Forces Under 40 2017

by DSN Staff

Click here to order the March 2017 issue in which this article appeared.

DSN is thrilled to showcase the most outstanding young professionals working in direct selling companies today. These honorees represent all aspects of the business—from technology and marketing to finance and field services—and represent the fine talent of tomorrow. We know it is imperative to nurture and encourage the young leaders in our channel in order to secure the brightest future possible for all.

These dynamic young leaders are broadening the scope of the companies they work for as well as our entire channel of distribution. Based upon the enthusiastic nominations of the honorees presented here, the future is bright indeed. The program was open to all full-time professionals working in active direct selling companies who turned 40 years old on or after Jan. 1, 2017. The honorees are presented in alphabetical order with each profile including the thoughts and words of the honoree’s respective company.

We also want to thank our generous sponsors, Avalara and Fossil.


…. Continue to the Honoree’s profiles.




Ava Anderson Announces Closure, Cites Critics and Manufacturing Setbacks

One of direct selling’s promising young companies, Ava Anderson LLC, will undergo a change of name and ownership as the founding family pulls out of the business, according to an announcement posted Tuesday on the company’s website.

Then 14-year-old Ava Anderson and her mother, Kim, founded the company in 2009, on a mission to provide everyday products free of harmful chemicals. Ava, the granddaughter of direct sales icon Charlie Collis, Founder of Princess House, is passionate about building awareness of potentially harmful ingredients in common products and the possible long-term effects of exposure. That passion is evident in a TEDx Talk, “Toxic Baggage: A Journey to Healthier Living,” Ava presented in October 2013 at her high school alma mater.

Now preparing to graduate from Babson College in Massachusetts, Ava has led the company as CEO and Director of Product Development, supported by an executive team that includes her mother and father, Frohman, who serve as President and Executive Vice President, respectively.

In a statement to customers, the Andersons said both harassment of Ava and recent business troubles are behind its decision to shutter Ava Anderson. The family asserts that the company and its young CEO “have been disparaged and harassed unrelentingly for years online and in person, at speaking events and in her daily life.”

DSN’s April 2015 feature on Ava Anderson reveals Ava as a hands-on leader, one who even took the time, as did her mother, to personally respond to questions and comments on the brand’s Facebook page, now defunct but at the time followed by more than 62,000.

“We withstood the attacks because we felt the message was so dear to us, as well as the tremendous responsibility we have always held for our employees and independent representatives, who have built important incomes through hard work and dedication to their businesses,” the Andersons state.

Setbacks in production also took a toll on the family business. Management recently informed Ava Anderson Consultants and customers that a handful of suppliers had violated contractual agreements, adding ingredients banned by the company into several of its 80-plus products. “We created this line to share an important health message and are devastated to have discovered this,” the family said. The statement does not disclose whether any of the criticism cited was tied to the company’s manufacturing woes.

Despite the challenges besetting the business and its founder, Ava Anderson boasts a nearly 200 percent annual growth rate. More than 12,000 Consultants sell the brand’s personal- and home-care products, and upwards of 80 employees make up its corporate team. With that foundation in place, Ava Anderson’s experienced management team plans to re-open the business under a new name and branding. According to the company, the new enterprise, slated to launch days after Ava Anderson closes in February, will offer many of the same non-toxic product formulations.

2015 DSN North America 50 List

The DSN North America 50DSN Announces the 2015 North America 50!

This marks the sixth year for the Global 100 list of top direct selling companies in the world, and we would not be Direct Selling News if we did not continually strive to raise the bar.

That is why we are pleased to share with you a new component of the project this year: The North America 50. As a subset of the Global 100, this list draws attention to the most significant players in one of the world’s largest direct selling markets.

As DSN embarks on the annual research for the Global 100, we continue to refine the process as we identify the largest companies and acknowledge their achievements while bringing attention to the magnitude of the direct selling industry as a whole. Within that context, the impact that North American companies have on the global marketplace as well as on those that buy and sell through this channel cannot be overstated.

The following contains the North America 50 ranking for the 2015 DSN Global 100 (based on 2014 revenues). Both lists will be published in the June issue of Direct Selling News.

2015 Rank

Company Name

2014 Revenue

1 Amway $10.80B
2 Avon $8.9B
3 Herbalife $5.0B
4 Mary Kay $4.0B
5 Tupperware $2.60B
6 Nu Skin $2.57B
7 Ambit Energy $1.50B
8 Primerica $1.34B
9 Stream Energy $918M
10 Shaklee $844M

Click here to see the rest of the DSN North America 50 List.

90 Days of Direct Selling – Day 69


Princess House Inc.

2012 Net Sales: $154 million

Country: USA

Princess House is a premier direct selling company dedicated to empowering people to start flexible, home-based businesses through the sale of superior quality kitchen and entertaining products.


2012 Rank: 73
2012 Net Sales: $148 million
Sales Method: Party plan and group sales
Compensation Structure: Multi-level
Products: Cookware, kitchenware, home décor
Markets: 1
Salespeople: 36,000
Employees: 218
Headquarters: Taunton, Massachusetts
Executive: Connie Tang
Year Founded: 1963

Direct Selling Execs Share Insight in Women’s CEO Panel

Tuesday’s closing general session of the Direct Selling Association Annual Meeting featured an insightful roundtable discussion with four of the industry’s women executives.

While women have always represented the overwhelming majority of direct sellers, their presence in board rooms and executive suites has more closely resembled the makeup of wider corporate America. In 1972, only 4 percent of U.S. businesses were run by women. By 1991, that number had grown to 38 percent. Today, women run 8.3 million businesses nationwide.

To hear firsthand their perspective on challenges and opportunities facing the industry—and its women leaders—Ruth Todd, Nu Skin Vice President of Public Affairs, sat down with Lori Bush, President and CEO of Rodan + Fields; Traci Lynn Burton, Founder and CEO of Traci Lynn Fashion Jewelry; Kay Napier, CEO of Arbonne; and Connie Tang, President and CEO of Princess House.

From their vantage point, the women have witnessed many changes for their fellow women in the industry. A current trend, said Napier, is the increasing number of professional women, and men, entering direct selling.

“It’s become more of a legitimate choice to choose this profession and lifestyle, and not just as a side job, a hobby or a social outlet,” Tang agreed. “People see it more in terms of truly providing something meaningful for women and their families.”

The panel also shared some common misperceptions they encounter as women leaders, including the notion that they can’t handle constructive criticism. “By virtue of what position we’re in, people infer we don’t want feedback or to know when we’re wrong,” said Napier. “I’ve worked to surround myself with people who aren’t afraid to tell me when I’m off track.”

One point from Tang struck a chord with her fellow panelists, who enthusiastically agreed. “I think there’s a myth that we’ve figured out how to balance life and work. There is no such thing!” said Tang. “Balance is interpretive and unique to each individual. Work-life balance implies there are equal parts, and that’s a myth.”

When the conversation turned to connecting with salespeople in the field, Burton encouraged leaders to make sure their interactions involve more than just products and business.

“What I would suggest is that you give them a value add—something that has nothing to do with the product. If you want to develop that relationship, you have to have the value add of personal development,” Burton said.

Bush shared a piece of life wisdom she often tells her own salespeople at Rodan + Fields: “Embrace the journey. You might not find that success makes you happy; there’s a higher possibility that happiness will make you successful.”

The Most Influential Women in Direct Selling

by Beth Douglass Silcox

Order reprints of Connie Tang’s profile here.

Princess House Products

Connie Tang
President and CEO, Princess House

Princess House

Expectations can be tough to manage and, as women, “we tend to overthink,” Connie Tang says. “Every time you take on a role, you act on your own assumptions.” She remembers coming into Princess House as the first female president and CEO of a 50-year-old company and drawing her own conclusions of what people expected.

“That can be extremely overwhelming and daunting, so setting expectations for yourself and meeting and managing them is key.”

Strong women leaders, no matter the title on the business card, tend to be independent free thinkers, but often they struggle to exhibit the same levels of confidence and independence in the boardroom that they do within their personal lives. Tang says, “I have learned that independence is not a sign that you are not a collaborator. It doesn’t mean you are not a team builder. Independence is a sign of strength. It takes courage and confidence to exercise independence and free thinking when it is necessary.”

Tang considers herself a “diplomatically candid” leader that shares the vision and shows the way without pushing. “You might feel that you could make more progress if you push, but pushing is hard and doesn’t engage. Pushing repels and doesn’t foster ownership and accountability,” she says. Ultimately, she wants everyone to own the success and be able to identify exactly what has been accomplished. To Tang’s way of thinking, this is a very good way for leaders to bring people along.

Connie Tang, President and CEO, Princess HouseAs a steward of a company and a brand, as well as the thousands of Princess House businesses that independent business owners run, Tang understands her fiduciary responsibilities and the importance of managing both the person and the professional during times of transition, evolution and innovation. “Popularity is not what defines you in terms of your effectiveness or your ability to lead or your productivity,” she says.

Tang’s goals for Princess House in 2014 revolve around consistency. “It’s very hard to stay the course, to not be distracted and stray. But the foundation of the business is about the building blocks of developing a sales field and opening up the opportunity even more,” she says. Princess House set out to expand three years ago by re-instilling a recruiting culture. “That’s the lifeblood of our business!”

It’s with deep appreciation that Tang speaks about the opportunities she’s been afforded on the corporate development track within the direct selling industry, and the ability as a female executive to help such a resilient gender continually craft who they are. A gratified and humbled Tang says, “A very positive transformation goes on emotionally, mentally and physically within our sales field members. They look and stand differently, they talk differently, and they walk into the room differently. That’s what’s brilliant about what we do.”

Tang believes that moving up the executive track changes the look and feel of personal development. She says it becomes more about people development and management mixed with good practical skills. About cultivating future female executives she says, “We have to work more intentionally on the development of skills in managing and influencing people as part of the team, as well as leadership development.”

While Tang encourages female growth, she says Princess House is a gender-neutral company. “I develop mentors here, offer advice, listen to, and advise equally across the board. As the CEO, I feel responsible for the success of both genders.”

Connie Tang on personal development…

“I have a voracious curiosity to know things, to learn things. I stay up on the beauty and personal-care side, as well as nutritional supplement development because that’s my history. I read a lot—international relations and regulatory, omni-channel consumerism, CEO strategy and Harvard Business Review. I’m constantly reading.”

Connie Tang on leadership…

“A leader offers opportunities for individuals to draw their own conclusions from information and helps them weave through the minefield of distractions. Projects come up, and when you look at them piecemeal it might seem like just another thing to do, but leaders help others understand how projects line up toward achieving strategic goals.”

Princess House

It’s been 51 years since Charles Collis founded Princess House, a direct selling pioneer offering hand-blown, cut-glass crystal and collectibles. Today, the company is a leading provider of quality home and entertainment products, including its line of Princess Heritage Stainless Steel Cookware.

Leveraging its strength and honoring its heritage and traditions, while revitalizing and refreshing its business going forward, is the company’s priority. Last July, Princess House hosted the company’s first bilingual national leader summit for all top U.S. leaders. It was the first national business conference of any kind in over a decade. The event, which was a stepping-stone to an inaugural national convention slated for July 2014, provided networking and sharing opportunities as well as integration of learning and company synergy.

About 25,000 consultants, two-thirds of whom are of Hispanic descent, market Princess House products in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. To better serve them, the company is in the first stages of new back-end technologies and a third-party logistics facility on the West Coast.

Princess House ranked 73rd on the Direct Selling News Global 100 for 2013 with revenue of $148 million in 2012.

Order reprints of Connie Tang’s profile here.

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,

Executive Connection with Tim Brown, Founder and CEO, Jamie Oliver At Home

In this month’s Executive Connection, Direct Selling News Publisher and Editor in Chief John Fleming speaks with Tim Brown, Founder and CEO of Jamie Oliver At Home, about leadership, falling in love with the industry, and sharing the mission of health and well-being.

DSN: What is the one thing you enjoy most about being the CEO of Jamie Oliver At Home?

TB: Working with our wonderful team, building the mission and sharing it with as many people as possible.

DSN: Launching a new company is obviously a lot of work, but what has been the most fun about it?

Tim Brown

Tim Brown

TB: To be able to work with all the things that we’re passionate about: being in the kitchen, good food, Jamie Oliver, and his message to help others. So many things have been fun, and they connect all our passions. It’s been wonderful to work with such an amazing young man and to launch his first commercial business in the United States.

DSN: What is your long-term vision for the company?

TB: To be able to support our amazing Better Food for a Better Life community and to spread our mission of health and financial well-being.

DSN: If you hadn’t become an entrepreneur, what career path would you have taken?

TB: I love to be in the kitchen, to garden and to exercise. I would probably have chosen a path in health and fitness.

DSN: How did you get into this industry?

TB: I cut my teeth in this industry as an independent distributor for Reliv International. At the time, I was working with Christian Dior Perfume when friends introduced us to their products. I worked that business for three years and fell in love with the industry. Then I was recruited to work at Princess House, where I learned so much about our great direct selling business model.

DSN: After all these years, what still gets you excited about direct selling?

TB: People. We’ve heard the expressions B-to-B, or B-to-C. I like to refer to direct selling as P-to-P— people to people. How exciting it is that we get to build the platform for independent entrepreneurs to have their own businesses.

DSN: What other direct selling company or leader do you admire most, and why?

TB: I have always admired my mentor, Charlie Collis, the founder of Princess House, and Doris Christopher of The Pampered Chef for their amazing vision and the communities they each created.

DSN: What’s on your bucket list?

TB: I feel so fortunate and blessed that every day I get up and do the things I love. There are lots of things I want to do, and I do them as I can. I’m living my bucket list.

DSN: You and your wife, Amelia, are a team, not only in life but also in business. What does her involvement in Jamie Oliver At Home mean to you?

TB: It’s beyond words. It’s so cool. We’ve been able to raise our family together, and we have two beautiful children. She is such an amazing partner and person. We talk about business all the time now, and it’s fun. We’re creating so many unique things, and we’re helping a lot of people. That’s our goal.

DSN: What’s something few people know about you?

TB: I’m a bit of an open book. I love to ride bikes, play in our garden and pray. Maybe people don’t know that I have two brothers and four sisters. Or that I’m an amateur photographer. I love taking pictures, and I’m told I have an eye for a great photo.

The Synergy of Successful Styles Between Party Plan & Network Marketing Companies

by Barbara Seale

Even though most direct sellers classify themselves as either party plan companies or network marketers, the truth is that the lines aren’t so clear cut.


DSN October, 2013Take a lingering look at many companies in the industry and you’ll find that many use predominantly one style or another, but they aren’t at all rigid about it. They’ve often adopted an element or two from the other style, and they don’t see it as so unusual. It just works for them. It’s all part of the big, blended direct selling family.

When asked about their practices, companies in this story proactively called themselves “hybrids.” But every company noted that their sales and recruiting styles were developed because they made sense for them. In fact, those practices have resulted in solid finances and growth that any company would covet.

Princess House President and CEO Connie Tang is a veteran in the industry, having held several executive positions before taking the helm at Princess House last year. She notes that party plan companies developed as an opportunity for women to earn a little “fun money.” The focus was on selling products at a home party, not on recruiting. While consultants did build teams, they often focused more on sales. But today’s party plan company, including Princess House—especially since Tang arrived—has evolved to look a little more like a network marketing company than it did a generation or two ago. The simple reason:economics.

“Part of what has continued to push that evolution is the need to be competitive from a business development and comp plan perspective,” Tang says. “This diversification came to fruition because of the need for companies to have long-term prosperity, so it’s been like investing in our own portfolio.”

Today’s party plan company has evolved to look a little more like a network marketing company than it did a generation or two ago. The simple reason: economics.

Recruiting Revolution

She notes that when party plan consultants broaden their practices beyond finding hostesses and holding parties—and they grow by building teams and coaching new recruits—they accomplish a couple of important things. First, they increase their immediate earnings opportunity beyond what they can produce by their individual efforts. Second, and just as importantly, they protect their business from unpredictable factors such as economic downturns. It’s good for the consultant and good for the company. Tang shifted the focus at Princess House to place more emphasis on recruiting, holding network marketing-style hotel opportunity meetings and training consultants to talk a bit more about the company’s earnings opportunity during parties, even as they sold its high-quality, durable products.

“We had to find ways to reach more consumers,” Tang says. “When we focus more on sponsoring, then we have more ambassadors out there building the business.”

That seemingly simple shift in focus produced impressive results. Princess House said Happy New Year in 2013 to 40 percent more consultants than it had a year before.

For Tastefully Simple too, recruiting gets started at parties where guests nibble from the company’s wide selection of convenient, easy-to-prepare foods designed to help people spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the rest of their lives. Tastefully Simple has two types of gatherings. Relax and Savor is a traditional party where consultants share products and information and then take orders at the end of the party; and Mix and Mingle is a less-used and less-formal come-and-go gathering where guests and consultants float from product area to product area, socializing, snacking and sometimes selling each other on delicious products. In both, the focus is on product sales and social interaction.

“We’re clearly a party plan company,” says Travis Bautz, the company’s Vice President of Marketing. “We’ve done a fair amount of research on the whole party dynamic to try to understand where people draw value from it. For us, they’re social reasons, learning reasons and product reasons,” he explains. “The trick is how to deliver a great experience when people have increased pressure on their time.”

Even for a proud party plan company committed to group selling, one-on-one interactions are still part of the process.

Passive Sales, Positive Profits

Tastefully Simple relieves some of that pressure by offering something more associated with network marketing companies: an auto-ship program called Simply Stocked. With about 40 standard products included, the program is highly customer-centric. Users can choose whether their favorite products are shipped to them every two, three or four months, and they can change their order at any time. While most sales are made at parties, the Simply Stocked program adds an element of predictability to consultant commissions, making life even simpler for customers.

Bautz admits, though, that even for a proud party plan company committed to group selling, one-on-one interactions are still part of the process.

“That’s especially true on the business opportunity side,” he notes. “For us, those conversations often start as a party interaction and finish as one-on-one. At parties, there are small conversations—we call those ‘sprinkles,’ references to the business opportunity that lead to an opportunity to talk one-on-one with the guest later.”

As much as Tastefully Simple and Princess House are clearly party plan proponents, a few companies in the industry are harder to classify.

“We were hybrid when hybrid wasn’t cool,” says Arbonne Senior Vice President and Chief Sales Officer Heather Chastain. “It’s an example of how Arbonne has always been a little ahead of the times. We recognized 15 or 20 years ago that it isn’t just one or the other. We’ve always had hostesses as an element of our plan, but we eschew party language. We refer to them as group presentations. But our history is that we’ve always used a combination of methods.”

“When you’re offering multiple ways of doing business, you’re giving consultants great ways to overcome common objections.”
—Heather Chastain, Senior Vice President and Chief Sales Officer, Arbonne

Chastain notes that the flexible sales approach was developed to adapt to the needs of customers. Whether consultants talk to their customers one-on-one or in a group presentation, they’re making a business decision based on customer preferences. But whether the discussion is between two people or 20, Chastain notes that it’s still about people, products and opportunity. It’s just a question of emphasis.

“When you have those three things, it’s usually a matter of where you start,” she says. “A one-on-one conversation typically starts with opportunity. A party starts with products. But ultimately, from start to finish, you’re still hitting all the elements.”

Having options for how consultants run their businesses helps them be successful, and Chastain notes that most successful consultants run a pretty evenly balanced business. Arbonne’s data shows that about 60 percent of their business comes from individual discussions.

“When you’re offering multiple ways of doing business, you’re giving consultants great ways to overcome common objections,” she notes. “You don’t have to ask people to hold parties if they don’t want to. Make it work for you.”

Arbonne’s hybrid system works for them; 2012 net sales were $377 million, up from $353 million in 2011.

Party—A Lot

Self-proclaimed hybrid Vemma is a network marketer that builds its fast-growing business through get-togethers it calls home events, even though they’re often not held in homes. The language was carefully chosen to be inclusive and appealing to the broad demographics of its distributors, or Brand Partners, especially the youthful cadre that builds businesses on Vemma’s energy drinks. Their version of a “party” has revolutionized the term.

“The word meeting sounds boring to a lot of people, and a party, well, it’s much more than that to us,” says Mark Patterson, Vemma Executive Vice President, Marketing and Brand Development. “One of the biggest changes for us is the frequency of them. I just came from a big event where I heard kids saying, if you really want to ignite your business, have at least two home events a day. Many shoot for five. Lots of people hearing that would think they were crazy, but these kids are just actively seeking three to five people. They don’t plan the events. They just use social media to say things like, ‘I’ll be here, here and here today. If you’re interested in doing more or being healthier, meet me there.’ ”

While their fellow distributors from an earlier generation hold more traditional Vemma tasting parties, millennial distributors’ events may be as short as 15 minutes.

The “kids” Patterson is talking about are Vemma’s Young People Revolution (YPR), an exploding group of millennials whose leaders coined the term The Five M’s—More Meetings Make More Money. While their fellow Brand Partners from an earlier generation hold more traditional tasting parties, the YPRs move fast. Their events may be as short as 15 minutes. In addition to making heavy use of social media, they use Vemma’s business app to send texts—the preferred communication method for their generation—to their contacts. The text may include a video of an experienced leader making a simple business presentation. With the business side of the “home meeting” already in place, they can appear with their cooler of Verve products, tell their story, maybe show their new car and close the deal.

“Our recruiting effectiveness has skyrocketed by doing these kinds of things,” Patterson says. “Our new focus is on helping to foster and train new people coming in to be leaders themselves. The rapid personal development and the excitement among this group are amazing. The other benefit of frequent, small home events is that the more you do it, the better you become at it, and that makes you more effective.”

Even though many events are held on the go, Brand Partners actually do hold events in homes, as well as in larger public places, often collaborating with other distributors to maximize impact.

“We encourage people and teach them that we’re all on one team,” Patterson says. “When we’re united, we can do many more things. I’ve seen one of our stronger Brand Partners holding a big meeting and people from a variety of teams coming together. The combination of stories is powerful, and the meetings are very inspirational.”

Explosive Growth

Scott Schwerdt, Nu Skin’s President of its Americas Region, says that regardless of a company’s marketing methodology, it’s still all about customer acquisition.

They’re also inspiring explosive growth. Vemma recently announced that sales reached a record-breaking $20 million a month in July. After taking seven years to reach the $10 million monthly sales mark in July 2012, Vemma has now doubled that just 12 months later. In addition, Vemma monthly customer and Brand Partner enrollments reached the 30,000 mark for the first time this July.

Industry stalwart Nu Skin has always walked the party plan/network marketing line, driven by its lineup of demonstrable products. Scott Schwerdt, Nu Skin’s President of its Americas Region, says that regardless of a company’s marketing methodology, it’s still all about customer acquisition.

“For as long as I can remember—and I’ve been with the company for 25 years—our distributors have always used home parties to demonstrate products,” Schwerdt says. “That method is particularly applicable for products that provide immediate results. That’s been our hallmark from when we were founded in 1984 until today.”

Schwerdt says that the company doesn’t call itself a hybrid, though. Nu Skin is a social business model that uses network marketing as a method of compensation for customer acquisition. Host-driven home parties are simply part of the company’s business method.

“On their own, our distributors will take the initiative to provide gifts to hosts or to do trade shows,” he says. “They’ll use any initiative they can in order to get their business in front of customers.”

Nu Skin’s most profitable draw is its auto-ship program. An astonishing 72 percent of all shipments are on the auto-ship program. While that number indicates strong customer loyalty, it also provides both the company and its distributors a predictable income. And that creates what all direct sellers want: retention. The thriving auto-ship program was a happy side effect of web technology.

Tech Leadership

Nu Skin has provided replicated websites to its distributors for almost 10 years, but over the last year has migrated toward mobile devices and apps. It already offers several Internet-related tools and continues to expand its mobile platform, providing distributors with an increasing number of methods to know exactly what their customers are doing so they can respond appropriately. The mobile platform works hand-in-glove with other products that open doors. Take the Biophotonic Scanner, an innovative tool Nu Skin developed to measure blood antioxidant levels without actually taking blood—an irresistible way to pique interest in Pharmanex supplements. In its first generation in 2003, “You almost had to move into someone’s house to do a scan,” Schwerdt jokes. Now in its third iteration, it’s smaller and operates using an iPad and a Bluetooth connection, making it the perfect conversation starter for spontaneous one-on-one interactions.

“You can do a scan any place in 30 seconds now,” he says. “It’s an instant-on device they can pack in their purse or briefcase. We have distributors who are scanning on planes, even hotel lobbies.”

The combination of technology, group sales and a strong auto-ship program creates loyal customers as well as distributors who stick around. Everybody wins. That creates a strong revenue stream. In July, publicly traded Nu Skin announced that it is increasing its full-year 2013 revenue guidance by $320 million to between $2.83 billion and $2.86 billion. Revenue in 2012 was $2.17 billion.

Train for Success

Blended styles that result in fast growth arise from effective training. These companies make sure that their distributors know how to party and that they also know how to recruit. But Princess House ran into a challenge that every company would love to have. For years, the company had stellar skills at retaining distributors, giving it an experienced salesforce. When it started placing more emphasis on recruiting, its success in attracting so many new consultants changed the face of its salesforce. Consultants with relatively little experience needed to learn skills from the ground up—how to hold a party that results in sales, how to work with hostesses and also how to recruit. Princess House consultants typically recruit during individual conversations after a party, but less experienced consultants had to learn how to plant the opportunity seeds while they ran a party—a skill that can be tough to master. The company responded by revamping its training completely.

“We promote that talk about the opportunity happens throughout the course of the party. That allows people time to process and develop questions. It’s a very different goal than ‘I have to close the sale.’ ”
—Connie Tang, President and CEO, Princess House

“We just launched to our leadership group a completely new consultant success system that fine-tunes coaching on party behaviors,” Tang explains. “We promote that talk about the opportunity happens throughout the course of the party. That allows people time to process and develop questions. It’s a very different goal than ‘I have to close the sale.’ Planting those ‘whys’ in the conversation throughout the evening is one of those difficult, intangible skills to acquire, but that conversion is very important. That’s what we’re trying to teach.”

The skill is the same one Tastefully Simple teaches so its consultants can effectively drop “sprinkles” throughout a party.

“We train to that,” emphasizes Tastefully Simple’s Bautz. “We have a structure we recommend for the party with lots of examples of language and ways they can use ‘sprinkles’ and other techniques. The most value is to new consultants.”

Then when consultants follow up to talk opportunity individually, Tastefully Simple provides them with numerous tools—both print and online—to increase their comfort and to support the conversation.

No matter which camp a company identifies with, if they adopt a technique from the other method, it’s a practical decision that they adapt to fit their own culture. And why not? Direct selling is an industry that freely shares information and where member companies learn from each other.

Vemma’s Patterson says it well: “I don’t think people are opposed to adopting good ideas, no matter where they are. I think we’re in a society now where we’re very used to change, and this industry as a whole doesn’t mind adapting.”

No Lines

Retention | RevenueTwo-year-old Chloe + Isabel (C+I) defies description, at least in traditional direct selling terms. Neither party plan nor network marketer, it has an omni-channel approach, according to its Founder and CEO Chantel Waterbury. The company doesn’t just color outside the lines; it erases them.

“When I speak with people, even investors, about C+I, I say that we’re disrupting the direct sales industry,” Waterbury says. “But we are similar to other direct selling companies in that we’re an income opportunity for people. When I think about the heart and soul of the industry, they’re all offering opportunity through products.”

C+I’s distributors, called merchandisers, disrupt not only the direct selling industry but also the brick-and-mortar retail industry. They sell C+I’s jewelry primarily through online storefronts, social media, pop-up shops that provide a temporary physical presence, in-home parties if they wish, and by building an individual clientele. Most use a blend of techniques.

Waterbury developed C+I with tech-savvy Gen Y in mind, and virtually all merchandisers—average age of about 26—sell online through the company’s unique e-boutiques. The branded websites are completely customizable, allowing the merchandiser to choose collections, individual pieces of jewelry, or even tips on how to style the jewelry. As a result, every merchandiser’s site is unique, even while they maintain the Chloe + Isabel brand.

The company invests a lot in each merchandiser. First, prospects apply to become a merchandiser, and C+I interviews them to be sure they’re the right person for the opportunity. The next consideration is the market. C+I doesn’t want to oversaturate a given market and place merchandisers in competition with each other. About 15 percent of applicants are selected. The new merchandiser gets lots of corporate-led training. College students, whose needs are unique, get enrolled in a special training program called GEM, Growth and Empowerment through Merchandising. Every new merchandiser is assigned a mentor, who does everything from providing moral support to answering ad hoc questions, to connecting the new merchandiser with a like-minded community of other merchandisers. The mentor is an experienced merchandiser who has been promoted to that position.

“Through that process, we’re making sure they’re fully thinking about what this opportunity is, why they are choosing Chloe + Isabel, what their goals are and why they would be successful,” Waterbury explains. “We’re focused on everyone succeeding.”

The results? Just look at direct selling’s two Big R’s, retention and revenue.

“Let’s just say we’re not having a retention problem,” Waterbury says. “It’s so easy for [a merchandiser] to remain active. She is highly engaged with our community, so she’s going to be producing and selling. When she first comes to us, we’re asking, ‘Why are you here?’—they need to really clarify their ‘why.’ In that environment, there’s a difference in how someone treats it. They’re successful because they’re here for a reason. And with online boutiques, it’s easier to sell when you don’t have to do it in person all the time. She can wake up in the morning to an order.”

And the bottom line: revenue. Chloe + Isabel’s revenue in Q2 of 2013 was double that of the previous quarter.
For Chloe + Isabel, selling without borders is a successful way of life.

Diversity = Opportunity

by Barbara Seale

Direct Selling News • July 2013

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

What do age differences, ethnicity and even cultural practices have to do with your business? Everything, but only if you want to secure a thriving future.

The Latino, African-American and Asian populations are responsible for more than 90 percent of the population growth in the United States, with annual buying power of almost $4 trillion—more than the combined economic buying power of Brazil, Russia and India—according to Miriam Muléy, CEO of marketing consultancy and research company The 85% Niche LLC. Since almost three-fourths of direct sellers are white non-Hispanics, those statistics translate into the word that this industry loves the most: opportunity.

The Latino, African-American and Asian populations are responsible for more than 90 percent of the population growth in the United States, with annual buying power of almost $4 trillion.

To racial diversity, add age diversity. Since 2000, the average age of direct sellers has slowly been skewing younger, according to statistics from the U.S. Direct Selling Association. But in the last couple of years most companies report that more millennials are becoming direct sellers. They’re driven by crushing student-loan debt combined with poor job prospects. The industry has responded by providing them with everything from products to mobile apps, all designed to create an irresistible opportunity for young people—one that the traditional direct selling population is learning to love, too.

Put it all together, and you can almost envision that door to the future opening wide. The companies who spoke with Direct Selling News about how they address diversity in their salesforces offered insights and ideas on attracting and retaining this new sales field, all while integrating them with the women and men who have already made those companies successful.

Three of the companies have unique salesforces within the industry, with muscular ethnic representation that started unintentionally and then grew organically.

Princess House, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, has a consultant PHamily, as they call it, which is more than 75 percent Hispanic. Twelve-year-old 5LINX doesn’t track the ethnicity of its distributors, but a quick glance at the company’s website reveals that all of its Platinum Senior Vice Presidents are people of color, primarily African-Americans, and 5LINX has launched a focused effort in the Hispanic community. Belcorp USA’s field is 60 percent Hispanic—mostly women who take pride in the company’s Peruvian roots. And while PartyLite’s salesforce had a more traditional industry profile for most of its life, its vigorous support of younger recruits is changing the face of the company.

All those companies look at every facet of their business through the lens of the diversity of their salespeople. Whether it’s products, communications, events, training or any of the other elements of creating a successful salesforce, diversity is a consideration. And not just today’s diversity, but the composition of tomorrow’s salesforce, as well.

Come for the Products

Princess House says that its strength lies in its diversity, and the company goes to great lengths to ensure that it embraces diversity in all its forms. President and CEO Connie Tang notes that the company’s strategic decisions typically take consultants’ ages, cultures, backgrounds and language preferences into consideration. For example, when the company recently launched new dinner service products, it considered the needs of several audiences.

“We made sure the collection had standard white table settings, but we accessorized with tapas-style plates that are more colorful to target a younger audience and maybe single, apartment dwellers,” Tang explains. “Though tapas is Hispanic in origin, it’s becoming very popular. They all stack on the footprint of the platter, which makes them space saving. So we’ve created something that appeals to a younger age group, as well as an ethnic population. And the smaller plates might also appeal to someone a little older or who is watching her weight, because they help with portion control. So depending on who we’re talking to, we can adjust our message. From a merchandising point of view, we also show the plates with a variety of foods depending on the target audience.”

Products were the key element that attracted 5LINX’s ethnic salesforce. One of its initial product offerings was a Voice over IP Video Phone.

“We were blessed because the people who originally saw the opportunity and took it seriously happened to be people of color or from other parts of the world.”
—William Faucette Jr., Vice President of North American Sales, 5LINX

“We didn’t set out to create an overwhelmingly ethnic salesforce. We just wanted to create a successful one,” says Vice President of North American Sales William Faucette Jr., who started his 5LINX career as a distributor. “We were blessed because the people who originally saw the opportunity and took it seriously happened to be people of color or from other parts of the world. They went to people they know, who are like them ethnically and otherwise.”

Thanks to the worldwide connections of its salesforce, 5LINX quickly began shipping video phones all over the world. And distributors began telling their friends—people like them—about the opportunity.

With its Latin heritage, cosmetics company Belcorp USA has a keen understanding that the “Hispanic” marketplace is actually composed of several different markets.

“We don’t approach it as one block,” explains General Manager Mona Ameli. “We approach by country of origin and by the generation. For example, a first-generation Mexican is very different from a third-generation Colombian. They’re both of Latin origin, but the different countries have different cultures and different approaches. And first generations—people who are the first in their families to immigrate to the United States—are quite different from later generations who were born in this country. First generations often don’t have bank accounts, and they are not as technologically advanced, so their use of computers and the Internet is more limited. They also are more strongly identified with their husbands. But the second generations that are born, raised and educated here are very independent and will make the same use of technology as anyone else raised in this country. First-generation consultants have a high degree of comfort with a company from their home country. They buy the products and resell them. Second and third generations have more leadership, and they grow the business.”

With its Latin heritage, cosmetics company Belcorp USA has a keen understanding that the “Hispanic” marketplace is actually composed of several different markets.

She notes that product preferences are pronounced. Mexicans choose a color palette that is vibrant and colorful. Peruvians and Colombians prefer more subdued colors. Even their fragrance selections are different. And because they continue to identify with and take pride in the cultures of their countries of origin, those preferences persist across generations.

Welcome to the Diversity Party!

As much as direct sellers hope to attract ethnic distributors, many of them have an even broader view of their diversity goals and the strategies they use to achieve them. PartyLite, for example, is seeing its traditional salesforce broaden to include Generation Y and, perhaps most surprisingly, men.

More than 68,000 PartyLite Consultants hold parties to show the company’s candles, candleholders, home fragrances, accents and food from its Two Sisters Gourmet division. The company has taken a traditional approach to its business since its beginning 40 years ago. But recently, it began to modify its methods.

“Six or seven years ago we had an epiphany about what diversity is and what we want our salesforce to be,” says Vice President of Sales for the U.S. Karen Conkey. “We thought about what we offer people—the opportunity to earn income, and not a specific kind of income. At one time our approach was that people should work this as a career and earn a six-figure income. But we learned to open our thinking and position ourselves as a business where people can earn $50 or $500,000, and that opportunity is open to everyone. That’s different than thinking that we want to attract more Hispanics or Asian-Americans.”

PartyLite also recognized that as its leadership got older, it needed to attract a younger group of consultants.

“It has always been our task to be in the 25–35 age group, and we recognized that they demand a very different working environment than a 55-year-old.”
—Michael Norris, President, PartyLite Americas

“For the survival of any company, it’s essential to reach out to a younger generation,” observes Michael Norris, President of PartyLite Americas. “It has always been our task to be in the 25–35 age group, and we recognized that they demand a very different working environment than a 55-year-old. They execute sales in a lot of different ways, not just in a sitting room. They’re the drivers of our future, so we knew we needed to invest in the right tools—social media and apps for smartphones and tablets that allow for ease of doing business and provide training.”

Their overriding strategy: Be welcoming. As simple as that sounds, the strategy extends far beyond smiles and snacks to include all online activity.

“Over the last seven years, we’ve really embraced our online business,” notes Tracie Graham, PartyLite’s VP of Sales & Administration in Canada. “When we started attracting a group of savvy online users, we knew we needed to provide options for how both customers and consultants want to do business. We’re embracing the next generation of not just party plan but direct selling men and women. Ultimately, what’s exciting about PartyLite is they don’t have to pick or choose. If you want to have a party, great. But if you want to do business online, you can do that, too.”

Even the company’s language changed. They realized that “opportunity meeting” and “income opportunity” were alien words to Generation Y, so they changed their marketing jargon, tailoring it to their audience. Catalogs and online materials are now heavy on images and light on text. Customer service includes a “chat” function that is widely used by younger consultants, and communication options include Gen Y-friendly text alerts.

The strategy is paying off. In the United States, some 25 percent of its business is from people who only do an online business, and on a recent incentive trip, 40 percent of the people enjoying the rewards of their hard work were under 35 years old.

It’s still important, however, to recognize the significant portion of consultants who might prefer the traditional or “offline” approaches. For example, on the other end of the age spectrum, PartyLite is noticing more post-retirement consultants. They come for several reasons. They don’t have the income they need to live the lifestyle they want, or they’re simply not ready to settle into full retirement. Their PartyLite business gives them lifestyle flexibility, and it keeps them social.

PartyLite provides those retirees, as well as longtime consultants, with the traditional tools they need, but they also introduce them to newer ways to build their business. They’ve found that seasoned consultants and leaders have begun to embrace online opportunities as a key part of their businesses.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by conversations with seasoned leaders and Regional Vice Presidents about how they’re using the online space in their business,” notes Joan Connor, Vice President of eCommerce & Marketing. “The PartyLite Preferred loyalty program also has been beneficial to them. It lets hosts, guests, online shoppers or anyone who purchases at a party join the program and earn rewards on their first purchase. They can redeem the rewards exclusively online for a full-price product.”

PartyLite’s opportunity is also becoming gender-neutral. The people who invite friends into their home have universally become “hosts.” In fact, Norris noted that he recently attended a gathering of leaders in Quebec where seven of the 20 attendees were men.

Products reflect that male influence, with more masculine fragrances, diffusers and candleholders. Women buy them for the men in their lives, and men buy them for themselves. Connor says that she helped her college-age son decorate his new apartment with the most masculine candle warmer and fragrance she could find. Soon he asked for more.

Overall, PartyLite’s primary approach to diversity is to support its emerging populations, rather than to actively target a particular group. Service and their welcoming strategy cross all boundaries.

“Once you start attracting a certain type of person, they’ll attract their circle,” Connor observes. “As a company, when we start to see that trend, we support it. We acknowledge them and make sure we’re sensitive in responding to their needs.”

Taking the Next Step

When product passion transforms into entrepreneurship, even more thoughtful tailoring begins. Take recruiting, for example. 5LINX began a concerted effort to expand its Hispanic marketplace by aggressively helping its current Hispanic leadership advance to the next level. They’re targeting their efforts in the heavily Hispanic communities of Miami. They learned that while Spanish was essential, they also had to learn to speak the language of flexibility.

“It’s about leadership and who in your leadership is having success,” says Executive Vice President of Marketing Jeb Tyler. “We really focused on supporting their success by gearing marketing materials to that group’s needs. And we hired three individuals whose backgrounds reflect those of our Hispanic representatives to support that market.”

They developed a Hispanic logo, a Spanish-language company website and Facebook page, a DVD, a marketing magazine, and webinars and weekly meetings in Spanish. They also established an advisory group composed of Hispanic leaders who have helped 5LINX modify materials and processes so that individuals can envision themselves as 5LINX independent marketing representatives, whether their country of origin is Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba or elsewhere. 5LINX runs Spanish-only regional meetings and business opportunity meetings, and the corporation sometimes subsidizes the cost of a booth at a trade show or an important meeting.

Special events in the emerging Hispanic communities are typically shorter, start later in the day and are highly social.

“Sometimes the corporation has to help them get their feet off the ground with marketing dollars or support for that market,” Tyler notes, “whether it’s a brochure they need or a product that they really see helping that market, like our credit-card processing product.”

Special events in the emerging Hispanic communities are still packed with all the same elements that 5LINX provides at their international events, but they have their own special flavor. They’re typically shorter, start later in the day and are highly social. And leaders who usually drive the events have had the chance to teach both Tyler and Faucette a little salsa dancing!

The efforts have paid off. Last year alone, 5LINX tripled its number of Spanish-speaking leaders.

Belcorp USA’s Ameli notes that training Hispanic consultants, as well as providing them support, is as social as the events they attend. And consultants—especially first-generation—don’t hesitate to voice their concerns when their social, familial cultures aren’t practiced.

“They know someone in customer care, and they have a relationship with them,” Ameli explains. “Phone calls begin with updates on the consultant’s children and families. They really appreciate that. Occasionally I’ll get a call about a new customer service agent from a leader, who says, ‘Mona, she’s too sales-y. She goes right to business. You need to train her.’ For them, being social is part of our culture and part of their culture. It’s not just about business.”

She notes that training is often face to face. Belcorp USA has hired a field development team whose backgrounds reflect those of their consultants to deliver training and support to Hispanic consultants across the country. The company’s commitment to diversity is getting attention too. In April the National Diversity Council recognized Ameli among the 2013 Most Powerful and Influential Women in the state of California, based on the professional success and empowerment of multicultural minorities in the United States.

The Language of Flexibility

DiversityFaucette has noticed cultural diversity that is geographic in nature. For example, he says that the building block of the 5LINX business is the private business reception in someone’s home, and hotel meetings typically offer a second look at the opportunity. For regulatory and professional-presentation purposes, the company mandates that certain information is presented. But flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to style.

“In some parts of the country, you won’t see a presenter in a suit,” he observes. “He or she will have teams in T-shirts and jeans. That may differ from area to area. The amount of audience participation also varies culturally. Meeting length varies both culturally and geographically, along with the music you may hear. Some meetings are more relaxed and more of a social gathering than others. We allow all those things. At the end of the day, the leader is driving his or her business and income. As long as nothing is a poor reflection on the company or the rest of the salesforce, we’re flexible. They’re not going to do anything that they haven’t found to work.”

Connie Tang, President and CEO of Princess House, believes that the Asian community is an untapped market in the United States, particularly Filipinos and Vietnamese, who she describes as “primed for entrepreneurship.”

Hotel opportunity meetings play an important role at Princess House too, and Tang says that the nice venues create credibility—a key factor for a first-generation immigrant population. The meeting doesn’t emulate a home party, but products are on display because they’re part of the Princess House story and credibility. Support tools show that prospects won’t be in business by themselves.

“Most important is making sure you have consultants speak, not people from the corporation,” she explains. “We bring in people from that community who have been with the company for a while. They explain how they started and where they are today. In-language is important, but language is not the only factor to consider. The pictures you show in your presentation and the leaders attending are extremely important. Make sure you know and understand who you’re targeting. If you understand the leader you’re partnering with, they’ll know who will show up.”

Tang believes that the Asian community is an untapped market in the United States, particularly Filipinos and Vietnamese, who she describes as “primed for entrepreneurship.” Still, she notes that the Asian community is a difficult target market, beginning with the hundreds of languages and dialects involved. Creating supporting literature and customer support in so many languages is an economic challenge. And a party-plan company faces some inherent difficulties because culturally most Asians don’t typically invite strangers to their homes.

But Tang and other direct selling executives agreed on one core principle: Diversity is essential for the future of their companies.

“Diversity is the norm,” Tang states flatly. “Look at the schools our kids go to. Look at the shopping malls. We’re a diverse society. If you’re not attuned to it, you’ll have limited growth.”

The Business Case for Diversity

When Miriam Muléy talks about diversity in business, she cuts straight to the bottom line.

“Diversity offers a tremendous upside for growth, especially as the traditional mainstream markets begin to decline in size and begin to age,” she says. “There are multiple ways to look at the benefit of diversity, and the first is ROI. There is a huge positive impact on profit margin, market share and increased sales revenue.”

Muléy, CEO of strategic marketing consultancy and research company The 85% Niche LLC, and former General Manager at Avon Products Inc., points to a study by sociologist Cedric Herring that was published in the American Sociological Review. Herring found that companies reporting the highest levels of racial diversity brought in nearly 15 times more sales revenue on average than those with the lowest levels of racial diversity. Gender diversity accounted for a difference of $599.1 million in average sales revenue. Organizations with the lowest rates of gender diversity had average sales revenues of $45.2 million, compared with averages of $644.3 million for businesses with the most gender diversity. Herring also found that racial diversity is a better predictor of sales revenue and customer numbers than company size, age, or the number of employees at any given work location.

Muléy explains that the concentration of ethnic populations varies tremendously from one region to another, so she suggests that company leaders think locally. Companies can support distributors in those heavily ethnic markets with training materials or even connections with grassroots organizations where they can build trust.

“If companies do not get their arms around diversity and the opportunity it presents for enhanced ROI and incremental sales to a vibrant segment of the consumer and distributor market, they are leaving money on the table,” she predicts. “Geographic areas where consumers are largely diverse are a huge opportunity for incremental business. Added to this is the fact that diverse consumer groups, especially Asians and African-American women, are better educated than ever. U.S.-born Hispanics are increasingly well educated also, providing an opportunity for direct sellers to reach a discriminating buyer and seller at the same time.

Growth is so fast in ethnic populations that Muléy refers to them as the “emerging majority.” And they often shatter the myths about their incomes and buying habits. For example, Muléy reports these traits:

    • 4.2 million African-American, Hispanic and Asian households earn at least $100,000 annually.
    • There are 1.3 million multicultural millionaires.
    • The buying power of women of color is $1.5 trillion and will grow to $1.7 trillion by 2017.
    • Apparel purchases by this emerging majority of women are 3.5 times more than by non-ethnic consumers, and personal-care purchases are three times more.
  • A disproportionate amount of beauty products, as well as health and wellness products, are purchased by Latina, African-American and Asian consumers.

Muléy says, “This opportunity is too large for corporations to overlook or tiptoe into. A proactive, sustained commitment to growth is needed to compete and win with emerging majority consumers.”

“This opportunity is too large for corporations to overlook or tiptoe into. A proactive, sustained commitment to growth is needed to compete and win with emerging majority consumers.”
—Miriam Muléy, CEO, The 85% Niche LLC

Her advice for recruiting in ethnic communities: Look at every tool you use and ensure that it reflects the face of America. From websites to catalogs, and from opportunity presentations to parties, integrate the cultural considerations of the populations you want to attract. For example, when you invite family-oriented Hispanics to meetings or parties, don’t be surprised when they bring their children. And if necessary, have a translator. Food is always welcome at direct selling events, as it sets a tone of “family” and sharing among diverse groups. In addition, she notes that role modeling and mentorship are important to retention, including field leadership as well as staff and management teams.

“To the extent I can see myself reflected in the leadership of the organization,” Muléy says, “I will believe it’s possible for me to make it and even exceed that level of performance.”