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Unleashing Your Inner Entrepreneur: DSEF Launches Community College Course for Direct Sellers

Unleashing Your Inner Entrepreneur: DSEF Launches Community College Course for Direct Sellers

When Thirty-One Gifts Independent Director Lisa Sloan enrolled in DSEF’s Direct Selling Entrepreneur Program at Cayuga Community College last fall, she had a team of two and looked at her direct selling venture as a hobby. Today, eight months after participating in the pilot phase of the 30-hour course, her perception has changed. “You know what? I’m an entrepreneur now,” Lisa says. “I remember sitting in that class and having a ‘wow’ moment. ‘I’m a professional. This is a business.’ I have carried back that excitement from the class to my team (which now numbers 50) and they are all feeling like entrepreneurs now.”

This fall, community college classrooms across the country will have the opportunity to help direct sellers like Lisa unleash their inner entrepreneurs.

The Direct Selling Entrepreneur Program (DSEP), a 10-module, non-credit course, focuses on the entrepreneurial skills that are both universal to small businesses and specific to direct selling. Its aim is to build the business skills of direct sellers by introducing them to the fundamental components of small business management and entrepreneurship, including marketing, finance, legal issues, planning and ethical business practices.

The course was developed in partnership with the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE)—an organization dedicated to helping community colleges nationwide link their traditional role of workforce development with entrepreneurship—and represents DSEF’s years of relationship-building and trusted programming.  NACCE only aligns itself with organizations that share its commitment to teaching ethical entrepreneurship, and in April 2010 it approached DSEF with a proposal to create a direct selling curriculum.

“NACCE was hearing from its members—instructors of entrepreneurship—that direct sellers were coming to them asking for entrepreneurship classes,” says DSEF Program Director Robin Diamond. “And NACCE said ‘We really don’t have the right thing for them. We feel like there is an opportunity here.’ So the request bubbled up from the market; there was a groundswell because the economy had changed.  People needed options and opportunities.”

Robin assembled a talented group of individuals—including staff, industry executives, curriculum experts and volunteers—to take the program from an idea, through a successful pilot phase and finally to the upcoming nationwide rollout.

NACCE couldn’t be more pleased with the pilot results and the potential for future success. “I was thrilled with the outcome,” says Ron Thomas, NACCE Board Chair and President of Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minn. (a pilot site for the curriculum). “I think we hit a homerun with this one. It was pretty clear when you look at a $30 billion-dollar industry, with nearly 16 million people involved in direct selling, that there was a niche. If we could help remove barriers to help make direct sellers more profitable and stay in the business longer, then we would be helping not only them but the organization and, more importantly, the entire U.S. economy. We are glad to be part of this.”

Lisa was so intent on being part of the pilot phase that she drove an hour to and from her home in Syracuse to Auburn, New York, each week to take the classes. And it paid off. “The program truly gave me confidence to be in direct sales,” she says. “It taught me time management. I was running my business 24 hours a day before, and the class taught me how to set office hours, and really helped me increase my productivity with my family, with my team, with everything.”

One of the major components of the program is its focus on ethics. For Lisa, learning how direct sellers uphold the Direct Selling Association’s Code of Ethics was a big part of her learning experience. “I had no idea what ethics even was before I took the class,” she says. “I was able to teach my team—which was only two people at the time—that direct selling could be a really positive experience if you followed the ethics rules.”

An added benefit of the program for Lisa was the relationships she built with her fellow direct sellers. “Networking wasn’t part of the curriculum, but I had the opportunity to meet other direct salespeople. We started our own Facebook group and we held each other accountable to everything we had learned in the class—and everyone has become very successful with their business since the class.”

Robin, who on behalf of the Foundation has long worked with the academic, small business and entrepreneurship communities, says the curriculum helps participants engage their inner entrepreneur. “That is a state of mind—being entrepreneurial in your work, in your life, thinking of yourself as an entrepreneur, as an innovator—that is what we are doing here. We’re helping direct sellers think of themselves as entrepreneurs and succeed at their businesses.”

Ron says whether you’re a direct seller or a small business owner, you still need the same skills. “You are going to need to know how to market, you are going to need to know how to manage your books and you’re going to need to know how to communicate with people,” he says. “So all of those learning modules are part of this program, as well as they should be for any kind of business startup.”

For Robin, the entire experience of creating the curriculum is a victory for the direct selling industry, the Foundation and the community college community. “It’s a win for community colleges to have an entrepreneurship course to offer to a new audience—direct sellers; it’s a win for the direct selling companies, their salesforces and their customers; and it’s certainly a win for DSEF—producing an entrepreneurial curriculum is a perfect example of the Foundation’s ongoing work to champion the ethical business practices not only to help direct sellers realize success, but also to develop a wider understanding of the industry among business leaders and educators.”

On the Road to Success: A Resource for You

On the Road to Success: A Resource for You

Starting a direct selling or small business is a lot like driving a car. You are in complete control of where you are headed and how fast—or slow—you get to your destination.

But on those days when the road gets a little bumpy and unfamiliar, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a road map to help navigate through those roadblocks that can cause your business to stall?

Well, guess what? There is.

DSEF has added another tool to its rich archive of resources to help small business owners implement innovative ideas to take their businesses to the next level: the Business Owner’s Road Map to Success, a free, downloadable ebook.

The Foundation continuously provides informative and helpful content on its blog that offers direct sellers insight on a variety of topics, from finance and ethics to sales and personal development. Those blog posts form the basis of the 53-page ebook.

“The DSEF blog posts collected in the Business Owner’s Roadmap to Success reflect the Foundation’s commitment to championing ethical entrepreneurship and standing up for consumers on behalf of the direct selling industry,” says Nancy Laichas, DSEF Director of Marketing & Communications. “This free e-book gives direct sellers—and any small business owner—actionable techniques to increase their confidence, reach their goals, deliver outstanding customer service and operate with the highest of ethics.”

Jennifer Fong, the Founder of Jen Fong Media LLC, worked with her team to create the ebook, which was made available in May through DSEF’s Facebook page.

“We looked at all of the great content that DSEF had been putting out, because there is so much that business owners can use to build their businesses,” says Fong, whose company manages DSEF’s social media presence. “We wanted to put it together in a package that would make it easy to take to the field.”

The Foundation’s goal was to help entrepreneurs, including direct sellers, learn the skills necessary to become successful small business owners, and provide seasoned veterans with techniques and ideas to help them grow their businesses. The ebook offers success tips for everything a small business owner needs to master—from business planning and ethical selling to creating a success mindset. Sections include:

  • Do What You Love
  • Business Planning
  • Targeting and Identifying Your Customers
  • Finding Prospects and Customers
  • Ethical Selling and Marketing Yourself
  • Generating Leads
  • Leading a Team
  • Success Mindset

“The response has been tremendous,” Fong says. “We’ve had a ton of people download it and people call us to tell us they love it.”

Leigh Bordelon, Field Training Specialist at Shaklee Corporation, is one of those people who found the ebook extremely helpful. Bordelon, who teaches Shaklee Independent Distributors how to market their businesses online and use back-office tools, incorporated the ebook into her training.

“I found it easy to understand and easy to implement,” says Bordelon. “My audience is, for the most part, new to any form of technology, even the computer itself. So they can use this book to take specific steps to build their businesses and reputations online.”

Coletta Haskin, a long-time Shaklee distributor, says the ebook helped her improve her leadership skills.

“I learned that, in spite of my mothering spirit (wanting to help them rather than letting them go), I may be holding them back,” says Haskin. “The ‘Leading a Team’ section reinforced what I needed to do years ago, which was to delegate the task so their reliance is not totally on me. Yes, be there for them, help them, show them, and say now it’s your turn.”

Learning to challenge her team was another tip Haskin picked up from the ebook. “I have challenged them to think outside of the box with Bold Goals and Dreams,” she says. “They might have been fearful in sharing them, but each member was made accountable for what they really wanted. When the team member accomplished their goal, the whole team would get excited.”

Haskin also liked that she could show her distributors that they don’t have to run a blog themselves, but could partner with several bloggers and write a single article every so often to drive traffic to their retail sites. “That takes a lot of pressure off of a distributor so they can continue to focus on their core income-producing activities,” she says.

“I learned for myself so many easy ideas to help distributors find even one marketing idea that ‘fits’ for them. This ebook will build confidence in our distributors because you’ve made it so easy to understand and follow,” Haskin says.

If you feel like you are spinning your wheels in regard to generating new ideas for your business, download the Business Owner’s Road Map to Success ebook today.

DSEF Welcomes John Parker, New Chairman of the Board

DSEF Welcomes John Parker, New Chairman of the Board

John Parker is used to being in situations that are a little scary and uncomfortable, whether it is surfing the world’s oceans or spending several years overseas in a completely different culture.

What he likes about those situations are the challenges posed—the process of getting through them, to him, is the ultimate reward.

This month, Parker, Vice President and Chief Sales Officer for Amway, will take on another challenge as the new Chair of the DSEF Board of Directors: to guide the Foundation as it works with its many partners to execute programs that promote ethical entrepreneurship and champion consumers rights on behalf of the industry.

“The DSEF does so much in terms of bringing credibility and understanding about our industry to key influencers,” says Parker, who is also a member of the Direct Selling Association Board of Directors. “By building those relationships with individuals and establishing partnerships with some really respected organizations, it creates an environment in which we can have others tell our story in a compelling way and speak for us in times of crisis. I think there is just a lot of power to that.”

Parker assumes his new position with a focus on a few key initiatives, such as the Direct Selling Entrepreneur Program, a new community college curriculum developed in partnership with NACCE (National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship), and the CBBB  (Council of Better Business Bureau) program, which helps DSEF spread the message of the direct selling industry’s commitment to ethics and trust in the marketplace.

Parker would also like to expand the global relevance of DSEF, which already successfully supports consumer welfare globally through such programs as APEC /CEPI (the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Consumer Education and Protection Initiative). From his extensive international experience, Parker knows that international markets could benefit from a variety of DSEF programs.

Charlie Orr, Executive Director of DSEF, thinks Parker’s knowledge and experience will be a great asset to the Foundation and its Board. “He brings both a domestic and global perspective,” says Orr.  “And he knows and respects the distributor mindset as well as anybody in our industry.”

Parker’s knowledge of the distributor mindset comes from nearly two decades of working with Amway distributors around the world.  Parker joined the company in 1993 as a Distributor Relations Sales Manager and assumed several management roles within the company over the years, including Chief Marketing Officer.

In 2007 he was named President of Amway Japan, where he led all operations for one of Amway’s largest affiliates. “It was a fantastic experience, both personally and professionally,” says Parker. “It was an opportunity to experience a very different culture. I think my children will forever see the world differently. Certainly I will forever see the world differently.”

Parker’s time in Japan provided him with a new global perspective of the industry. “It was interesting to see the challenges the direct selling industry is going through in Japan. Some markets are a little more organized than others, but as a whole the industry has very similar issues around the world,” he says. “I had a better understanding of that within the context of Japan, and now that I’m back here, we’ll be able to support our business and the industry as we try to improve the environment for direct selling in Japan.”

Living in a foreign country was similar to his time spent at the University of Notre Dame, where Parker was a member of the varsity golf team and earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. “The two experiences are not all that different,” he says. “Being an expat in another country—typically folks are there four or five years—you are thrown into a strange environment with other people going through the same thing at the same time, which is kind of like college. You build these deep relationships quickly and build on the friendships, just like you do in college.”

And just as he sees similarities in those two experiences, Parker also sees a connection between sports—he is an avid surfer and golfer— and the direct selling industry.

“We think about our industry as individual distributors doing their thing—and they are—but it’s also a community, a team environment,” Parker says. “If direct selling were a sport it would be a team sport. because the encouragement, the community and the social dynamic of direct selling make it more than just people selling products and getting compensated for it.

“The relationships are probably the things that make the industry so special,” Parker continues. “And I think that’s true in sports as well. You have a feeling about your friends and your teammates that you carry with you your whole life. I think our industry is very much the same way. We are out building businesses but we are also out building friendships. I think that is a pretty great part of the industry and a pretty special part of life.”

Parker’s new team at DSEF will include two new members to the Board: Orville Thompson, CEO of Scentsy, who will also serve on DSEF’s Executive Committee, and John Wadsworth, President of Morinda Bioactives.

“As we welcome our new Board members, I am looking forward to having their perspective and guidance as we continue to grow our existing signature programs and pursue several new exciting strategic opportunities,” says Orr.

Orr also acknowledged outgoing Board members Heather Chastain (Celebrating Home), Al DiLeonardo (CUTCO/Vector Marketing), Sandy Spielmaker (Amway) and Jim Stitt (CUTCO/Vector Marketing) for their contributions. “I thank them for their service and their support over these last several years,” he says.

DSEF by the Numbers

DSEF by the Numbers

The Direct Selling Education Foundation has a tremendous impact on the way people view the direct selling industry. Since it was founded in 1973, the Foundation has been building strategic partnerships to create educational programs that serve the public, champion ethical entrepreneurship and protect and support consumers.

“It is through our partnerships that DSEF continuously preserves and improves the market climate of trust, which helps direct sellers prosper and thrive,” says Charlie Orr, DSEF Executive Director.

Here is a look at some of DSEF’s accomplishments over its 39-year history:

Sarah Baker Andrus, Jim Northrop Inducted into DSEF Circle of Honor

Sarah Baker Andrus, Jim Northrop Inducted into DSEF Circle of Honor

Every year, DSEF counts on contributions from those in the direct selling community to fund its many programs that benefit consumers and DSA member companies. Those initiatives would not be possible without the leadership and involvement of those who volunteer their time and efforts.

DSEF annually honors those who go above and beyond the call of duty in helping the Foundation continue its mission by awarding the prestigious Circle of Honor Award, one of the highest individual recognitions in the direct selling industry.

The Circle of Honor Award was created in 1988 to recognize those who have made extraordinary contributions to the Foundation through their personal efforts, involvement and commitment to the mission and purpose of DSEF. Past winners include such direct selling giants as Mary Kay Ash, J. Stanley Frederick, Doris Christopher and Neil Offen.

This year, the DSEF Board of Directors’ Executive Committee selected two individuals who have continually made significant contributions to the Foundation: Sarah Baker Andrus and Jim Northrop.

“For over a decade both Sarah and Jim have been tireless volunteers, always among the first to offer their expertise, their experience and their wisdom despite the many demands of their own schedules,” says Charlie Orr, DSEF Executive Director.

Sarah Baker Andrus

Sarah Baker Andrus has assisted DSEF as a volunteer for more than a decade, serving on committees, chairing special projects, leading research efforts and speaking on behalf of the Foundation. She currently serves on the DSEF Board of Directors as Vice Chair, and is leading the effort to create the industry’s landmark Direct Selling Entrepreneur Program for community colleges.

“Sarah always serves with such professionalism, grace, energy and poise,” says Orr. “She is passionate about the industry. She is an advocate for what the direct selling business model can do to change lives, especially the lives of young people—the direct sellers of tomorrow.”

The Circle of Honor Award came as a complete surprise to her. “I was absolutely floored,” she says. “I was stunned and amazed, and so honored that it was presented by my friend John Fleming [Publisher of Direct Selling News]. To be in such great company as direct selling luminaries was really remarkable and just stunning to me.”

Baker Andrus says her association with DSEF has given her the chance to grow professionally and give back to an industry from which she has received so much. “In my work with CUTCO/Vector and DSEF, I have seen how sales experience can be transformative and can lead to both personal and professional growth. So I am really honored to serve DSEF in a way that can bring the direct sales opportunity to people who can benefit from it.”

Baker Andrus currently serves as Director of External Relations and Academic Programs at CUTCO/Vector Marketing, where she directs Vector Marketing’s public relations efforts for the field organization and oversees the company’s philanthropic relationships with academia. She also serves as a corporate spokesperson to the media. Previously she served as Vector’s Director of Campus Relations, where she broadened the company’s ability to strengthen campus connections and enhance its recruitment efforts.

“We are so proud of Sarah,” says Jim Stitt, President and CEO of CUTCO. “She is very committed to our business and she has demonstrated that passion in the work she has done with DSEF. She is very deserving of this most prestigious recognition.”

Jim Northrop

Jim Northrop, President and CEO of Winfield Consulting, also has a long list of DSEF contributions and accomplishments.

Northrop is Past Chair of the DSEF Academic Committee, has presented at DSEF’s Direct Selling Days on Campus and has worked with professors at DSEF seminars. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for both the Direct Selling Association and DSEF. Northrop will also serve on the DSEF Executive Committee for the 2012-2013 term.

“Jim’s active participation as a DSEF Board member, his engaging thought leadership with his colleagues and his personal financial contribution to support the Foundation’s initiatives represent a perfect model for all DSA executives to emulate,” says Tom Kelly, President and CEO of Silpada and outgoing DSEF Chair.

Northrop now leads Winfield Consulting, which provides consulting services to the direct selling industry. He served as President and CEO of Immunotec, Inc. as well as President and CEO of Readers Digest Inc.’s Quality School Plan Division. He was Chairman and CEO of Princess House from 1994 to 2006.

Like Baker Andrus, Northrop was surprised by the Circle of Honor Award. “I was completely taken aback,” says Northrop. “Frankly, I never expected that I would be a Circle of Honor recipient. I have been fortunate to be in the direct selling industry for nearly the last 20 years, and have had the honor and responsibility of leading some very good companies, and it has been a lot of fun as well as very gratifying and rewarding.”

His long-standing association with DSEF has been gratifying as well.

“I find the Foundation is actually the point of the spear for the direct selling industry in terms of creating a positive sense of direct selling and the value that it adds both economically and socially to the U.S. and nations worldwide,” he says. “The goal of the Foundation in compiling and providing information regarding direct selling and forming alliances with very strong and positive partners has enabled it to be sort of a spokesperson that has been effective in conveying very positive information. Add to that the educational initiatives of the Foundation that have recently focused on developing a curriculum for practitioners of direct selling, which is just beginning to get off the ground but has been positively received. I feel very gratified to have been involved with the Foundation as it has developed its initiatives and its role as a thought leader and spokesperson for all the good that direct selling does.”

“Currently, Jim is leading DSEF’s strategic planning efforts as we approach our 40th anniversary,” says Orr. “There is no one better equipped to guide this process than Jim Northrop.”

Worthy Honorees

The Circle of Honor Awards were presented to Baker Andrus and Northrop during the DSA Annual Meeting held in Grapevine, Texas, on June 4.

Orr, who has worked with both over the years, could not be happier with the recognition both have received for their contributions to DSEF.

“Sarah and Jim are two very worthy honorees in sustaining DSEF’s efforts to create a market climate of trust for the industry’s ethical entrepreneurship,” says Orr.


Kirby Executive Finds Ironman to be True Softie

Kirby Executive Finds Ironman to be True Softie

Sometimes perseverance alone wins the race. And sometimes it walks hand in hand with a little bit of luck. Steve Baden discovered that at the Entrepreneurs in Action Walkathon held June 3-5 during the DSA Annual Meeting in Grapevine, Texas.

Baden, Vice President of Business Compliance for the Kirby Company, was one of nearly 100 direct selling executives to join the Direct Selling Education Foundation in support of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), which helps at-risk youth find their pathways to a brighter future.

Baden signed up for the event with one goal in mind: to walk as much as possible in order to raise money for NFTE’s initiatives. However, as he was leaving for his trip, he realized prizes were to be awarded in three categories, including Most Miles Walked. Baden was suddenly further incentivized.

“I looked at the Grand Prize and it was two nights in Las Vegas with spa privileges at a luxury hotel. And I thought, ‘Wow!’ My wife [Stephanie] and I are celebrating our 30th anniversary this year. We were planning to go to Phoenix for a wedding and some business. So we thought we’d make a whole anniversary celebration out of it—go to Sedona and the Grand Canyon and then on to Las Vegas, where she had never been,” he says.

So Baden was determined to win the Grand Prize—a two-night stay at the Aria. At the end of Day 1, he turned his numbers in and found he was well ahead of the other walkers. At the end of Day 2, he was even further ahead.

“I am waking up at five in the morning,” says Baden. “I must have walked the [Gaylord Texan] property at least eight times.”

On the last day Baden turned in his numbers: more than 42,000 steps. “I am well ahead; it’s in the bag,” he says.

But, alas, it was not. Another walker, Elad Daniel, CEO of DSA Supplier Member company WoodenArk, had overtaken him.

“I come back after the deadline and I see Elad on the leader board,” laughs Baden. “He has 19,000 steps on Day 2, and on Day 3 he has 37,000. He blew me away by 15,000 steps!”

Come to find out, Daniel participates in Ironman contests and was in training to run a marathon. He ran half a marathon the day before and close to a full marathon that morning. In total, he logged 57,249 steps during the three-day event.

“My wife was just howling,” says Baden. “I’d run into an Ironman.”

But Baden is one to never say die. He decided to approach Daniel to see if he would be willing to swap his prize for the two-night stay at the Peabody in Orlando that he had won for taking First Place.

“I finally catch him in his room,” Baden says. “I introduce myself and he just starts cracking up. He felt bad that he had beaten me, especially since he was just doing it for fun.”

During their conversation, Baden told DanieI he was taking his wife to Las Vegas to celebrate their anniversary. “Stop! It’s yours,” Daniel told him. “I am Israeli. I live in Tel Aviv and I would never use it.”

“I was just blown away,” Baden says. “He could not have been more gracious. He was such a gentleman. We had a good laugh about the whole thing, and now we are going to see about business prospects. So I made a good friend.”

And a memorable anniversary trip as well.

Baden and Daniel were not the only participants who demonstrated a competitive streak during the Walkathon. Joseph Di Ciacco, Vice President of Carico International, Inc., racked up enough steps to take second place, receiving an all-expenses-paid, one-night stay for two at the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, with golf.

NFTE Students Embody Spirit of Entrepreneurship at DSEF Walkathon

NFTE Students Embody Spirit of Entrepreneurship at DSEF Walkathon

Students from the Dallas Chapter of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) embodied the real possibility and spirit of entrepreneurship and opportunity that each and every individual has the right to pursue, according to Connie Tang, President and CEO of Princess House, Inc., one of the nearly 100 direct selling executives who joined DSEF staff and members of NFTE for the Entrepreneurs in Action Walkathon.

The three-day event, hosted by DSEF, was held this month in Grapevine, Texas, during the DSA Annual Meeting. DSEF chose NFTE to be the recipient of its annual charitable effort for the work it does in helping at-risk students stay in school. NFTE, which was founded in New York in 1987, currently has 11 affiliate offices throughout the United States that provide programs that inspire young people from low-income communities to graduate from high school and to learn the necessary skills for creating their own business plans—in essence, helping to shape them into the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

During the Annual Meeting, DSA members had the opportunity to support NFTE’s goal of helping youth find their pathways to a brighter future through the walkathon, and meet some of the students who participate in the organization’s programs.

“Participating in the DSEF Walkathon was a wonderful experience that provided a firsthand connection to the children who benefit from the NFTE Program,” says Tang. “The program is proof positive that environmental circumstances and situations are not the be all and end all to a child’s future. Access and exposure to mentors, genuine care and quality curriculum in a challenging yet nutritive environment can foster the most amazing innovation in our future leaders. We saw it there in Dallas—from a shoe product, balloon-encased creations and eco-friendly lawn care to Spanish-language development for teachers to support ESL students.”

Karen Ezell, Program Director for NFTE, says the walkathon was a complete success for NFTE and her students. “The kids absolutely loved it,” she says. “They thought it was so inspiring to see so many successful entrepreneurs. They were so motivated by what people can accomplish when they put their minds to it.”

What was particularly inspiring to Ezell was to see the interaction between the NFTE students and DSA members. “It was a great event to teach young people how to talk confidently with an older generation, and to make that connection through business and business ideas. It was nice to see a group of young people confident enough to be able to do that. I think it is a testament to NFTE’s program and its teachers that they have trained young people to feel confident and secure.”

It is also a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of DSA member executives, who Ezell sees as mentors and coaches who can help inspire young people to be successful entrepreneurs. “That is what is so great about the direct selling industry and DSEF—the opportunity to have such a wealth of knowledge at young people’s disposal. These young people we are teaching and training to be entrepreneurs could be the next people running the Mary Kays, the Avons, the Pampered Chefs. I think there is a great synergy between the two.”

DSA members were appreciative of the event as well, particularly for the opportunity to meet the NFTE kids. “It was wonderful to participate in the DSEF Walkathon supporting young entrepreneurs,” says Cari Christopher, President of Signature HomeStyles, one of the sponsors of the event. “Seeing these young students take action and create a business of their own was inspiring!”

NFTE’s Youth Entrepreneur Challenge

NFTE helps students develop the skills necessary to become tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. As part of its curriculum, NFTE holds the National Youth Entrepreneur Challenge annually in which students are encouraged to develop business plans and create 30-second sales pitches to promote their businesses. Regional winners attend the nationwide business competition held in the fall.

The direct selling industry was well represented at the Dallas Youth Biz-Plan Challenge, held June 1. DSEF Executive Director Charlie Orr served as a judge along with Kate Gardner, Chair of the DSEF Community Partner Program and SUCCESS Foundation Executive Director; Allison Levy, General Counsel for AdvoCare International; and Kerry Tassopoulos, Vice President, Government Relations & Compliance for Mary Kay Inc. The judges had the difficult task of selecting the two regional winners who will go on to compete nationally this fall.

“Judging children on their fledgling entrepreneurial endeavors is a combination of daunting and gratifying,” says Gardner. “These kids were intimidating. They were brimming with confidence, which speaks volumes to the work NFTE has done with them.”

At Sunday’s brunch, 14-year old Guadalupe Gamino, the first place winner in the Dallas round of the Challenge, presented her plan for a business called Tranzparent Heel Holderz, which helps women who struggle with keeping dress shoes on while walking by providing clear bands to keep the heels in place.

Guadalupe will travel to New York City in October with second place winner Oliver Gomez to compete for up to $10,000 in the nationwide competition. Oliver, who is also 14, created a business called Why Can’t We Talk, which is aimed at teaching Spanish to teachers and other community leaders to more effectively communicate with parents.

“So many people came up to me and congratulated me,” says Gomez. “It made me feel good about myself. They asked me questions about my business, and they told me that to be a successful entrepreneur you have to take risks and go for your main goal—not let people bring you down and just keep doing what you’re doing.”

Entrepreneurs in Action Makes Headlines

Coverage of DSEF’s Walkathon appeared in the Dallas Morning News, on NBC’s Dallas affiliate station NBC5 and on Univision.

Greater Dallas Youth Entrepreneurs, Direct Selling Industry Executives “Go the Extra Mile” to Benefit Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)

Greater Dallas Youth Entrepreneurs, Direct Selling Industry Executives “Go the Extra Mile” to Benefit Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)

(GRAPEVINE—June 3, 2012) In an effort to bring to life the Inspiring Entrepreneurs theme that marks the Direct Selling Association’s (DSA) 2012 Annual Meeting, the Direct Selling Education Foundation (DSEF) is today kicking off the Entrepreneurs in Action Walkathon to benefit the Greater Dallas Chapter of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).

The walk promises to raise support and awareness for NFTE, which is dedicated to helping at-risk youth from throughout the greater Dallas region: 1.) stay in school; 2.) recognize business opportunities; 3.) plan for successful futures.  Coming on the heels of NFTE’s Youth Bizplan Challenge, held Friday, June 1, 2012 the walkathon kicks off the DSA’s three-day Annual Meeting and allows NFTE program participants to share their business ideas with DSA member executives, most of whom are entrepreneurs who have built careers working with the world’s top brands.

“NFTE works to give disadvantaged youth the belief that they can positively affect their own futures, and the direct selling professionals we have met through DSEF have amazing entrepreneurial success stories that inspire our kids,” says NFTE Greater Dallas Executive Director Laura Maczka.  “Because our kids learn that they have the potential to use businesses to change their life circumstances, we share so much in common with direct selling, which is driven by the spirit of entrepreneurism.”

At the beginning of the walk, participants will be issued pedometers to measure their activity not only during the official walk event, but also during the entire three-day period of the DSA annual meeting.  Prizes will be awarded in three categories: Most Miles Walked, Daily Challenges and Most Pledges Collected.  The grand prize is a 2-night stay at the Aria in Las Vegas with spa certificates for two.  The first place winner will receive a 2-night stay at the Peabody Orlando, and the second place winner will enjoy a 1-night stay at the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs with golf for two.

“Young people need inspiration and mentoring to show how entrepreneurism can lead to brighter futures, and we in the direct selling industry are uniquely suited to helping kids crystallize this vision,” says DSEF Executive Direct Charlie Orr.  “Inspiring entrepreneurism is central to everything we do, and supporting efforts that give kids the necessary skills for creating their own business plans—in essence, helping to shape them into the entrepreneurs of tomorrow—is where we want to be.  DSEF is proud to support NFTE’s efforts to make entrepreneurism a catalyst for positive change in kids’ lives.”

The Entrepreneurs in Action marks the first walkathon for DSEF, which in the past has hosted a toy drive and organized a beach cleanup as part of its annual charitable efforts.  The event is sponsored by DSA member companies and suppliers Herbalife, ALHI, The Pampered Chef, Silpada Designs, Scentsy Family, VideoPlus, USANA, CUTCO, 4Life, The Hartford, John A. Parks Co., Inc., Team National, Mary Kay, Beachbody, Vantel Pearls, WineShop At Home, GNLD, and MaCher.

NFTE Background

Founded in New York in 1987, NFTE currently has 11 affiliate offices throughout the United States that provide programs that inspire young people from low-income communities to graduate from high school and to learn the necessary skills for creating their own business plans—in essence, helping to shape them into the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

About DSEF

The Direct Selling Education Foundation (DSEF) was founded in 1973 to serve the public interest by advancing the direct selling industry’s support of consumer rights and protection, education about the industry, ethical leadership and individual economic empowerment. Through its partnerships with consumer advocates, educators and students, public policy officials, and members of the small business and entrepreneurship community, DSEF engages and educates the public on the ways direct selling empowers individuals, supports communities and strengthens economies worldwide.

DSEF Social Media: Valuable Tools for Direct Sellers

DSEF Social Media: Valuable Tools for Direct Sellers

Jamie Stewart, Chairman of the UK DSA and Managing Director for Kleeneze Ltd, knows there is so much information available on the Internet today that it can be overwhelming for direct sellers, particularly those new to social media. That’s why he advises anyone running a direct selling organization to research and stick to trustworthy resources.

One of Stewart’s most trusted resources is the Direct Selling Education Foundation.

DSEF’s social media platforms—including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and the Foundation’s blog—offer valuable content that can help direct sellers build their businesses.

“The Twitter feed from the DSEF is top of my list,” says Stewart. “It’s not only a safe, trusted source, but has quality information that is aimed at supporting your direct sellers. I know many people within our business have put the information to good use—after all, it’s putting great information to use that really makes it valuable.”

Nancy Laichas, Director of Marketing & Communications at DSEF, says the Foundation’s social media platform allows DSEF to reach a whole new audience with the wealth of resources it has developed with partners like the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). “Tens of the thousands of small business owners, many of whom are direct sellers, now have access to free, credible information on topics like consumer protection, business ethics, personal finance and entrepreneurship skills,” she says.

The DSEF blog features interviews with industry executives, tips on running a business and selling, and guest posts from partner organizations such as CBBB, which initiated a blog post exchange with DSEF. Additionally, CUNA provides links to personal finance articles, and has partnered with the Foundation to produce YouTube videos on a variety of small business topics.

“Blogs like DSEF are valuable to industry veterans and new distributors alike because they provide regular direct sales-specific information” says Dan Macuga, Chief Communications Officer for USANA Health Sciences. “It’s valuable for distributors in that it provides a third-party, non-partisan look at the direct selling industry.”

For companies like USANA that are very active on social media, DSEF’s blog provides third-party content to share with people who are interested in learning about more than just USANA, but the industry in general.

“DSEF’s social media is also a great example of how to create a variety of practical content, such as ‘how-to’ posts packed with interesting facts and useful business-building tips, which even companies that are not as active on social media can easily share,” Macuga says.

One such example would be the “DSA Code of Ethics” videos on the DSEF YouTube channel, which demonstrate how USANA and other direct sellers operate with integrity. “The best-practices employed by DSEF complement what we’re trying to accomplish with USANA’s social media—we want to provide our Associates with entertaining and informative content they can share with their online networks,” Macuga adds.

Mannatech Vice President of Marketing Brett Duncan says that social media has made content more important than ever. “It’s not always easy finding enough content to fill in your editorial calendar for the week,” he says. “We use DSEF’s constant flow of great articles and tips specific to our industry regularly to help fill in those gaps. It’s been a surefire strategy for us, as we can rest easy knowing content is being created with our industry in mind by people who understand the industry. And it’s also given our sales Associates another place to gather with like-minded people even outside of Mannatech and take pride in their profession.”

Sarah Baker Andrus, Director of External Relations and Academic Programs for Vector Marketing Corporation, says she likes to follow the DSEF Facebook page. “Whenever I see posts on that page in my news feed, I always look at them for something of value to our field,” she says. “It’s quite common that the topic they’ve covered or the way they present something is salient enough and relevant enough for our business that we are able repost it and share it on our corporate page on Facebook. The value-add to us is something that we really appreciate. It gives us the chance to share good, generic business information with our field. We like that we are not only always posting information that is Vector or CUTCO specific. I love that DSEF offers information that is really helpful to growing your own business.”

Andrus also appreciates DSEF’s weekly email that explains what the Foundation is focusing on for the week. “My team is able to look at that and say, ‘Hey, here’s something we can piggyback off. There’s something we could add to. Or, that’s a good idea.’ I love the way that they are very proactive, and that they follow an editorial calendar they share with us so we can tie in whenever possible.”

The feedback coming in from the field is both positive and appreciative of the work DSEF does on behalf of those seeking reliable information on the industry.

Says Ally B., an Independent Silpada Designs Representative, “I just want to thank you for all the wonderful articles you post. I read them every day. They are so helpful. They inspire me to do more to promote my business.”

DSEF’s social media can be found at:


To receive DSEF’s weekly email outlining the coming week’s social media topics, contact Nancy Laichas.

Creating Virtual Worlds to Train Your Salesforce

Creating Virtual Worlds to Train Your Salesforce


It’s no secret that the Millennial Generation immerses itself in communication technologies. Gen Yers were raised in a digital world, and everyday life includes the extensive use of social media platforms to research and share information.

So as this generation enters the workforce, how do direct selling companies evolve their traditional sales and training methods to appeal to them?

At the upcoming DSA Annual Meeting in June, DSEF will sponsor “AVATAR WORKSHOP: Using Avatars and Virtual Worlds to Captivate Gen Y,” a workshop that will demonstrate a digital approach to captivating a new generation of direct sales distributors and customers.

Attendees will learn about virtual worlds and how to use avatars—online digital personas that allow users to navigate the virtual environment and interact with other participants—for training and marketing to increase sales, educating and motivating distributors, collecting customer insights for new product development and promoting new products to consumers.

“We want attendees to come away with a vision of how they can engage a new generation of customers and distributors,” says Professor Michael Solomon, Director of the Haub School of Business Center for Consumer Reseach at Saint Joseph’s University, who will co-present the session. “These ‘Digital Natives’ increasingly shop and interact on social media like Facebook. The virtual world platforms we will discuss are the next generation of the online marketplace—they combine the immediacy of Facebook with vivid visual capabilities. Virtual worlds will allow DSA businesses to promote their products and ramp up engagement in traditional venues like home parties as well as in new venues like digital house parties.”

According to co-presenter Greg Marshall, Charles Harwood Professor of Marketing & Strategy at Rollins College, the session will be a little avant-garde. “The slide deck we have put together is not a normal slide deck,” he says. “We are showing a lot of examples of avatar-driven communications and where training could be done in a virtual world environment. Hopefully it will open up attendee interest and even understanding of what is possible using a virtual-world approach, whether it is through customer contact, training, branding or messaging—those are the things that are the real opportunities. We’re hoping this session will be a first salvo at raising interest on the part of the direct selling community.”

The basis for the workshop is a research pilot study funded by DSEF and led by Professors Solomon and Marshall in which a virtual world was constructed for the mark® division of Avon. In July 2010 Solomon and Marshall conducted a series of conference calls with mark’s marketing and online teams to create a virtual sales representative training venue. The virtual venue was completed in August 2010, and this past February mark employees were invited to enter the venue and interact as avatars.

Why is this type of academic research so important? Solomon says forward-looking businesspeople understand the value of staying on top of new technologies and business models, but may not have the luxury of exploring these options because of the ongoing demands of running their companies. “This type of research bridges the gap between new possibilities and everyday practice,” he says. “It reflects a model of cooperation where academic and practitioner partners each contribute a unique set of resources, and an innovative match-making organization like DSEF provides the glue that holds them together.”

Making academic research practical for direct sellers is critical because the divide between academic research and traditional market research—or applied research—is getting narrower and narrower, says Marshall. “Professors are really being held more and more accountable to multiple stakeholders. It’s not just about publishing our work in obscure journals any longer, but hopefully being able to add value to the fields that are connected to our research.”

Marshall added that this type of research has important implications for direct sellers who want to get ahead of the game, not the least of which is that the generation they are dealing with now—whether it is the new sales representatives or the new end-user customers or even individuals working at the corporate level. “You are dealing so much more with the millennial group—that’s the apple of all direct sellers’ eyes right now—and that group lives in a different space from Baby Boomers and Gen X types,” he said. “They want to be able to go out and find out things on their own. They are perfectly comfortable in the virtual space. For training purposes, there are so many interesting applications, such as using a virtual-world approach. For the end-user customer, direct sales has a lot of opportunities to bring them into the virtual world to demonstrate products. It is going to be a brave new world out there when it comes to taking product to market.”

The Avatar Workshop will be held on Monday, June 4, from 10:15 A.M. to 11:30 A.M.