The direct sales industry is well-known for its role in promoting entrepreneurialism, empowerment, and a “be your own boss” attitude for millions of women around the world (of the 15.9 million people involved in direct selling in the US, over 80% are women). We’ve identified three of the industry’s leading female executives who took this mantra to heart. These women fulfilled their dreams of running their own businesses, and are role models and inspirations to women in the direct sales industry across the globe. If you’re looking for a way to motivate and inspire your sales force, look no further than the exceptional stories of these three women.
Tracy Britt Cool, CEO of Pampered Chef
Tracy Britt Cool grew up in the small town of Manhattan, Kansas (population size of 50,000). While tending to the family fruit-and-vegetable farm, Cool developed a knack for business. By age 10, she set up her own stand at a farmer’s market and hired employees (friends) and managed inventory (fruit). As she grew up, her entrepreneurial spirit soared. She was a direct admit to Harvard Business School, co-founded Smart Women Securities, a nationwide non-profit that offers investment education to young women, and became President of Harvard’s famed Women in Business. Now the right-hand woman of Warren Buffett, she has spearheaded the turnaround of multiple companies, including The Pampered Chef.
Cool attributes her success to her fearless decision-making. While her college classmates competed for Wall Street jobs, Cool applied for business school. Disregarding those who did not think she was prepared, Cool pursued her dream of going to one of the best business schools in the country where she cultivated her relationship with future mentor and employer, Warren Buffett.
In Tracy’s words:
“Following my instincts, taking the path less traveled, and leaning in before my career even began definitely paid off.”
Take risks and pursue your career goals even if the peanut gallery might be telling you otherwise. While advice and recommendations can be helpful, the most important opinion to listen to is your own.
Heidi Thompson, President and Co-Owner of Scentsy
Heidi Thompson started from meager beginnings in Meridian, Idaho. She and her husband and business partner, Orville Thompson, launched their business with no money, credit, office, supporting operations, or formal business training. The two bootstrapped the fledgling company from early days when they struggled to pay monthly bills to a global corporation with ~$500million in annual sales revenue.
To grow Scentsy, Thompson had to pave her own way and find the most effective solutions for her business. Her company pivoted products, business models, and sales strategies multiple times until she found the formula that worked best for Scentsy. She was able to change the trajectory of her once fledgling business by learning to take risks, try new ideas, and turn failure into learning experiences.
In Heidi’s words:
“Don’t expect to be comfortable when you are growing, or to grow when you are comfortable.”
Making moves and growing both personally and professionally can be difficult or uncomfortable. Learn to embrace this feeling and understand that you’ll need to take some risks and fully commit yourself to make leaps in your business.
Connie Tang, President and COO of Princess House
Connie Tang came to the United States from China as a toddler, and her career started with a humble beginning in a retail position at a Clinique make-up counter. Seizing the opportunity to prove her business acumen, Connie rose through the cosmetic ranks as Account Coordinator, Vice President, and now, President and COO of Princess House. She took control of her future and doggedly pursued success for herself and her business.
Tang embraces her femininity and encourages other women to do the same in order to “break through the tradition or vision of what leader’s look like.” Her authentic leadership style helps redefine what it means to be a leader by proving that female leaders can be both feminine and powerful.
In Connie’s words:
“Direct sales is a common denominator-an equalizer-where everyone has the same opportunity… It is all about you-the individual. It’s all in your control.”
The direct sales industry offers you that opportunity to determine your own destiny. Your style and identity, whether traditional or nontraditional, is capable of capitalizing on these opportunities.
This year, inspire your sales force by sharing the powerful stories of women like Tracy Britt Cool, Heidi Thompson, and Connie Tang. Feature the stories of these or similarly accomplished women in your next company newsletter. Look for leaders inside your own company to regularly host video-conferences, share helpful tools and strategies, and motivate your sales force. Provide role models for your sales force in whom they can see themselves and their futures.