Selling Directly to Buyers
The company that Jay and Rich created casts a goliath’s shadow over the direct-selling industry, but Amway wasn’t the first company to sell directly to buyers. Others, such as Fuller Brush, Stanley Home Products, Avon Products, and Tupperware, preceded it. But Amway took the multilevel marketing (MLM) concept and ran with it around the world. It not only laid the foundation for other MLMs, but also helped spark some of the business trends taken for granted today—working from home, shopping from home, globalization, and shifting the activities of selling and distribution away from brick-and-mortar structures and traditional systems. The Direct Selling Association (DSA), the industry’s major trade organization, says that a record 16.1 million Americans worked as direct sales representatives as of 2009. That was up by 1 million people from 2008’s sales force. People are “looking to earn extra money on their own terms and at their own pace,” says Neil Offen, the DSA’s president and chief executive officer.1
Business icon Donald Trump, British airline tycoon Richard Branson, and billionaire Warren Buffett have limited involvement in MLMs and direct selling as well. The Trump Network in 2009 began selling nutritional supplements, healthy snack foods, and skin care products. The marketing materials make the network sound a lot like, well, Amway:
It’s an opportunity. An opportunity for you. And an opportunity to help rebuild a country founded on that very premise. ...