 percent. The companies on this year’s Inc. 500 employ more than 48,000 people and generated over 40,000 jobs in the past three years.

“Now, more than ever, we depend on Inc. 500/5000 companies to spur innovation, provide jobs, and drive the economy forward. Growth companies, not large corporations, are where the action is,” says Inc. magazine Editor Eric Schurenberg.

The 2012 Inc. 500|5000 is ranked according to percentage revenue growth when comparing 2008 to 2011. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2008.

Founded in 1979 and acquired in 2005 by Mansueto Ventures, Inc.is the only major business magazine focused exclusively for CEOs of fast-growing, private companies, and delivers real solutions for today’s innovative company builders. Inc. provides hands-on resources and market-tested strategies for managing people, finances, sales, marketing, and technology.

For more information, visit www.inc.com.

To view the complete list: http://www.inc.com/inc5000/list/2012

Options Increase Success for Our Young Company

August 2012

Working Smart

Options Increase Success for Our Young Company

by Britney C. Vickery, President and Co-Founder, Initials Inc.

Initial Inc.

Have you ever thought about the fact that there is only one you? This seemingly simple statement has the uncanny ability to cut to the very core of who you are as a person. It also can inspire you to think about who you want to become. Here at Initials Inc., these four words are our guiding philosophy in everything we do. From our very early years—a mere seven years ago—this philosophy has shaped us as a company, and how we view our journey with some of the most amazing women on Earth! We realize that we do a few things pretty differently, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We believe that our personalized products, our Creative Partners (consultants), and most of all, our entrepreneurial opportunity create not only a fabulous journey, but truly the career of a lifetime.


Our Creative Partners choose. It’s about knowing their audience and being sensitive to their needs.


If you read any of the reports for recent college graduates today, they say they want to be an entrepreneur. Some experts say it is just this next generation’s gig; some say it is simply a response to recent economic times; I say it is the only way to real freedom, and I believe they and millions of others know it and believe it. Millennials want to be who they are but also have a safety net. That’s the beautiful sweet spot of direct selling. It is personal empowerment, and we offer a variety of ways to make that possible. The freedom and flexibility afforded to someone who chooses to shape their future, on their terms, is limitless.

This spirit is the lifeblood of Initials Inc. We purposefully want to attract those seeking a more long-term vision for themselves and their families. As I say to our Creative Partners, “We don’t want to date you, we want to get married.” Even though we are young, we want to go the distance together in creating the most exciting entrepreneurial adventure—ever. We know that the only way we can accomplish this goal is to share our passion, inspire a bigger and bolder way of thinking and give them the freedom to launch on their terms. Each day we are reminded that we are building leaders, not workers.

Entrepreneurial Opportunity

At Initials Inc., we embrace the absolute specialness of you; after all, there is only one of you in the entire world. We also believe that our products are where the deep meaning of personalization and the vast, wide world of fashion and function can collide in a beautiful way. We aim to celebrate the individual for who they are with their single initial, three-initial monogram, name, nickname, or favorite quote, among others. In doing so we also believe that this unique experience should be fun—and free! It is for this reason that since our opening day we have never charged for personalization.

We know that our products allow us to start a conversation, engage in a current way, and ultimately become a part of someone’s life whether they are interested in being a customer, hosting a party or participating in the business opportunity.

And it was so important in the beginning to bring our philosophy together with our products and how we do business. So when Initials Inc. was taking shape, the topic of what we would “name” our consultants was a top focus. A name or a title is a label; it is an immediate brand of who you are. So, as those early discussions were happening, we kept coming back to a partnership, a joint effort in creating a new kind of company—something from nothing. Creative + Partner—it was when these words came together that we said, “That’s it!” It spoke to the very essence of what we were building, together.

Once a Creative Partner enrolls we continue that team spirit by exposing them to as many different ways of selling as we can because we want them to succeed. One example is our training, which is not about showing a standard way to do a party, or about specifically what to say and how to say it. If we say there’s only one way to do a party then we are training to the opposite of our core philosophy of, There’s only one you! We want them to bring them to their business—they should approach their business from the perspective that only they have. The way Mary does a party should be different from Jan’s party, and Jan’s different from Molly’s. Everyone has their own personality and spirit they are bringing to their business. We want them to find an incredible source of freedom in that experience. Some Creative Partners prefer party cards that simply walk through the catalog, some do a formal party presentation, and some have their guests pick a product that speaks to them and share with others how they connect with the product. The parties are all different and unique, just like the Creative Partners who lead them.

In our most recent party training video, there are five of our President’s Council members casually seated in a living room—the council is made up of a total of 10 Creative Partners. They are chatting and openly sharing how they do their parties. One of them will say, “Hey, this is something that I really like and works for me,” and then someone else comes in and says, “Yeah, I tried that and this works too.” Or, “I also like to say it like this … .” It’s total brainstorming and therefore our Creative Partners get to see each and every personality. We say, “Come as you are and let’s go build something amazing together.”

Our Creative Partners choose. It’s about knowing their audience and being sensitive to their needs. They have all these different ways of thinking and doing. It goes back to that entrepreneurial spirit. We want Creative Partners who think on their feet. When they walk into an environment and something is working for them, it is authentic and attractive and they will then do it again and again. If they try something new and things are not going well, we want them to be able to go to their arsenal and turn it around. It is only when someone has been exposed to a variety of ways that they then have the tools and the confidence to respond to their environment.

We further this training philosophy with our Tuesday Training (TT) calls. On these weekly calls we have different members of our sales field train the company on what they are doing that is working for them. So again, we are exposing them and tuning them in to a different way of thinking about their business. There are four to five calls each month that offer insight on things such as hostess coaching, party flow, recruiting conversations, and so on. “Book. Sell. Recruit.,” right? They can do it their way. If they want to do business only through their website, they can. But we know they will find their next hostess or next team member, and have higher sales if they will engage in a party environment. Our top Creative Partners are not doing it only electronically—their website is a bonus to their strong personal party calendar.

Because we are providing a platform for that freedom, it has, in turn, taken away some of the party stigma and helped shape our brand promise of HappyHipHelpful. Removing it from a canned approach, they are not being forced into a mold. It gives them that freedom to be happy in the environment they are creating, be current and hip with their personal and authentic approach and behelpful with how they engage their customers to be a part of their life. That’s the filter we are taking them through, something that is natural and normal for them to thrive within.

Leads Program

After becoming a Creative Partner, one incentive for growth and success is our Corporate Leads Program. Established a couple of years ago it has quickly become a driver for our sales field—they want to be a part of this group and work to do so.

In order to qualify, they must first achieve the rank of Senior Creative Partner, meaning that they have personally recruited two team members and reached a certain sales level. Then the second step is to maintain a sales minimum for two consecutive months. Basing it on these requirements we are assured that they are able to accomplish the basics of selling and recruiting on their own—they are working. We don’t want people in the Corporate Leads Program accidentally; we want it to be something they want to do and are willing to work for. We only want to be passing along leads to those who have the entrepreneurial spirit and want to grow a strong business.

Because we are young and growing so rapidly we receive thousands of leads each month. So we want them to have a propensity to grow a team, and not just through leads. By establishing these two requirements it lets us know that their success wouldn’t have been solely based on our leads program. It confirms that they are working on their own first.

And our Creative Partners have heartily risen to the challenge. We don’t have a cap. Everyone who has caught that vision for more understands the “newness to market concept” that we have by simply being a young company. We positioned it that way, so they have a real opportunity locally on their own and through the leads program nationwide.

Social Media

Another way we engage our Creative Partners and new recruits is through social media. We work Facebook pretty significantly. All our internal groups, such as President’s Council, Boot Camp and others, as well as all leaders and teams, each have their own private pages, in addition to our company Facebook page. We use our internal/private pages to engage with those select users privately, but post daily on our company page to keep it fresh and current and have all of our followers involved in what we are doing now!

We actively do product giveaways each month and might run a share incentive rewarding those who share the most links with their friends. We actively engage, and always link back to the corporate website.

However, with having a strong presence on Facebook we had to quickly create a policy on how we will handle that activity internally. Therefore, we do not process leads from Facebook. If someone is interested in engaging with us or wanting to get more information, we route them back to the corporate site to be processed through the Corporate Leads Program. We want those individuals to get to a person who is a proven personal recruiter and personal seller, and that’s why we have that program. We realized we didn’t want to use Facebook to make the potential recruits feel like they’re being pounced on. Now social media is so much a part of our culture, Creative Partners self-monitor the site and actively direct others back to the company website and the Leads Program. We love that they have taken ownership of protecting the integrity of that program for everyone.

By using social media we are opening ourselves up to the public, so there are sometimes negative posts, but we don’t have anything to hide. So we don’t delete those. We put ourselves in the minds of our consumers because we want them to experience openness and transparency. We know that if they’ve had a bad experience, and we don’t know about it, we can’t fix it. This way we can go in and respond.


We put ourselves in the minds of our consumers because we want them to experience openness and transparency.


Just like people, I believe that each company has its own DNA—they have their own rhythm and feel; they are unique. So, while we know we are a bit different, we are also pretty passionate about our unique approach. We want to create and build a personal opportunity worthy of living for. There’s only one you!—go leave your mark!


Britney C. Vickery is President and Co-Founder of Initials Inc.