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DSEF Welcomes Its Newest Fellows 4/03

DSEF Welcomes Its Newest Fellows 4/03

DSEF launched the Fellows Program to support educational and research efforts to foster a deeper understanding of the direct selling channel and its impact. We now have more than 125 Fellows around the world from a wide range of disciplines – management, marketing, economics, entrepreneurship, sales, consumer studies – and provide them a rich offering of benefits and opportunities.

DSEF warmly welcomes our newest Fellows:

Dr. Yulong Li
Associate Professor of Marketing
Simmons College

Ms. Joanne Cao
Assistant Professor of Marketing
The University of Southern Mississippi

Dr. David Altounian
Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship
Associate Dean of Academic Programs
MBA Program Director
St. Edwards University

Dr. Crystal Scott
Associate Professor of Marketing
University of Michigan-Dearborn

Dr. Mathew Joseph
Emil C.E. Jurica Distinguished Professor of Marketing
St. Mary’s University

Dr. Minjeong Kim
Associate Professor in Merchandising
Indiana University-Bloomington

Dr. Sally Fortenberry
Associate Professor
Director, Center for Merchandise Education and Research
Texas Christian University

Dr. Sebastian Hohenberg
Assistant Professor of Marketing
University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Cathy Curran-Kelly
Associate Professor, Management and Marketing
University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth

Dr. Jeananne Nicholls
Professor, Marketing and Management
Slippery Rock University

Dr. Scott Swain
Associate Professor of Marketing
Clemson University

Dr. Brian VanderSchee
Professor of Marketing
Aurora University

Dr. Diana Haytko
Marguerite and Guy Howard Professorship in Business; Professor of Marketing
Florida Gulf Coast University

Using Data Analytics to Drive Sales

Using Data Analytics to Drive Sales

On March 13, more than 150 students gathered at Elon University for the “Using Data Analytics to Drive Sales” panel discussion hosted by the Center for Organizational Analytics and Direct Selling Education Foundation. The panel featured Bassam Alqassar, Vice President of Information Systems and Technology at Princess House, and Yemi Mateola, Director of Solution Delivery and Architecture at ACN. The panel was moderated by student Matthew Jegier, graduating class of 2018, a finance and management double major.

How data drives sales in direct selling companies is unique, due to independent sales representatives, who are also consumers. “We look at how we can build information between devices and networks to best understand behavior,” Mateola says. A company’s ability to use data to anticipate and prepare for the future is critical. “It’s not just looking at the data and reporting what happens,” says Alqassar, “but also recognizing patterns to determine what could happen.”

For any direct selling company, integrating analytics into company culture can be challenging, but well-worth the effort. “It’s no secret, data drives everything nowadays,” says Mateola. “Culturally, every department has to find ways to take data more seriously, because using it produces better results and longevity as the business moves forward.” Alquassar agrees. “The biggest lesson we learned at Princess House was that people have to first change their mindset of how they think about business,” he says. “The three key aspects of embracing a data-driven culture include spending time analyzing not only what happened, but also what will happen; ensuring data quality because without that, data can be misleading; and knowing your focus as a business, so you can accomplish what you set out to do and not become lost in the analytical process.”

What are the most important trends in data-driven sales, in the next five years?

“Deep learning as a compliment to machine learning is at the top of my list,” says Mateola. “The importance of the Internet of Things cannot be understated.” Alqassar agrees.”There is so much information we cannot comprehend,” he says, “and with computer power we are able to input information, make a correlation and establish a cause and effect.”

In a data-driven age, employers are hiring college graduates that have a full complement of skills. Hard and soft skills go hand-in-hand when it comes to success. “You could have the greatest analytics idea,” says Alqassar, “but if you don’t know how to present it you will not be able to move forward and deliver your message effectively.

Technology needs to be part of, not separate from, a company’s business strategy. “Every company today is a technology company, so it is key to look at the business first and then see how technology can enable the company to deliver the business goal,” says Mateola.

Co-Creating Value in a Tech-Enabled Marketplace

Co-Creating Value in a Tech-Enabled Marketplace

From left, Jeff Dahl (31 Gifts), Tami Merica (Nerium Intl), Roger Morgan (pawTree)

The direct selling business model is predicated on creating value with its customers to build distributor networks. How our business model creates value through relationships and impacts business performance was discussed with nearly 900 students at the University of North Texas (UNT) on February 22.

DSEF’s “Co-Creating Value in a Technology-Enabled Marketplace” campus event, which featured three leading company executive speakers, was an idea conceived by DSEF Fellow, Dr. Lou Pelton, Associate Professor of Marketing and Logistics at UNT. With the rise of web-based, mobile and social technologies, customer expectations continue to rise. But faced with a myriad of choices, customers are turning to trusted sources – family members, co-workers and friends – when making decisions on a product or service purchase. “Direct selling is the 21st-century’s channel for optimizing value delivery in customer relationships,” says Lou.

In traditional retail, when wholesale manufacturers sell through retail distributors, they have very little control in how the product is sold or whether the customer leaves the store or website happy and satisfied. In direct selling, companies can visualize the customer journey and provide their independent salespeople with the training, tools and support needed to create it. “How do you create value with your customers? Not by putting products on a shelf,” says Roger Morgan, Founder and CEO of pawTree, a pet nutrition company. “Our products are best tried and trusted through relationships.”

Relationships are the heart and soul of every direct selling company. A company’s customers often sign-on to be salespeople, who in turn, share the value of the product with family and friends and motivate others to do the same. “Whether you work as a direct seller or start a company of your own, consider how you can add value,” says Tami Merica, Vice President of Sales at Nerium International, a premium skincare company. “Recognize people for their work. Create your own personal brand. Be a positive influence in someone’s life.”

Having a positive impact in people’s lives extends well beyond business, for many direct selling companies. “Five percent of our company’s revenue is given to charitable organizations every year, but not many Wall Street companies give at this level,” says Jeff Dahl, President of Thirty-One Gifts. Direct selling companies are uniquely positioned to make a difference in the lives of their customers, their independent salespeople and in their communities.

Channel Strategies for Digital Consumers

Channel Strategies for Digital Consumers

The advancement of digital technologies, mobile devices, and social media has led to significant changes in the way consumers shop. “Once considered a newest trend, omni-channel retailing is now the standard, but direct selling is rarely discussed as a channel option in college classes,” says DSEF Fellow, Dr. Jay Ryu, Associate Professor of Interior Design and Fashion Merchandising at Texas Christian University (TCU). “What’s great about hosting direct selling executives in the classroom is they share their sales and marketing strategies with our students and broaden their awareness.”

DSEF’s “Channel Strategies for Digital Consumers” campus event at TCU featured executives from four direct selling companies – Essential Bodywear, Initial Outfitters, Jamberry and Youngevity. Speakers discussed integration of various online strategies to support the direct selling channel, including use of online parties, websites, mobile apps and social media with more than 320 students and faculty in 13 classes. The event concluded with a real-time interview of our speakers on Facebook Live.

“Direct selling is about empowering individuals to be your distribution channel,” says Brian Posalski, Director of Digital Marketing for Youngevity, “and to build brand awareness across as many consumer touch points as possible.” Companies provide an online platform and develop marketing campaigns that distributors use in their businesses. Integrating marketing communications provides a seamless branded experience, regardless of channel or device. It benefits a company’s salesforce and customers, but it can be challenging as well. “As a company, we have to keep up with the changing channels,” says Alicia Storbeck, President and Founder of Initial Outfitters. “Facebook marketing, Instagram marketing, Snapchat marketing – all are critical for a viable company.”

A corporate marketing department standing ready to support their independent salespeople with websites, social media and promotional campaigns is only one advantage of the direct selling experience. Low start-up costs and flexible work hours are other hallmarks. Research shows that how successful an independent salesperson becomes is strongly associated with the number of hours worked, (Join Stay Leave study). “Direct selling is really customizable,” says Elizabeth Thibaudeau, CEO of Jamberry, “you can work as little or as much as you want.”

Finally, the skills gained through the direct selling experience are often transferrable to other jobs. With entrepreneurship on the rise and corporate jobs declining, college graduates need to be competitive in the employment space. They need people skills to be successful. “In my experience, relationship-building is often what’s missing in most college programs,” says Carrie Charlick, CEO and Founder of Essential Bodywear. “Direct selling companies focus on personal training and development of their independent salesforce. We fill an important gap.”

Amway’s 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Report

Amway’s 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Report

Amway’s 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Report examines intrinsic and extrinsic factors that impact potential entrepreneurs. The data is based on survey data from nearly 50,000 people across 44 countries. Here are five of the most important findings to get a high-level overview of this year’s results (source: Amway).

  1. The global business environment has room to improve to be entrepreneurship-friendly.

Nearly 50,000 people were asked about different aspects of entrepreneurship, including technology availability, the education system, taxes, rules and regulations, and their country’s economic situation. As you might expect, there remains great opportunity to improve the global business environment. Unsurprisingly, people don’t find their country’s taxes manageable (only 33 percent do), nor do they think their country provides easy-to-understand rules and regulations (only 24 percent do).

  1. One of the most significant barriers to starting a business is the fear of failure.

It’s hard for people to start a business because they are afraid to fail. Less than half of people surveyed say they’d be willing to risk failure to start a business. Possibly, it’s because people see starting a business as a giant endeavor — a significant commitment. And it can be. However, there also are ways to start a business that are relatively low-cost and risk-free – direct selling is one of them.

  1. People need the most help raising money for their business idea.

When asked about different areas respondents would need help with when starting a business, raising money rose to the top, at 23 percent. In the traditional business scene, you’re investing a lot of your personal money, asking friends and family for support or pitching investors to finance your business. In direct selling, the average cost of a sales kit is just over $100 and includes a 90 percent buy-back guarantee.

  1. People prefer to build a team, rather than work alone.

When asked whether people prefer to work alone or hire people, the majority (57 percent) opted for building a team. In direct selling, you can create your own business – work independently or develop a team.

  1. Personal service still matters

In today’s digitally connected world, personal service is still significantly valued. The research found that 75 percent of people prefer to service customers personally than digitally. This trend remained consistent with even the under-35 demographic, countering the common perception that millennials prefer virtual interaction over interpersonal and indicating that personalized service is still highly valued around the world.

Direct Selling as a Business Opportunity in New Economy 

Direct Selling as a Business Opportunity in New Economy 

Direct Selling as a Business Opportunity in New Economy:

Nearly a quarter of all Americans earned money from part-time “gigs” over the past year, reports CNN Money. Young adults are more likely to have a side hustle than any other age group, and universities, seeing a decline in corporate opportunities for graduating seniors. These young adults are exposing to part-time business opportunities in classrooms across the nation.

“Direct selling should be included in class discussions about the sharing economy,” says DSEF’s 2017 educator of the Year, Dr. Brenda Cude, Professor and Undergraduate Coordinator at the University of Georgia (UGA). “DSEF campus events are a great way to educate students about direct selling companies and their independent sales force.”

DSEF partnered with Dr. Cude to host the “Direct Selling as a Business Opportunity in new economy” campus event on October 18, during the signature event of UGA’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS). Executives from leading direct selling companies were invited to explore topics on ethical business practices. Direct selling as a side hustle and social responsibility with nearly 1,000 students at UGA and Athens Technical College throughout the day.

Unlike most income-earning opportunities in the gig economy, direct selling offers several distinct advantages to independent contractors.

Britney Vickery talking about EconomyIn many companies, direct sellers serve not only as entrepreneurs, who provide solutions to company leaders that enable course corrections. “I have a council of creative partners. These partners provide feedback on products, sales campaigns and new team members. says Britney Vickery, CEO and Founder of Initials, Inc. “As I grow my team, it’s all about what we can do together. That’s the power of direct selling.”

Karin Mayr

Direct selling also offers opportunities for new economy people to invest their time in social causes. Young adults, in particular, want work with a purpose, according to Deloitte’s 2017 Millennial Survey.

Karin Mayr, CEO and Founder of Sabika, Inc. shared her company’s remarkable story of partnering with its jewelry consultants on two social causes. Breast Cancer Research and ChildLaw Services to assist abused children. For the past seven years, Sabika consultants have raised $1.7 million for breast cancer research through product sales and commission donations. “I wanted to connect women from all walks of life. We choose direct selling because it enables us to do that,” says Karin.

Dave MerrimanMoreover, direct selling affords micro-entrepreneurs business support that most side hustles do not. “In direct selling, you work for yourself, but not by yourself,” says Dave Merriman. Who is the Executive Vice President of ACN, Inc, a telecommunications and energy services provider. “You run your business, manage your costs, build and train your team, but the company creates training tools and provides websites for each independent business operator.”

Furthermore, start-up and overhead costs are low for independent contractors, based on the provisions of DSA’s Code of Ethics. Konrad Mayr, Special Advisor to Sabika, explains. “At Sabika, we have a trunk show system. Consultants place orders for display products for their home parties and send any unused items back. We don’t require our consultants to hold inventory. The risk is ours to manage.”

In addition to providing students with a real-world view of direct selling as a business opportunity in new economy, the event inspired future entrepreneurs to believe in themselves and their business ideas. “When I started Initials, Inc., I was told by an investor to go home and be with my kids,” says Britney. “My advice is that you can’t listen to negative talk, you have to buck up and go do it. When it’s your idea, you can see farther than anyone.”

DSEF Welcomes Its Newest Fellows

DSEF Welcomes Its Newest Fellows

DSEF’s academic partnerships serve to inform and educate students – highlighting direct selling as a go-to-market strategy and pathway to entrepreneurship and micro-entrepreneurship.

DSEF warmly welcomes our newest Fellows:

Dr. Honghui Deng
Associate Professor of Business Administration
University of Nevada

Dr. Nawar N. Chaker
Assistant Professor of Marketing
Elon University

Dr. Ronald E. Michaels
Professor & Chair, Department of Marketing
University of Central Florida

Dr. Kacy Kim
Assistant Professor of Marketing
Elon University

Dr. Ramarao Desiraju
Professor of Marketing
University of Central Florida

Dr. Mark Bergen
Associate Dean, James D. Watkins Chair in Marketing
University of Minnesota

Mary Hunt
Assistant Professor of Business & Psychology, Internship Coordinator

Dr. James Lynch
Associate Professor of Management and Law
Brooklyn College

Dr. Annie Liu
Associate Professor, Marketing
Texas State University

Dr. Angeline Close Scheinbaum
Associate Professor, Advertising & Public Relations
University of Texas at Austin

Ms. Heather Cooper Bisalski
Instructor of Management
Dalton State College

Dr. Kaustav Misra
Chair and Associate Professor of Economics
Saginaw Valley State University

Ms. Wendy Plant
Director, Center for Student Engagement
Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship
Florida State University

DSEF and USASBE Announce Call for Papers

DSEF and USASBE Announce Call for Papers

DSEF, in partnership with the U.S. Association of Small Business’s (USASBE’s) Minority and Women Entrepreneurship SIG, is pleased to announce a 2017 Call for Papers. Winners of each of the six categories will receive $1,000 and an opportunity to participate in one of three annual industry conferences (U.S. domestic travel reimbursed). To submit an entry, please email an electronic copy directly to USASBE. Use the conference submission site at

Submissions must follow the guidelines set forth by USASBE for competitive papers.  They must be typed in 12-point font and no more than 30 pages in length. All submissions must include:

  • An academic abstract (no more than 100 words)
  • An executive summary (no more than 300 words). The executive summary should include a synopsis of the central thesis, methodology, findings, how the author’s work contributes to the advancement of direct selling and entrepreneurship and how the findings can be implemented.
  • Fully developed paper (not developmental)
  • Winning papers must be presented at the USASBE conference in Los Angeles during January 2018.

Key Dates

Submissions Accepted: May 15 to October 15, 2017.
Proceedings Due: December 15, 2017.

Recommended Topics

Direct Selling Entrepreneurship among Underserved Populations: Direct selling offers people of all backgrounds an opportunity to launch independent businesses in any product or service sector, with the intention of empowering millions of would-be entrepreneurs who left out of the mainstream economy through factors such as inability to access higher education, prohibitive job training costs, and challenges in adhering to fixed employment schedules due to family or other commitments. Topics may include, but are not limited to the following communities/demographic groups: military spouses/personnel, veterans, minorities (African-American, Hispanic), rural residents, and women.

Direct Sellers as Intrapreneurs and Entrepreneurs: Corporations are investing in innovation and record levels and have begun to focus on building core competencies around innovation and intrapreneurship. Direct selling companies are uniquely positioned to receive immediate feedback from their independent salesforces – that serve as both intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs – to generate faster problem-solving, innovation and competitive advantage.

Ethics in Entrepreneurship: The direct selling industry has a long history of protecting direct selling entrepreneurs and their customers through self-regulation.  This differs from gig economy companies (Uber). All Direct Selling Association (DSA) member companies are required to adhere to a Code of Ethics as a condition of membership. Companies go beyond the Codes to provide ethics training for their salesforce.

Entrepreneurship Comparison – Direct Selling, Etsy, Start-ups: Direct selling companies create the products and brands, conduct R&D, implement compensation plans, manage IT systems, track inventory, provide customer service through call centers, maintain quality controls, ship, and provide a royalty-free platform for marketing sellers’ independent businesses.  All of these empower would-be entrepreneurs to build a business and learn valuable business skills for the cost of a start-up kit (average cost: $100).

Direct Selling Company Case Studies:  The stories of and decisions facing direct selling companies can provide excellent material for case studies.  The founders have identified opportunities in compelling ways, made strategic decisions, and faced numerous challenges.
Social Entrepreneurship:  Many direct selling companies make social entrepreneurship a foundational component of their business model. Independent contractors are drawn not just to the entrepreneurial opportunity and products, but to companies’ philanthropic efforts, which are often tied to product sales.

About DSEF

The purpose of the Direct Selling Education Foundation is to engage, equip and empower educators to provide students with an accurate understanding of the direct selling industry as a powerful go-to-market strategy, distribution model and entrepreneurial option, and to teach the correct principles of direct selling, with an emphasis on ethical business practices.

DSEF partners with members of the academic community to support research and education programs that expand knowledge and understanding of the fundamental principles of direct selling. The Foundation works with professors in a variety of disciplines—including entrepreneurship, marketing, ethics, business and economics—to deliver multi-faceted programming aimed directly at the contemporary issues facing direct selling companies and consumers in a global marketplace. DSEF also sponsors campus programs to help students and faculty better understand direct selling as an industry, a channel of distribution and a pathway to entrepreneurship, and to introduce them to career opportunities at direct selling company corporate headquarters. We also sponsor and support various events, projects and initiatives, like campus events, to further support our overall mission: DSEF engages and educates the public about how direct selling empowers individuals, supports communities and strengthens economies worldwide.

About Direct Selling

Direct selling is a retail channel used by top global brands and smaller, entrepreneurial companies to market products and services to consumers. Companies market all types of goods and services, including jewelry, cookware, nutritionals, cosmetics, housewares, energy and insurance, and much more.

The direct selling channel differs from broader retail in an important way. It isn’t only about getting great products and services into consumers’ hands. It’s also an avenue where entrepreneurial-minded Americans can work independently to build a business with low start-up and overhead costs.

Direct selling consultants work on their own, but affiliate with a company that uses the channel, retaining the freedom to run a business on their own terms. Consultants forge strong personal relationships with prospective customers, primarily through face-to-face discussions and demonstrations. In this age of social networking, direct selling is a go-to market strategy that, for many companies and product lines, may be more effective than traditional advertising or securing premium shelf space.

DSEF Answers “Call For Action”

DSEF Answers “Call For Action”

CFA_logoSometimes, consumers need a little assistance when trying to resolve disputes with businesses, government agencies and other organizations. Call For Action (CFA) is an international, nonprofit network of consumer hotlines that connects people with the help they need to solve their problems.

In October, CFA held their Annual Conference in St. Louis, MO, where local office directors heard presentations on common consumer issues from companies like Google, AT&T and Visa. DSEF was a conference sponsor, and Director of Consumer Initiatives Regina Clay spoke to the group about the Foundation, the direct selling industry, DSA’s Code of Ethics and the differences between legitimate direct selling companies and illegal pyramid schemes.

“Your presentation was very informative and beneficial to our group—I received a lot of great feedback,” says Eduard Bartholme, CFA Executive Director. “Your willingness to share your expertise with our directors will help us to better assist consumers with problems.”

Call For Action partners with more than 25 local media outlets, and information collected by CFA on trends and new frauds affecting consumers is used by radio, newspaper and television partners to prepare news reports. CFA information is also provided to consumer protection agencies and regulators. More than 1,000 volunteer professionals donate over 300,000 hours a year to help consumers in need.