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Helping Women Business Owners Achieve Financial Fitness

Helping Women Business Owners Achieve Financial Fitness

ginaWomen’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.”


Donors Make a Difference: Britney Vickery, CEO, Initials, Inc:

Donors Make a Difference: Britney Vickery, CEO, Initials, Inc:

BritneyDSEF’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.

Premier Designs’ Bob Bolander Gives Students Insider’s View of Direct Selling

Premier Designs’ Bob Bolander Gives Students Insider’s View of Direct Selling


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.

A Note From Gary

A Note From Gary

garyAs 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.

Gary M. Huggins
Executive Director, DSEF

Making the Connection: Why DSEF Matters

Making the Connection: Why DSEF Matters

At the Annual Meeting in June, the Direct Selling Association’s outgoing chairman Orville Thompson, CEO, Scentsy, described how DSEF serves as the bridge to prominent academics and leading consumer protection voices—key influencers and opinion leaders who drive the national conversation about our industry’s reputation and its place in the economy. Watch what he had to say here.

Experience of Lifetime Auction Sets DSEF Fundraising Record

Experience of Lifetime Auction Sets DSEF Fundraising Record


At this year DSA’s Annual Meeting, the Gala Celebration on June 2, held some extra suspense for attendees as they vied for exotic getaways and exceptional products. In addition to the presentation of awards, the evening included an Experience of a Lifetime live auction benefiting DSEF.

“The excitement of DSEF’s auction was literally jaw-dropping as direct selling executives competed for great auction items and the opportunity to support our Foundation,” said DSA President Joe Mariano. “I’m hoping the auction will become a ‘signature’ event for DSA’s Annual Meeting.”

Serving as the event’s auctioneer, Craig Fleming, President, Global Direct Selling Division, ServiceQuest, kept the crowd energized as they bid on items donated by Amway, CUTCO, Mannatech, Nu Skin, USANA and WineShop At Home, raising more than $154,000 for DSEF.

Among the evening’s winning bidders were Truman Hunt, President and Chief Executive Officer, Nu Skin Enterprises, and Orville Thompson, CEO of Scentsy Inc.  The two went head-to-head competing for the chance to attend an Orlando Magic game in the Founder’s Suite—as the guest of Amway’s Chief Sales Officer John Parker and President Doug DeVos. When the bidding topped $50,000, John, who also serves as DSEF Board Chair, agreed to offer the package twice, raising $100,000 for the Foundation in a matter of minutes.

“I was pleased to be able to participate in DSEF’s Gala auction and feel privileged to be a part of the great work that DSEF is doing to educate people about our business channel,” said Truman, who also was the winning bidder for a complete set of knives donated by CUTCO.

In addition to the Amway’s Orlando Magic package, Orville was the winning bidder for the Pirate’s Cove package donated by Nu Skin—a three-night stay for 30 people at a 22,000-square-foot, pirate-themed mansion in Boulder City, NV.

For Orville, whose winning bid for Pirate’s Cove was $20,000, the auction provided the chance to help the Foundation achieve its vision of a global marketplace that respects and appreciates direct selling.  “DSEF serves as the bridge between the direct selling industry and traditional centers of influence such as academia, government and many others,” he said. “Without its outreach and education, the extraordinary work of direct sellers to enhance the lives of millions through great product, inviting cultures and financial opportunities will not be sufficiently understood, represented and appreciated.”

Before the evening was over, attendees also had the chance to bid on a Hawaiian vacation. With a $7,000 bid, Jeannette Mills, Executive Vice President, Take Shape for Life, beat out her competitors and will spend a week on the beach in Maui, courtesy of Mannatech. Stan Fredrick, Mannatech’s Chairman of the Board and Chair of DSEF’s Development Committee, was overwhelmed by the generosity of Jeannette and other bidders. “This was the first auction we’ve held, and we look forward to making it a part of future Annual Meetings,” said Stan, whose $3,000 bid earned him a case of WineShop At Home’s Artisan 5. “Craig did an excellent job of making it exciting and fun for the audience.”

When the bidding kicked off for USANA’s Sky or Ski Excursion, Traci Lynn Burton, Founder and CEO of Traci Lynn Fashion Jewelry, said her adrenaline took over. “‘Fearless’ is what I felt when I decided to bid on the skydiving adventure!” said Traci, who bid $5,000 to go skydiving with USANA’s CEO Dave Wentz. “I also have great respect for Dave and trust him to throw me out of a plane. I love the work of DSEF, and my company and I support the foundation. I believe it must be well-funded to continue its educational mission because we all benefit, we all win!”

The Experience of a Lifetime Auction helped DSEF exceed its goal for the 2014 fundraising year, which ends June 30.  “My personal thanks to all who participated in the DSEF Auction at the Gala,” John Parker said. “Thanks to your generosity—and in particular Truman Hunt and Orville Thompson—we raised more than $150,000! This money will help fund the great work done by our Foundation!”

Elizabeth Owen Newest Member of DSEF’s Circle of Honor

Elizabeth Owen Newest Member of DSEF’s Circle of Honor


In 1988, DSEF created the Circle of Honor award to recognize individuals who make significant contributions to the Foundation. On June 2, 2014, at the Gala Celebration during DSA’s 2014 Annual Meeting, DSEF named Elizabeth Owen as the newest member of the Circle of Honor. “Elizabeth is a perfect inductee to our Circle of Honor,” said Joe Mariano, DSEF President. “She’s a principled consumer leader with years of passion about and understanding of how direct selling serves and protects consumers.”

During her two terms of service on the Foundation’s Board of Directors, Elizabeth’s outstanding leadership—and her ability to fully understand DSEF’s & DSA’s missions from both a consumer protection and business perspective—translated into DSEF developing effective and balanced programs that won the respect of consumer advocates nationally.

“While it is an incredible honor to be given this award, it has already been my honor to be a part of an industry that I have grown to appreciate and respect,” Elizabeth said. “It has been my honor to work with people I have grown to love as family; and it has been my honor to further the worthy mission of the Direct Selling Education Foundation.”

Throughout her career in consumer protection, Elizabeth has been a constant presence both on the state and national scene. As the Director of the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs, she lobbied state government for better consumer protection laws. During her stint as consumer reporter for NewsChannel 5, the CBS affiliate in Nashville, her viewers depended on her for the latest in consumer protection advice. And she served as the Executive Director of NACAA—the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators—representing consumer protection agencies across the US.

Over twenty years, Elizabeth supported numerous Foundation consumer protection programs with diverse groups that included law enforcement, military and the disabled. She also represented DSEF at international consumer protection programs held in Moscow.

And, when the direct selling industry was faced with the potentially devastating, disruptive and unnecessary regulation of the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed rule on business opportunities, Elizabeth, in her capacity as NACAA’s Executive Director, provided invaluable and balanced comment to the FTC on the impact of the proposal on consumers and direct sellers.

“I am awed to have my name added to the Circle of Honor,” Elizabeth said.  “These are people I consider as heroes, and I am humbled by the trust this honor signifies.”

Networking on Steroids: DSEF Sponsors Guerrilla Mentoring Workshop

Networking on Steroids: DSEF Sponsors Guerrilla Mentoring Workshop

Finding an effective mentor can greatly enhance your business and personal life.  In fact, studies show that having five mentors can boost your confidence and your success. To show DSA Annual Meeting attenkathy_korman_frey12-150x150dees just how effective mentoring can be, DSEF sponsored a Guerrilla Mentoring workshop led by Kathy Korman Frey, CEO of the Hot Momma’s Project, the world’s largest women’s case study library. DSEF partners with the Hot Momma’s Project in support of its Global Case Study Competition.

At the interactive workshop, held June 3, participants used Kathy’s proprietary process, adapted from a million-dollar executive peer mentoring technique, to solve real challenges in real time, walking away with actionable steps to better their work and personal lives.

“The Guerrilla Mentoring session was highly interactive and resulted in some fantastic action items, realizations, and what I call ‘mass mentoring.’” said Kathy, who is also Entrepreneur in Residence, Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership at the George Washington University School of Business. “By the end of the session, when participants were sharing their takeaways, they also mentored an entire room of their peers. Thanks to DSA and DSEF for bringing our special process to its members. What a great group.”

Elena Panos, Vice President of Training at Shaklee Corporation, enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with her peers. “As a first time attendee, I was impressed with the workshops!” Elena said. “Guerrilla Mentoring with Kathy Korman Frey allowed me to meet and share with other participants during the interactive table activities.”

Because of DSEF’s ongoing support of the Hot Momma’s Project, Kathy is offering to bring her Guerrilla Mentoring process to DSA member companies at a discount. Additionally, Kathy will be a featured speaker at DSA’s fourth annual Women’s Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 30, 2014. The by-invitation-only gathering is planned for women who are direct selling company owners and top-level executives. For more information, contact Nancy Laichas.

Gary Huggins Named DSEF’s New Executive Director

Gary Huggins Named DSEF’s New Executive Director


At its June 1 board meeting, DSEF’s Chairman John Parker (Amway), announced that, after a comprehensive national search, Gary Huggins has been named as the Foundation’s executive director. “I am so pleased we were able to introduce Gary as DSEF’s Executive Director,” John said. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that will equip him well in leading DSEF.”

For more than fifteen years, Gary has managed nonprofit organizations, working with various constituencies including educators, government officials, business executives and consumer advocacy groups. Most recently, he served as CEO of the National Summer Learning Association, a network hub for thousands of summer learning program providers and stakeholders across the country.

“Vision, leadership and action—as a new era begins for DSEF, these are the qualities that our volunteer leaders bring,” said Joe Mariano, DSEF President. “As Gary begins his tenure with the Foundation, we know he will share his vision, leadership and experience to turn our leaders’ great ideas into action.”

Gary also served as director of the Aspen Institute’s Commission on No Child Left Behind—a bipartisan, independent effort dedicated to improving the No Child Left Behind Act—and as executive director of the Education Leaders Council and the Education Leaders Action Council, organizations that represented governors, state education chiefs, state education boards and other officials focused on improving K-12 education.

Gary was the founding executive director of the Coalition for Safer, Cleaner Vehicles, an alliance of corporations, small businesses, and consumer and environmental groups that promoted market-based environmental solutions. He also served on George H.W. Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign and Inaugural Committee.

Earlier this month, Gary attended DSA’s Annual Meeting in Orlando, providing him the opportunity to meet with many DSEF and DSA board members and other executives. “I am honored to be part of advancing public knowledge of our industry and the life-changing economic opportunities we provide to more than 16 million people,” he said.

Originally from Dallas, TX, Gary graduated from Texas Christian University in 1988 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Communication.  He lives in Laurel, MD, with his wife and four children.

After July 7, Gary can be reached at “If you did not have a chance to meet Gary in person in Orlando, I hope you do soon,” John said.

On Board with DSEF:
Dr. Linda Ferrell

On Board with DSEF:
Dr. Linda Ferrell

DSEF’s Board of Directors brings to the Foundation a wealth of experience and expertise that helps it fulfill its mission both inside and outside the boardroom.

On November 4, 2013, Board Member Dr. Linda Ferrell, Professor of Marketing and Bill Daniels Professor of Business Ethics at the University of New Mexico (UNM), led a panel discussion at UNM’s Student Center for the Public Trust comprised of direct selling industry experts: Lori Bush, President & CEO, Rodan & Fields; Alan Luce, DSEF Board Member and Founder & CEO, Luce, Murphy, Fong & Associates;  John Parker, DSEF Board Chair and Chief Sales Officer, Amway; and John Wyckoff, President, Dove Chocolate Discoveries.

The panel discussion, “Crisis Management Strategies and Implementation in the Direct Selling Industry: The Role of Ethical Leadership,” demonstrated to students how the industry supports ethical conduct and educates the public when ethical challenges occur.

We recently spoke with Linda about the importance of fostering ethical business practices and DSEF’s role in educating the public about the direct selling industry.

Linda Ferrell

How long have you been involved with DSEF?

I joined the DSEF board in the Spring of 2009. I was very familiar with the work of DSEF through their strong relationship with the Academy of Marketing Science as well as their support of some ethics conferences that we were involved with.  I also knew about DSEF from my work with the CUTCO/Vector College Advisory Board.

What do you feel is DSEF’s value to the public and the direct selling industry?

DSEF helps to elevate an industry that provides so many entrepreneurial opportunities for individuals throughout the world. DSEF proactively sees opportunities and supports member needs. The development of ethics training resources, the education program with community colleges, and the commitment to elevate awareness of the opportunities that direct selling creates are phenomenal resources. I recently joined the ethics committee and see their work as very vital and relevant to helping member companies manage current and potential risks they may face.

How important is it for business leaders to support and promote ethical business practices?

It looks like we are going to survive the global financial crisis, but unethical activity by a few has had a far reaching negative impact on our economy. Ethical business conduct is the ‘glue’ that holds relationships together. The direct selling industry, more than many, understands the importance of a strong relationship grounded in exceptional products and promoted through dedicated and trusted distributors. To say that good ethics is good business and good for the bottom line is an understatement. Ethisphere’s Worlds Most Ethical Companies have outperformed the S&P over the past five years. Everything a company does to support ethical conduct in their organization is one of the best investments they can make. The days of seeing investments in ethics as an unnecessary expense are behind us!

What specific challenges do you see affecting direct sellers in the marketplace?

We still have yet to see the ultimate benefits of social media in supporting the goals of the industry. That along with the ongoing work of DSEF, DSA and others to inform consumers and educators about the strengths, benefits, and unique and entrepreneurial elements of the direct selling business model will continue interest and growth in the industry.

In addition, the ‘naysayers’ who threaten the integrity of the industry simply do not understand marketing and the direct selling business model. These attacks create opportunities for DSEF and others to clarify these inaccurate conceptualizations.  The marketing function and relationships built look and work differently in a direct selling firm than a traditional business. This has been a great strength of the industry from its inception.

Thank you, Linda! It’s great to get to know you better, and we thank you for your support!