For more than 25 years, DSEF’s Campus Days at colleges and universities across the country have connected direct selling executives with students and educators to advance understanding of our industry.
The Foundation’s most recent Campus Event on March 27 provided a powerful venue to shine a light on direct selling—both as a channel of distribution and as an entrepreneurial and opportunity. Connie Tang, CEO, Princess House, and Britney Vickery, Founder and CEO, Initials, Inc., were featured presenters during the University of Georgia’s (UGA) Thinc Week—an annual campus-wide initiative designed to inspire entrepreneurship among students and faculty.
Connie Tang, CEO, Princess House
“Participating in the UGA Thinc event was an exhilarating experience to meet, see, hear and talk to tomorrow’s entrepreneurs,” Connie said. “The opportunity to share insights to what independent business ownership means in our direct selling world hopefully opened their eyes to how our industry can be a vehicle to achieving their goal of being in business for themselves, which they might not have otherwise considered.”
DSEF Board Member and UGA Professor Dr. Brenda Cude hosted the Foundation presentations as part of “Start Something…On Your Own,” an event for undergraduate students in five different courses at UGA as well as students from Athens Technical College.
Britney and Connie shared their “real world” experience with more than 400 students who will be among tomorrow’s entrepreneurial and business leaders. “The enthusiasm, encouragement and strong personalities of these powerful women are so inspiring!” one student said. “I have always had an interest in starting my own business but was afraid to try as I don’t feel ‘smart enough.’ After hearing these women, I am motivated and driven to ask for help and live my dream.”
Britney and Connie capped off their visit with a panel discussion attended by more than 130 students as well as UGA faculty and staff. Rich McCline, Senior Public Service Associate for UGA’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, moderated the panel.
“It was a remarkable day!” Britney said. “Not only was I given the platform to talk about being an entrepreneur, but I was also able to show students how I harnessed my passion for entrepreneurship through a very unique business model. Many of the students knew someone who had sold products through direct sales, but they had no idea how large and far reaching our industry was.”
The event featured opening remarks from Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and panelists from several industries—including Direct Selling Association President Joe Mariano. “This public forum not only demonstrated our industry’s commitment to ethics, it embodied the Foundation’s mission to advance understanding of the direct selling business model and our industry’s leadership role in consumer protection,” said Gary Huggins, DSEF Executive Director.
Kicking off the discussion, Commissioner Olhausen described ingredients necessary to successfully protect consumers. “Consumer expectations for transparency and corporate responsibility continue to evolve, so too must the framework used to safeguard the public,” she said. “There are three elements that must be present to provide effective consumer protection: law enforcement, education and self-regulation. I like to think of it as a three-legged stool. If any of these factors is missing or not functioning effectively, the stool will at best be off-balance and at worst, topple over.”
Introducing the panelists, Dr. Beales noted there is no “one right way” for industries to self-regulate and Lee Peeler agreed. “Today’s discussion is an excellent opportunity to share best practices in three successful self-regulation models and how we might adjust our approaches to better meet the needs of consumers,” he said, adding that the hallmark of effective self-regulation include clear standards, transparency, accountability, industry support and adequate funding.
All three panelists stressed the importance of adapting to changing consumer needs and market atmospheres. “It is critical that we continue to perfect our Code of Ethics” Joe Mariano said. “Later this year, we will further strengthen these best-in-class consumer protections by introducing greater transparency around enforcement and enhancing protections against false earnings claims. We choose to lead by example so every direct selling company in the United States has an incentive to do better by its customers. That’s why today’s discussion is so important.”
Lynne Omlie shared anecdotes from DISCUS’s self-regulation efforts, noting that all complaints they receive are resolved within seven days of being logged. She touted the evolution the council’s code, saying, “Our Code is a living document that has evolved over time as social mores and technology change, reflecting our industry’s steadfast commitment to effective self-regulation in both traditional and emerging marketing platforms.”
Panelists: Lynne Omlie, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States Senior Vice President, Secretary & General Counsel; Joe Mariano, Direct Selling Association President; and C. Lee Peeler, Advertising Self-Regulatory Council CEO and Council of Better Business Bureaus Executive Vice President of National Advertising.
Thirty-nine people attended the event, including CBBB staff, consumer protection leaders, local county regulators and representatives from Amway, Herbalife and Mary Kay. Attendees received DSEF’s Consumer Protection Toolkit, created to support the FTC’s in their efforts to educate the public about fraud, deception and unfair business practices in the marketplace. The kit includes various resources from the FTC and other state and local consumer organizations, as well as materials highlighting the consumer protections measures afforded by DSA’s Code of Ethics.
As the panel discussion drew to a close, DSEF Executive Director Gary Huggins told attendees that the morning’s discussion marked the first of many such Foundation events as part of its work to advance understanding of direct selling and promote the industry’s commitment to ethics, consumer protection and self-regulation. “American consumers deserve the highest level of ethics from companies they do business with. A commitment to effective self-regulation by industry leaders is critical to safeguarding their rights,” he said. “We thank FTC for its tireless work on behalf of consumers and look forward to continuing to work with regulators and industry colleagues to ensure consumer protections remain a fundamental goal.”
FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen Kicks Off Conversation with DSEF on Consumer Protection in the 21st Century
Washington, D.C., April 7, 2015 – Today, the Direct Selling Education Foundation (DSEF) convenes an interactive roundtable discussion where industry leaders will focus on the latest consumer protection issues, including the important role of self-regulation.
The roundtable is moderated by George Washington University Professor Dr. Howard Beales, former director of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection, and FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen will provide opening remarks. The panel includes DSA’s Joseph Mariano, along with Lynne Omlie, senior vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), and C. Lee Peeler, chief executive officer of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (ASRC).
“As expectations for consumer protection evolve, so does our Code of Ethics,” said president of the Direct Selling Association (DSA) Joseph N. Mariano. “Later this year, we will further strengthen these best-in-class consumer protections by introducing greater transparency around enforcement and enhancing protections against false earnings claims. We choose to lead by example so every direct selling company in the United States has an incentive to do better by its customers. That’s why today’s discussion is so important.”
As consumer expectations for corporate responsibility grow and change, consumer-facing industries must lead in promoting the highest ethical commitments from their members.
“For more than 80 years, the distilled spirits industry has had a voluntary advertising Code in place with the core principle of ensuring responsible advertising directed to adults,” said DISCUS’ Lynne Omlie.
“Our Code is a living document that has evolved over time as social mores and technology change, reflecting our industry’s steadfast commitment to effective self-regulation in both traditional and emerging marketing platforms.”
The industries agree that meeting the needs of the 21st century consumers is best achieved through self-regulation.
“Self-regulation allows us the flexibility to quickly be responsive to both consumers and the marketplace,” said ASRC’s Lee Peeler. “Today’s discussion is an excellent opportunity to share best practices in three successful self-regulation models and how we might adjust our approaches to better meet the needs of consumers.”
DSEF is hosting the event as a follow up to the FTC’s National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW).
“American consumers deserve the highest level of ethics from companies they do business with. A commitment to effective self-regulation by industry leaders is critical to safeguarding their rights,” said DSEF’s Gary Huggins. “We thank FTC for its tireless work on behalf of consumers and look forward to continuing to work with regulators and industry colleagues to ensure consumer protections remain a fundamental goal.”
The Direct Selling Education Foundation (DSEF), is a non-profit that advances understanding of direct selling and promotes the industry’s commitment to ethics, consumer protection and self-regulation. Nearly 17 million Americans are involved in direct selling in every state, Congressional district and community in the United States. In 2013, direct selling contributed more than $32 billion to the U.S. economy.
As consumer expectations for transparency and corporate responsibility continue to evolve, so too must the approaches industries use to safeguard the public. To highlight the critical role of self-regulatory initiatives and their benefit to consumers, DSEF is convening a multi-industry public discussion on consumer protection and self-regulation on Tuesday, April 7, 2015, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
The event will feature opening remarks by the Honorable Maureen K. Ohlhausen, a Commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission.
“This important public forum illustrates how different industries institute self-regulation frameworks that ensure a commitment to high ethical standards and consumer protection,” says Gary Huggins, DSEF Executive Director. “Direct Selling Association President Joe Mariano will represent the direct selling industry at the event and will discuss the Association’s proactive efforts to protect consumers through its Code of Ethics.”
Each year in March the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and its partner organizations commemorate National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), held this year March 1 -7, by offering a wide array of consumer education events and resources to educate the public and encourage people across the country to take full advantage of their consumer rights.
“The FTC is one of the direct selling industry’s most important regulatory constituents and, by supporting their efforts during NCPW, DSEF demonstrates our firm commitment to consumer education and protection, and individual economic empowerment,” said Gary Huggins, DSEF Executive Director.
This year, DSEF created an NCPW-themed Consumer Protection Toolkit that includes various materials from the FTC and other state and local consumer organizations on topics such as identity theft, job scams and shopping online. The kit also includes materials highlighting the consumer protections measures afforded by DSA’s Code of Ethics.
DSEF delivered the Toolkit to members of Congress and Commissioners and staff at the FTC, among other important constituents engaged in consumer protection issues.“It’s great to know that DSEF is using the FTC’s consumer education materials in such an effective way,” said Lisa Lake, FTC Consumer Education Specialist. “This is a great example of how the FTC’s resources can be adapted and used to support programmatic goals. I think those in the DSEF network are going to be equally impressed and will find the information— and how you packaged it – very helpful.”
In addition to the Consumer Toolkit, the Foundation hosted a NCPW-themed Twitter Chat on March 5, and was joined by the Council of Better Business Bureaus and Chicago-based ABC News consumer reporter Stephanie Zimmerman (@ABCNewstheFixer). During the one-hour chat, DSEF, CBBB, Stephanie and more than a dozen local BBBs shared information and answered questions about frauds and scams, shopping online and the FTC’s cooling-off rule.
The Foundation also promoted NCPW through its website and social media channels. DSEF created a web page that aggregated NCPW-related content most relevant to our audiences, and promoted the content through a Facebook contest held March 2-6. Each day of contest, DSEF posted a question related to DSA’s Code of Ethics to Facebook, and participants viewed one of the Foundations Ethics Vignettes in order to learn the answer. Five $50 gift cards were awarded to entrants chosen at random.
DSEF is ramping up our efforts to educate external constituencies about the value of the entrepreneurial opportunity associated with direct selling. The DSEF team is growing and moving with renewed urgency and focus to advance our long-standing mission to engage and educate key audiences about how direct selling empowers individuals, supports communities and strengthens economies. To accomplish that mission, the Foundation is moving aggressively to ensure that there is a “big tent” of credible voices beyond our industry that are educated, empowered and equipped to effectively speak on our behalf.
An important element of that work includes the partnerships that DSEF is forging with key academics, consumer influencers and regulators. For example, the Foundation’s relationships with the Federal Trade Commission and organizations like the Council for Better Business Bureaus help us shine the light on the ethical standards the industry works to promote and uphold.
We are excited to see some of these leaders in action as participants in the Foundation’s upcoming event on consumer protection and self-regulation featuring key consumer regulators, a national leader among academics in the field of regulation studies and a multi-industry panel discussion that will include DSA President Joe Mariano speaking on behalf of direct selling. Additional details on the event and how to participate are here. We hope that many of you can join us.
I’m also excited to announce that Regina Clay has joined DSEF as our Director of Consumer Initiatives. Regina spent more than 12 years in state and local government, most recently as Community Liaison for former Howard County, MD, Executive Ken Ulman. She will play an important role in expanding the reach of partnerships with consumer organizations to touch those at the state level, particularly in states with high concentrations of direct sellers, and pursuing new organizations, such as those focused on economic opportunity, women and Hispanic Americans that can help our stakeholders appreciate that direct selling is an entrepreneurial opportunity for all.
You can read more about our upcoming efforts in my recent column in Direct Selling News. I’m excited by what I see on the horizon and hope you will join with us on this important journey.
Women’s Money Founder Gina Robison-Billups knows firsthand the financial challenges women face.
“Women’s Money actually got its beginning when I was doing research on women in business,” Gina says. “I discovered that business organizations were focused on increasing revenue, but no one was teaching women business owners how to convert business income into sustainable personal profit.”
For the third year, DSEF is providing four hundred scholarships for women business owners – including direct sellers—to attend the National Women’s Money Conference in Las Vegas on April 18. Scholarship recipients can also participate in the Women’s Money Program for ongoing mentoring and support to help them improve their financial knowledge.
We especially encourage direct sellers to take advantage of this scholarship opportunity. If you have salesforce members in the Las Vegas-area who might benefit from the Women’s Money conference, they can register here and use the code DSEF2015. For more information, contact Regina Clay.
Sponsored by the Nevada State Treasurer’s Office and DSEF, the Women’s Money Conference provides women with the opportunity to learn how to reduce financial stress; feel confident with money matters; fix credit; pay off debt; maximize income; save for college and retirement; develop a financial support network; and build a more secure financial future. A distinguished lineup of well-known women financial management experts will focus on providing each attendee with information on financial well-being.
Long an advocate for women business owners, especially those with fewer than five employees, Gina was asked to serve as council member of the National Women’s Business Council—a non-partisan federal advisory council created to serve as an independent source of advice and counsel to the President, Congress and the U.S. Small Business Administration on economic issues of importance to women business owners.
“Eighty-four percent of women say they are not receiving the financial messages they need, and I suspect that this is higher for women business owners and direct sellers,” Gina says. “After all, which organizations out there are addressing the unique personal financial perspective of women with variable income? That is why Women’s Money for Business Owners is so powerful. It’s for women with the unique financial challenges of business ownership.”
DSEF’s programs and partnerships would not be possible without the support and engagement of our contributors and volunteers. We’re pleased to kick off a new feature—Donors Make a Difference—to highlight the tireless efforts of our valued supporters and advocates. Britney Vickery, CEO and Founder of Initials, Inc., ranked No. 762 on the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing, privately held companies for 2013, recently spoke to DSEF about her—and her company’s—involvement with the Foundation.
How did you become involved with DSEF?
I had heard about DSEF, but I became more intimately aware and involved when I became Chair of the Direct Selling Association’s Education Committee. My eyes opened to all the opportunities that were right in front of us to help educate new groups of people about the power and magic of our amazing industry.
How do DSEF programs help Initials Inc., its salesforce, and the industry?
I believe that the DSEF programs help to broaden our scope and our influence. Simply put, the DSEF puts the word out there—the good word—about direct selling. The DSEF is more than just education, it is shaping and influencing the awareness of our business model— that gets me, and our salesforce, excited!
What specific DSEF programs are you most excited about?
DSEF’s college partnerships sing to my soul—when we champion our message and story on college campuses nationwide. The amazing students we reach may very well be our next rock star consultants, awesome corporate executives or founders of the next direct selling sensation! However, to be able to bring their gifts and talents to light in our industry, they have to first know about the business model. The students DSEF reaches through its programs are so hungry to see and understand business in a fresh entrepreneurial way— and they are the next chapter for direct selling!
Earlier this year, you joined DSEF Chairman John Parker (Amway), DSEF Vice Chairman Kerry Tassopoulos (Mary Kay) and Jeff Hanscom (DSA) at a Campus Event at the University of Georgia hosted by DSEF Board Member Dr. Brenda Cude, reaching nearly 500 students. Tell us about your experience.
It was a remarkable day! Not only was I given the platform to talk about being an entrepreneur, but I was also able to show students how I harnessed my passion for entrepreneurship through a very unique business model. Most of the students knew someone who had sold products through direct sales, but they had no idea how large and far reaching our industry was. And, since most of the students were focused on business or consumer goods, we engaged in robust conversations about our business model and the future of business in general. It was a day I will never forget and one I hope to have the opportunity to do again—it was electric!
Your company is a DSEF contributor and you also contribute personally. Why do you think DSEF is important?
There is no better model in the world that marries business and people like direct dales—there’s nothing else like it. I am energized by the empowerment that our unique business proposition gives to people. Once you have “caught” the bug you cannot help but want to see that message carried forward in a bigger way. This is what the DSEF provides—the Foundation is our voice to the world about who we are and why we are here. It is an honor to be a part of the DSA and an honor to support the DSEF. We are a blessed industry, and I am excited to see where we can go from here, together! We simply need to continue to fuel the DSEF so they can continue to share the good news of our industry.
For decades, DSEF has held Campus Events at colleges and universities across the country, helping students and educators better understand the direct selling industry—both as a channel of distribution and as an entrepreneurial opportunity—and giving direct selling executives a chance to share their “real world” experience with tomorrow’s business leaders.
Earlier this month, DSEF sponsored such an event at Louisiana Tech University with Dr. Julie Guidry Moulard, the Balsley-Whitmore Endowed Professor, Department of Marketing & Analysis, College of Business. Bob Bolander, Vice President, Marketing Services, Premier Designs, traveled to Ruston, LA, and spoke to more than 250 marketing students and faculty.
“It was great to be able to share the passion I have for direct sales with the students at Louisiana Tech. There is such a need to educate our future business leaders about the advantages and opportunities that direct sales has to offer,” Bob says. “So few really had any idea what direct sales was all about and I would say none had ever heard of the Direct Selling Association. The faculty of the business school were even more interested to learn about direct sales and appreciated the opportunity the DSEF provided to them for this event.”
Impressed by meeting so many students who have a desire to make a difference and who are hungry for support, encouragement, direction and ideas, Bob plans to continue his involvement with LTU. He will host a group of students next spring at Premier Design’s product design center and manufacturing facility, and will also work with LTU’s Marketing Club to plan a community project.
“Bob’s visit was a tremendous success! Over 250 Louisiana Tech students heard Bob discuss how the direct selling industry affects the overall economy and, more importantly, how it offers individuals entrepreneurial opportunities,” says Julie. “These students now have an appreciation of the direct selling industry and how the Direct Selling Association brings credibility to the industry through its Code of Ethics. Bob also made one-on-one connections with several students and faculty members—connections expected to grow and develop in the coming years.”
DSEF, in partnership with DSA member company executives, will keep the momentum going with additional Campus Events throughout 2015, as well as ongoing engagement with academic influencers in other venues.
As I approach the four-month mark in my tenure as Executive Director, I am increasingly excited about the opportunities before us as well as the recent momentum in support of our work. DSEF has a proud 40-year history to build on in advancing knowledge and understanding of direct selling among thought leaders and influencers in both the academic and consumer communities.
With this monthly update, we want to connect you more directly to the Foundation’s work and to the activities of your fellow company leaders who play an important role in our efforts to tell your story to important constituencies.
Continuing and expanding this collective engagement will be critical in the coming year as the Foundation intensifies our efforts to forge productive relationships with those who hold key positions of influence today and to connect with and equip those in academia who are preparing the leaders of tomorrow.
In the coming months, I look forward to meeting many of you personally and learning more about your businesses. Together, we’ll work to fulfill the Foundation’s critical role in advancing understanding of the importance of the direct selling channel to our economy and in providing entrepreneurial opportunities for millions around the world.