New e-commerce Push Celebrates Le-Vel’s Next Decade.
Founded | 2012
Headquarters | Frisco, TX
Jason Camper | Co-Founder, Co-Owner & CEO
Paul Gravette | Co-Founder & Co-Owner
Product Category | Health and Wellness
It’s hard to fathom now, but a decade ago Le-Vel’s launch strategy as a health and wellness, Cloud-based business so shook the status quo that critics lined up convinced it wouldn’t last.
“It was kind of fun to ride that out and prove them wrong,” Jason Camper, Le-Vel’s Co-Founder, Co-Owner and CEO, recalled.
Not to say it wasn’t scary when he and Paul Gravette set out to do something so against the grain in 2012. They also bucked other trends of the day, like dropping the practice of companies charging people to sell their products.
Fast-forward ten years—which Camper says flew by at warp speed—and the hindsight maturity often brings hasn’t changed who or what Le-Vel is all about.
“It’s still free to be involved, with less overhead and more commissions with our Cloud-based technology platform and premium-grade ingredients. Our THRIVE product line was designed to address nutritional gaps and deficiencies,” Camper said.
We’ve accomplished as much or more than we would expect in a calendar year in terms of initiatives, projects and launches just during the first four months of this year.—Jason Camper
Le-Vel’s winning formula equates to 10 million customers worldwide, approaching $3 billion in lifetime sales, 30 patents and counting, over $1 billion in commissions paid out and hundreds of millions of free products shipped through a Refer Two Customers, Your Product is Free platform.
So, what did Le-Vel get right and not-so-right these past 10 years?
Holding on in Hypergrowth
Thinking back to 2015-16, Le-Vel was growing by $100 million, $250 million a year. Hypergrowth can kill a company just as fast as stagnation. Maybe a singular or digital product is easier, but Le-Vel’s multiple ingredients, single-serving packaging and countless SKUs made for a million moving parts.
“What we did right is we kept the train on the tracks during insane hypergrowth. We never screwed up shipping, backorder situations, commissions or customer service. We were able to hold on to the tiger by the tail,” Camper said.
And they did so with a skeleton crew. “There were so few people back then, and I mean few. If people really knew how few were behind the corporate curtain, they would have been shocked,” he remembered.
There’s a sort of beauty in that kind of teamwork, in how effective a few “right” people can be. Once hypergrowth waned, that small, efficient team refocused on service. It took time to build out corporate departments and teams.
“We have outstanding people in the company right now. And I’m truly grateful for everybody that’s played a role, but it’s an interesting dynamic. You think the more people you have, the more you’re going to get done. But it can actually bog you down,” Camper shared.
Outside vendors can also complicate issues. Things get lost in the layers and don’t get accounted for. “It’s tough,” Camper said. “When meaningful vendor relationships no longer work, no amount of wishful thinking or personal history changes a system or service from a vendor that’s no longer effective. And consumers don’t care ‘how’ or ‘why’—they only care that it is impacting their experience. Vendors can make you look much better or much worse than you are.”
Knowing when to make a change with a vendor has been one of Le-Vel’s greatest pain points and learnings. When 70 percent of vendor performance is okay, and 30 percent is really, really bad—it’s time to make a change. When the numbers don’t lie, you’ve got to make tough decisions.
“We trusted way too long in some scenarios and should’ve looked at actions, not words. That’s one of the things that I had to learn. You’ve got to be willing to pull the plug and make tough decisions. Ongoing issues can hurt the company’s brand and integrity. Change for the sake of change is never good, but change when needed is a must,” Camper explained.
Transitioning to a New Decade
Founder led; founder driven—that’s how most companies find their footing in the industry. But this next decade requires something different. Camper woke up last year thinking about how Le-Vel would “thrive” on if he or Co-Founder/Co-Owner Gravette were out of the picture.
More motivated than ever to grow the company, Camper’s been building out the corporate team with new additions to the executive and management teams in targeted areas. For mature corporate growth, Le-Vel will build levels of leaders and empower them to actively lead the company. “The show must go on whether a founder is doing a call or meeting. This is a big company and a big brand,” Camper said.
A big company and brand only to be made bigger in the coming decade, as Le-Vel fixes its gaze on hitting a billion dollars annually.
Unlike many ten-year-old U.S.-based direct selling companies with flat-lining domestic sales, Le-Vel is still an attractive and relatable brand in North America, and “low-hanging fruit” still exists at home in the U.S. and Canada. “Le-Vel is one of the most attractive direct selling companies in the U.S.,” Camper shared.
Thus far, Le-Vel really hasn’t pulled international levers. Do they want to scale and grow? You bet. But Camper stressed, it must be the right way and at the right time.
Last spring, Le-Vel grew by leaps and bounds as the world got vaccinated and light finally appeared at the end of the COVID tunnel. Then came the variants. Masks were back. Worldwide supply chain tilted completely on its head, and everything was murky.
“We had great growth like many companies in our industry did early on when COVID first hit as there was a great focus on health and wellness. Everybody was home with nothing else to do but focus on the business and their health. However, after two years of field leaders stuck in their homes, it did not come without challenges,” Camper shared.
Le-Vel’s field culture was stymied. The extent of the challenges field leaders faced was at the forefront of Camper’s mind this past winter. He listened to how they’d spent the past two years primarily on social media without kids’ sports games, church and social events fostering business connections. While people yearned to get back to person-to-person, it would obviously be different and slower paced.
Pressing the Gas on Products
While they anticipated reconnection, Le-Vel capitalized on Thrive brand equity by following market trends and dropping multiple products into its 2022 pipeline. They aimed to bolster growth from sales to a huge, existing customer database.
This passion for new products motivates Co-Founder and Co-Owner Paul Gravette. “We remain committed to developing the most superior products on the market and giving people the means to recapture their vitality and joy for living,” he shared.
In addition to adding new flavors and vegan-friendly offerings to their shake line, they launched a new gummy supplement line, a powdered collagen, an herbal canned energy drink called OooWEE! and an alkaline fusion bottled water called Thrive20, which achieves alkalinity through a magnetically charged process rather than with additives or chemicals.
This spring Le-Vel repackaged the Thrive Experience that originally prompted hypergrowth, rebranding it E60/Thrive Experience 60-Day Challenge. It’s a fresh new look and feel that promotes the same timeframe system and products to reinvigorate consumers committed to a finish line visible on the horizon.
“We’ve accomplished as much or more than we would expect in a calendar year in terms of initiatives, projects and launches just during the first four months of this year,” Camper said.
And the good news is that person-to-person also returned this year with a “1,000 Events in 100 Days” field initiative campaign that just wrapped in April. The company launched their “Hot Thrive Summer” campaign in May, consisting of a series of diverse, live in-person meetings across the country accompanied with Facebook Live and Zoom trainings. “Our operations and marketing teams have done an amazing job this year leading the way with calendar events, trainings and building campaigns,” shared Camper.
Consumer Sync Up
Camper and Gravette believe in the power of direct selling but are striving to build a customer experience that more closely replicates a direct-to-consumer platform. It’s imperative to alleviate oddities and confusion for customers on direct selling websites. “All they want to do is buy a product, but industry norms drive all site traffic through opportunity content first, in hopes of getting a purchase later. That’s how you lose a customer,” Camper said.
Camper plans to change that with a creative and unique e-commerce push called ShopThrive.com. Once deployed later this year, all Le-Vel/Thrive consumer traffic will land on ShopThrive.com to purchase products without thinking about upline connections, logins or passwords.
“We are trying to eliminate steps and look more like an e-commerce business, a retail platform just like any other e-commerce platform that customers buy from. And if one of those customers raises their hand and says, ‘Yes, I’m interested in the opportunity.’ Great! We’re going to actually take you over here for information. Product before opportunity—not opportunity before product.” Camper explained.
“ShopTHRIVE is throwing the long ball at our Thrive brand and letting our e-commerce platform flourish from a customer perspective.” Camper said.
But it is also a strategic growth calculation for Le-Vel, as it clears the way for Le-Vel to become more of an entity of its own. Camper believes the move will expand Le-Vel’s corporate ability to participate in mergers and acquisitions that make sense for their overall growth strategy.
Gravette agreed, “We’ve only scratched the surface of our potential as a company—the next five years are going to be tremendously exciting for Le-Vel.”
Camper remains grateful for the lessons and learnings of the past decade. “The last ten years have been life changing. Paul and I could not have done this alone, and our passion goes out to everybody who has made this what it is. We fight daily to continue to make this company a wonderful place to call home for our valiant promoters in the field and Le-Vel employees. We can’t wait to see what the next ten years’ experiences, lessons and achievements will be.”
We’ve only scratched the surface of our potential as a company—the next five years are going to be tremendously exciting for Le-Vel.—Paul Gravette
From the June 2022 issue of Direct Selling News magazine.