I don’t know about you, but fall is one of my favorite times of the year. I love watching the leaves change colors and feeling the weather cool to a crisp, comfortable temperature just right for cardigans and the taste of fresh apple cider and pumpkin spice lattes.
Another thing I love about fall? October is National Women's Small Business Month.
For this issue of the Can-Do Quarterly, we thought an appropriate theme would be “Women Helping Women.” But don’t worry men, everything we include in this newsletter applies to you as well.
For instance, we’ve got aterrific article about the importance of supporting each other in our industry and tips on ways you can do that, no matter your gender. We've also included a section on high-profile women and organizations to follow on social media. But the piece I’m most excited about is our interview with Victoria Vilbrandt, the Vice President of Marketing for Princess House.
I hope you enjoy this issue of the Can-Do Quarterly. Now, bring on the cooler weather and remember, we’re all in this together!
Celebrating and Supporting Women-Led Businesses
By Charlie Moss
Thoughdirect sellingwas started in thelate 1800s by men who traveled from city to city selling everything from encyclopedias and sewing machines to snakeoil and elixirs, now in 2019 women make up 75% of the industry.
While this is significant, when it comes to executive roles in direct sales, men still dominate. Though we must point out, women and women-of-color are quickly working their way to the top.
According to Forbes, while it's beneficial for both men and women to have a strong network of business confidants, women who also maintain a close group of female peers and mentors are increasingly likely to fill spots in executive leadership teams. These leadership roles can allow them to earn higher pay and gain more authority.
So, how can women continue to support and encourage other women to thrive in the direct sales and independent contractor industries?
We've got five ways you can help.
1. Become a mentor.
Everyone needs a little help when they're first getting started as an independent contractor. It can be overwhelming, and if you're not meeting your sales goals, it's tempting to give up. Having a mentor to offer advice, coach through tough times, and provide support can make a huge difference to someone who's just started in the industry. As a mentor, you can share your own stories of your early days, what you learned, and how you overcame the challenges you faced. Being a mentor doesn't just benefit newer consultants, though. It also gives you the chance to learn a fresh perspective and make a new friend, one who could eventually help you down the line.
Or, if you know someone who would make a great mentor, ask them if they would mind taking on the role. If you don't know anyone who can offer advice to help you reach your goals, there are plenty of places to look online like the Women Initiative Foundation and the Women's Business Development Center. Here's another resource to find a good mentor. You can also try your local rotary club or other business-related networking groups. For some inspiration, read about how these women overcame the odds to build successful businesses. And for the love of goodness, the best thing you can do to show your mentors you appreciate them is to take their advice.
2. Buy, read, and give books by female entrepreneurs.
Many women entrepreneurs and executives have stories to tell about the successes and challenges of climbing the corporate ladder, starting their own business, or rising through the ranks of a male-dominated industry.
3. Give and take feedback.
Criticism can be hard totake sometimes. But it’show it helps us grow as individuals and entrepreneurs. It’s one of the best things we can offer other women in this industry. Because it can be tough out there, especially when sales are down or you’ve been passed up for a promotion. Diplomatically giving advice, and in turn, accepting it and applying it to your business strategies is a surefire way to get ahead.
4. Partner with other female-led businesses.
Direct sales can be competitive at times. After all, if youdon’t meet your sales goals, you run the risk of losing money and going out of business. But that doesn’t mean you have to play cut-throat with other female independent contractors. In fact, teaming up with different businesses can boost your sales if you’ve got the right strategy. Just find other women who are selling complementary products or services to what you’re selling.
For example, if you sell cooking supplies, then partner with a chef who owns her own business for a cooking or baking demonstration. You’re not only advertising her business, but you’re also promoting your products and how effective they can be. As another example, if you sell spa services like massages, manicures, and pedicures, team up with a woman who sells beauty products that compliment those services like hand lotion and nail polish. For inspiration, read this story about how Polly Rodriquez partnered with other women small-business owners so her company Unbound could thrive in a male-dominated industry.
5. Hold a workshop for aspiring female entrepreneurs.
Why mentorjust one person when you can mentor many women at the same time through a workshop offering your professional expertise?Offer a class through a local learning space, coffee shop or workspace, or even host a webinar online. Advertise it through word-of-mouth, social media, and through the potential venue. If you’re looking for one, or need some ideas on how to start your own, we’ve got a few recommendations:
SMRT Women - an award-winning community that holds events and workshops for aspiring and working female entrepreneurs.
An Interview with Princess House’s VP of Marketing, Victoria Vilbrandt
By Charlie Moss
Since 1963, Princess House has been known for pairing premier home decor and cookware products with party hosting and gatherings to enrich the lives of its customers.
Victoria Vilbrandt is the Vice President of Marketing, Strategy, and Solutions at Princess House. There, she oversees the marketing, communications, product development, merchandising, and digital departments. Before she joined the company in 2014, Victoria served as Marketing Director at Silpada Design, a direct seller of high-quality sterling silver jewelry, as well as an executive position at Tupperware U.S. & Canada, and several global leadership marketing positions at Tupperware Brands.
We had the privilege of talking with Victoria about the challenges she faced in her career ascent, how she’s seen the direct sales industry evolve when it comes to more women in executive leadership roles, and the woman who inspired her the most in her life.
NFICA:You’ve had an incredibly successful career in the direct sales industry. How did you get into the industry and what were the aspects of it that appealed to you?
Victoria:I had the privilege of starting my direct selling career with Rexall Showcase International, which launched in 1990 in Boca Raton, Florida. We sold weight management products, homeopathic medicines, personal care products, nutritional supplements, and water filtration systems. In 2002, the company was purchased by Royal Numico, the world’s largest baby formula maker and soon after RSI was merged with another of their companies, Enrich, and the new company became Unicity, which is now located in Utah. My experience in leading global product development and launching South Korea and Japan for that company set the stage for my passion for this industry.
Next, my direct selling career expanded as a member of the executive team at Tupperware U.S. & Canada after transitioning from a global marketing role with Tupperware Brands. My love for fashion and jewelry united when I joined Silpada Designs under Avon’s management. Today, I’m thrilled to be part of Princess House, where I work alongside an incredible field sales force of powerful women—and a few good men. I admire them immensely for their hard work, dedication, and family values. Many are first-generation immigrants from Latin American countries, as I am, and they have such incredible stories and a true passion to live the American dream.
NFICA: Direct sales has traditionally been a female-dominated industry as far as independent contractors go, while many of the executives have historically been men. How have you seen this change in the industry and within your own company?
Victoria: According to the Direct Selling Association, women continue to dominate the independent contractor population. The industry is over 75 percent female. With these numbers, no one should argue the importance and the critical role and responsibility women executives play in impacting lives across this country and around the world.
In direct selling as in other industries, we are moving towards acknowledging and understanding the critical role women play in an organization, particularly where there is an entrepreneur focus. I believe women develop a strong ability to see challenges and opportunities holistically, to be very practical, to effectively multi-task and to think strategically. I’m very proud to work alongside several very smart and strong female executives at Princess House, and equally proud of our female-dominated field which is made up of women who are relentless, powerful change-agents in their communities. Many of them are leading multi-million dollar Princess House businesses and successfully balancing other aspects of their lives.
NFICA: What kinds of challenges have you faced in your career when it comes to diversity and gender? How did you overcome them?
Victoria:Based on my own experience, I’m extremely hopeful for the future of women in business and I believe we’ve made impressive strides in the past few years alone. I imagine a day when gender is not a limiting factor for anyone.
That said, at the start of my career, I did consider my gender to be a limitation. Today, I think the limitations have decreased significantly. Empowerment of women has grown as a movement, and more leaders, brands, and nations are discussing and creating an environment for women to make decisions that benefit themselves, their communities and society in general. More women have ‘voices,’ and their voices are getting louder.
For me personally, I chose to never allow my immigrant background or gender to be a limitation. I wear both with pride, embrace every opportunity and use them as a way to stand out. However, in general, women do face significant challenges to have a seat at executive tables and board rooms, despite our wins. And once there, we have to recognize that many of our attributes and interactions can be misinterpreted as emotional and defensive, often more so than male counterparts in my opinion. Women are still questioned about their ability to fully commit due to family and yet you rarely hear those questions asked of men in business. It’s a work in progress, but I trust we are headed in the right direction.
NFICA:Who was a woman of influence in your life that helped inspire you to get where you are today? What lessons did you learn from her and how have you applied them to your life and career?
Victoria:The most significant influencer has been my mother, who is a strong and compassionate woman. She always taught us the power of hard work, strong character, and kindness. In my career, I have certainly had my share of mentors, women I have learned from and who have invested time to work with me and strengthen my resolve to succeed. Our CEO, Connie Tang, has been truly inspiring. She has a tenacious and high-energy spirit, and always seems to be able to smile regardless of stress. She’s really been a light, even in darker times. I often seek mentoring from women in other disciplines of business and they have enlightened me with knowledge and insights. Just as important, I have been deliberate to identify traits in women in leadership that I want to avoid. These are as important as the ones that inspire me. I have taken lots of mental notes, and have worked very hard to keep warmth, compassion, and a sense of fun and adventure in my work every day.
NFICA:What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as an independent consultant and who may be struggling with building their business?
Victoria:My simplest advice for independent consultants in the direct selling industry is to take small steps. You don’t have to start with a long-term plan and vision for the next 5-10 years. Identify what you want now and write it down. Be specific: “I want to earn an extra $300 a month to be able to afford a new car for my family.” Break those goals into steps and share your plans with someone you trust who will hold you accountable. Put yourself in a situation where you are responsible to continue the process, where you are accountable. If you have nothing to lose, you may not stick through the challenging times. Know that any worthwhile new endeavor will require a significant investment in time, grit and focus. Don’t fall for the ‘big rewards equals very little work’ message. That will not be the reality for true success. Lastly, identify an individual or two who can speak positivity into your life and who have the ability to lift you in times of doubt.
NFICA:What podcasts do you listen to regularly? What's your favorite and why?
Victoria: There are so many, I try to listen to a few every week. It’s hard to select my favorite, but a few I enjoy listening to the most are Coffee Pods with Holly Ransom. In addition to her great Australian accent, Holly’s interviews are real and interesting. They share insights, stories, and experiences of proven change-makers. Coffee has never been so informative.
Then there’s The GaryVee Audio Experience. I met Gary at a DSA event a few years ago. An entrepreneur, CEO, investor, vlogger, and public speaker, Gary Vaynerchuk offers great raw and insightful ways for independent business owners and large brands to think of business and leadership. He is practical and unapologetic to the status quo.
I also often listen to Dave Ramsey. He has been an inspiration to our family’s finances. At the end of the day, we work hard and it affords a good financial reward. How you plan for those resources is just as important.
NFICA: What social channel do you think consultants would find the most success with for their advertising? Any quick tips you can give them to help improve their marketing strategy?
Victoria: Facebook and Instagram continue to have great relevance in the direct selling space. They offer a low-cost way to deliver brand impressions and conversions, and unlike traditional media, they’re measurable. It’s key to ensure message and brand are consistent on all channels. Brands and independent consultants often make the mistake of appearing different based on the platform. Ensuring that you’re the same ‘person’ across channels is extremely important to avoid confusion. Plus, ensuring you measure and analyze the performance of any campaign is really important. It’s not enough to test new activities. Measurement of social provides validation of direction and shows where pivoting is necessary.
Today, YouTube, or video viewing, is more relevant than ever. In a direct selling business, it’s hard to deny the power of a visual demonstration. It’s a cost-effective and authentic way of sharing the product experience. Unlike in the past, transparent and raw content is so much more desired and consumed, so an independent contractor doesn’t have to spend thousands on video production to leverage YouTube as part of their marketing strategy.
Upping Your Game:
Who to Follow for the Best Business Advice and Inspiration
We don't know about you, but the folks we want to learn from are sometimes the ones we choose to follow on social media. In the list below, we've included the most powerful and captivating women we could find on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. We've also included organizations that specialize in empowering women to get ahead in the often male-dominated world of executive leadership and entrepreneurship.
Victoria Vilbrandt on LinkedIn -Princess House's VP of Marketing, Strategies, and Solutions and the subject of our exclusive interview above, follow Victoria on LinkedIn to get great advice and the chance to further build your network of powerful businesswomen.
Female Quotient on LinkedIn - A group centered on advancing equality in the workplace and the world through collaboration, bringing visibility to women, activating solutions for change, and creating metrics for accountability.
Lisa Stone on Twitter - There is so much to say about this woman. Her Honors include a Fortune Most Powerful Women Entrepreneur Award, Fast Company's 100 Most Creative People in Business and an Ernst & Young Winning Women Award. Follow Lisa for her insightful posts, and her take on trending topics.
Oprah Winfrey on Twitter - You get a car! And you get a car! And you get a car! One of the most powerful women in entertainment history, follow Oprah on Twitter to get all sorts of great advice, from what to read to great recipes and decorating tips. You'll also get updates on new projects she's working on, archival interviews with women she's admired, like the great Toni Morrison, and sneak previews of upcoming issues of O Magazine.
Her Agenda on Instagram - Her Agenda is an award-winning digital platform bridging the gap between ambition and achievement for millennial women. Find inspiration through the stories of real women who are succeeding in their industry while highlighting the information and resources needed to achieve that success.
Career Contessa on Instagram - No list would be complete without including this account. Career Contessa highlights strong women and inspirational quotes that will empower you to make moves in the workplace.
Lean In - Inspired by Sheryl Sandberg's influential book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead; this organization helps women achieve their ambitions and work to create an equal world by encouraging them to work together in a variety of ways.
U.S. Small Business Association - Created in 1963, the SBA continues to help small business owners and entrepreneurs pursue the American dream. The SBA is the only cabinet-level federal agency entirely dedicated to small business and provides counseling, capital, and contracting expertise as the nation's single go-to resource and voice for small businesses.
Not sure if you should attend that upcoming conference? Read one of our most popular blog posts on why you should.
5 REASONS YOU SHOULD ATTEND THAT NEXT CONFERENCE
So, there’s a direct sales conference coming up and you’re thinking about not going. You’re saying to yourself it’s a waste of time and money. It’s better for your business for you to stay home and keep doing your daily grind, right?
Actually, this couldn’t be further from the truth.