Meet the Young Innovators Shaping Direct Selling’s Future
Constant marketplace change keeps the focus of most DSN content on how companies rise above challenges. We interview founders and C-Suite executives to talk about industry trends and progress, shifting business models and compensation plans, rebranding and tech and compliance and product development. The list goes on and on.
Less frequently, do we feature the young, corporate standouts who so prominently figure in getting all those things done. But that changes with this issue, as DSN recognizes—for the first time ever—a group of innovative trailblazers, whose contributions push their companies’ trajectories upward, while reshaping the direct selling channel for the rest of us.
More than two dozen companies answered the call to nominate their most accomplished achievers under the age of 40, who exemplify the kind of leadership skills and innovation that best represents the future of the direct selling channel.
And to that end, we proudly present the 2023 DSN 40 Under 40—a group of youthful standouts, who are rockstars in their current roles—vocal champions of direct selling with just the right balance of knowledge and enthusiasm to ultimately lead the industry.
Their day-to-day contributions help their organizations navigate the changing marketplace and they constantly impress. It matters not what field these stellar people represent—be it IT, marketing, training/field development, product development, customer service, HR or even the C-Suite itself—each has won the admiration and respect of their peers and bosses, alike.
Senior Manager, Business Relations / North America
As Senior Manager, Business Relations for Mannatech North America, Vida Achundsada exemplifies outstanding leadership and a depth of understanding for direct selling that drives growth and fosters success within the organization. Vida’s passion, drive and relentless pursuit of success in her primary role of leading and supporting Associates and leaders from both the U.S. and Canada garners the respect and admiration of colleagues and peers alike.
But Vida also dedicates her energies to the Direct Selling Association of Canada, where she serves as a distinguished representative and holds a position on its Board. Her appointment reflects her long-standing commitment to the industry, as well as her proactive nature in shaping its future.
“She has proven herself to be a dynamic and influential leader, actively seeking innovative solutions and spearheading positive change,” said Patricia Anthe, Vice President North America, Mannatech. “She embodies the spirit of the next generation of leaders in direct selling.”
“One of the main challenges in direct selling is overcoming negative perceptions and addressing regulatory and legal complexities. Direct selling companies need to work more towards building trust, educating the public about ethical practices and ensuring compliance with various laws and regulations,” Vida shared. “Companies can tap into the global demand for entrepreneurial opportunities and consumer products by leveraging digital platforms and providing convenient online purchasing options.”
Direct selling inspires John Alcala because you don’t need specific qualifications, levels of education or experience or to be the most talented. “You only need the grit and determination to change your current situation,” he said.
John experienced the power of direct selling first-hand, working as a top field leader for It Works!. He and wife, SheriLynn spent seven consecutive years in the Top 10 prior to joining the corporate team and John becoming CEO.
“If not for this man (It Works! Founder Mark Pentecost) coming into my life nine years ago, I would have never believed there was more for my life. His belief in his vision for his life and his family’s legacy made me believe that I was made for more. I couldn’t be more blessed to have a mentor and friend that pushes, challenges and believes in me the way he does. He is the GOAT in this industry,” John said.
A methodical, strategic and passionate leader with a big heart, John is always interested in hearing other people’s perspectives and learning from them. He trusts the talents of his corporate team which adds positivity to the work culture. Hendrik Cloete, Chief Financial Officer said that John always puts people first and knows that—as a result—everything good will follow.
Head of Field Strategy
At 30, SheriLynn Alcala was a stay-at-home mom with two babies in diapers, when she clicked “join now” on the It Works! site and changed her and husband, John’s, life course. Now, they have checked off more dreams before 40 than most accomplish in a lifetime, thanks to nearly a decade in the field and some “out-of-the-box” thinking by the company’s founder.
Founder Mark Pentecost tapped two of his best field leaders—John and SheriLynn—to run the company earlier this year. “Now part of the corporate team, I’m excited to help our field change the trajectory of their lives. This channel doesn’t discriminate; it is for anyone and everyone willing to show up and work!” Sherilynn said.
Resilient, SheriLynn understands setbacks are part of the journey—merely learning opportunities for growth. She’s mastered stepping outside her comfort zone, taking risks and putting in the effort to make things happen. “She doesn’t wait for opportunities to come to her but goes out and creates the opportunities,” Kate Martin Carlson, Vice President of Marketing and Sales, shared.
“I believe more companies could benefit from hearing the field perspective because the goal is the same for both sides: to sell life-changing products and grow our sales force. I’m so excited to share my perspective, knowledge and insight. We are better together!” SheriLynn said.
Senior Director of Information Technology
FOR MORE than a decade, Uzma Azim has been the face of technology at Neora, collaborating to bridge gaps between challenges and technological solutions, something she finds deeply satisfying. “I find fulfillment in leveraging the power of technology and innovation to streamline manual tasks, enabling both myself and my team members to devote our attention to more engaging and fulfilling work.”
“Uzma has a very valuable gift of explaining very complex IT ‘speak’ to actionable steps across all departments,” Beth Hisey, Director of Marketing, shared.
Proof is the recent, successful Neora website revamp, where Uzma and her team were tasked with a heavy workload and short deadlines, while balancing usual day-to-day demands. The project was important to bring more ease and a better user experience for customers, brand partners, as well as prospects.
Software development experience early in her career—and the desire to learn more—led to a graduate degree in computer science by 2016, which was instrumental to her flourishing career, growth and advancement at her first direct-selling experience at Neora.
There, she met a remarkable mentor in Deborah Heisz, Co-CEO of Neora and CEO/Co-Founder of Live Happy. “With her vast oversight of various business domains, there is always something new for me to grasp and learn. Her guidance and mentorship have been invaluable in shaping my professional growth,” Uzma said.
Director of Global Market Partner Experience
Bethany Balsdon grew up in direct selling, inspired by stories of “fearless” women who chose the industry and changed their lives with hard work and perseverance. That’s how she knew her own potential was limitless.
MONAT Global is Bethany’s fourth direct selling partner, having joined in 2015 during the company’s Canada launch. She is lead strategist for main stage global salesforce event content. Bethany also leads a team in design, implementation and integration of recruiting and retention tools, programs and assets for 450,000 Market Partners which contributes to retention and activity.
“She is a value- and results-driven communicator, skilled at directing multiple training and sales initiatives while delivering results on primary objectives. Bethany is known for developing enduring and trusting internal and external relationships,” shared Ray Urdaneta, CEO, MONAT Global.
Catherine Scott, Vice President of Global Field Development and Bethany’s mentor, pushes her to be bold and taught her how to unapologetically hold a seat at the table while leading with kindness. “While working under Catherine, I had my first child. She models what being a stellar businesswoman and mother can look like. I would certainly not be where I am today or on this list without her,” Bethany said.
Director of Media and Technology
The dynamic environment of direct selling inspires Alexander Bogart to adapt, continually improve and be open to acquiring new skills. He said that’s why he gets up in the morning, and in challenging times his type of innovation and creativity profoundly impacts operations.
When Alexander stepped in to cover the extended absence of a co-worker diagnosed with a brain tumor, despite having his own workload to manage, CEO/Founder/President of Jordan Essentials, Nancy Bogart shared that, “He carried the load with an outstanding attitude, showing remarkable dedication and commitment to his colleagues and our organization.”
Alexander brings expertise and experience in video production, web and graphic design, as well as 15 years coordinating and executing direct sales events and conferences. But it’s his eagerness to learn and willingness to expand his skill set that make him a go-to resource for assistance and support across multiple departments.
Addressing a wide range of needs excites Alexander. “I find joy in streamlining operations and improving logistics to support our home office team. Helping bring impactful marketing strategies to life; executing successful events; and enhancing our brand’s visual identity are all areas where I can make a positive impact. Having a diverse skill set allows me to provide comprehensive support and contribute to the success of our company.”
AS A third-generation direct sales businesswoman, Laura Brandt feels a deep sense of responsibility to carry the opportunity and empowerment torch forward. Direct selling impacted the lives of her family and nurtured her entrepreneurial spirit, igniting a desire to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.
“I am particularly passionate about the direct sales space as it has granted me the privilege of meeting and building relationships with diverse individuals from all walks of life,” Laura explained.
When Mark Bennett, Chief Business and Legal Officer of IDLife, hired Laura, he told her he would train her to take his job. “I thought it would take three-plus years, but it only took her 18 months,” he shared. “Laura is one of the brightest minds in the business I have ever met. She’s level-headed, a voice of reason and a natural born leader. She wasn’t given the title of President, our employees treated her like the president, she made decisions like a president, and she had the ‘presidential’ respect of our vendors and brand partners before she ever received the title.”
Misconceptions and stereotypes can create hurdles for the direct selling industry and Laura believes the best way to overcome is to educate the public about legitimate and ethical practices and to build a strong industry reputation based on transparency and integrity.
Director of Business Relations
Ian Chen’s career spans four network marketing companies including starting one in China. At Mannatech, Ian is an invaluable asset driving growth in the North America Chinese market. He demonstrates unwavering dedication and works tirelessly with field leaders.
“I greatly admire his remarkable ability to forge and nurture relationships with our distributors. He understands the importance of establishing strong partnerships and setting mutual goals, all while effectively balancing his responsibilities as a corporate employee,” Patricia Anthe, Vice President North America, Mannatech shared.
“My two years as a distributor in the field revealed so much of what network marketing is about. I wouldn’t exchange those two years with any other experience,” Ian explained. “Working hand-in-hand with some of the most accomplished leaders in network marketing inspires me just about every day. In the age of automation, what distinguishes us as humans are those fundamental elements of friendship, love, happiness and a sense of belonging.”
His innovative mindset, coupled with an eloquent and effective communication style and unwavering reliability, allows Ian to spearhead new initiatives and consistently deliver outstanding results.
“The biggest challenge in this industry is the constant change in both regulatory environment and technology. The opportunity of the future lies in the younger generations. Companies will have to adapt to culture and consumer preferences of those generations which are evolving over time,” Ian said.
Vice President Global Marketing
Vivian Chung-Patterson has a keen eye for detail that makes her successful in creating 360-degree marketing plans that produce actual results. In her role with Partner.Co spearheading global marketing operations, events, social media and communications efforts, she exhibits exceptional leadership in both managing and motivating teams and efficiently launching new products and services on an international scale.
“Her commitment to delivering high-quality work is unwavering, and her dedication to the company is second to none. Vivian’s unwavering effort and expertise have contributed tremendously to the successful launch of Partner.Co,” CEO Darren Zobrist said.
With a background in communications, including being the youngest person at 24 ever hired by Hearst Publications’ Hong Kong Division to media liaison with prestige, luxury-brand clients like Christian Dior, she learned early on that being successful is tied directly to one’s own effort and motivation.
From her tenure with Hearst, too, she learned to develop and maintain the highest marketing standards for every project, and to teach those skills to others. When they created special ads for Christian Dior, for example, she said, “I’d sit at the print shop for days to ensure every batch of stock paper was the exact same weight and the same shade of white, and I’d reject every print that was darker/lighter than the approved color.”
In founding Green Compass, Meredith Cook became a mission-driven leader of an all-natural, holistic brand of quality hemp products. But for her, it was always about making a greater impact and building a passionate community empowered to share and heal. Her vision, leadership skills and personal passion solidify a strong corporate mission and purpose that’s felt in every aspect of the business, including R&D, formulating, manufacturing and distribution.
“She leads with purpose, gratitude and compassion—never straying from her commitment to people, whether that be consumers, advocates or employees,” Lori Burgher, CMO, said.
“I’ve always seen the value in bringing people together around shared passions. There is power in connecting people,” Meredith shared. “If you are passionate, you can have success. And success looks so different for everyone, which is incredible to see. At the end of the day, you just have to care enough to show up and share.”
Following the pandemic’s shift away from in-person gatherings, Meredith committed to a “hybrid” business building opportunity that meets people where they are. “But I will never shy away from bringing people together! The energy and excitement that comes when our advocates gather and share their experiences is so contagious, and it always fills my cup.”
Director of Digital Marketing
Brandon Craddock brings a quiet, calm demeanor and a lead-by-example management philosophy to a fast-paced, deadline driven environment at Ambit Energy, where he’s consistently advanced his skills in video creation, social media trends, website design and mobile technology to help define a life-long learning culture.
Closely tied to that pursuit of learning is Brandon’s constant reinforcement and insistence that Ambit’s creative team is most effective when it engages and listens to field leaders about what works and what doesn’t.
“He does all of this with a keep-your-cool, laid-back, never-ruffled style—always ready to step up and get the job done,” shared Eric Reisdorf, Chief Development Officer. “When I suggested Brandon to my management team as our nominee, the positive response was swift and absolutely unanimous.”
This former ad agency art director crossed to direct sales 12 years ago, bringing a consumer mindset and ability to relate that he’s since distilled into easily digestible best practices for consultants.
He feels the gig economy changed how people think about entrepreneurship, creating simple ways to earn extra income. “Direct selling is honestly no different and has many advantages over other gigs out there. It’s our job to make direct selling simple and accessible and to educate entrepreneurs and future business owners about those advantages,” Brandon explained.
Director of Operations
Novae is Arielle Dothard’s first direct selling foray, but she embraced its culture and mission Day One. CEO/Founder/President Reco McCambry said Arielle is a major piece of the puzzle that keeps the company moving.
“There is no problem that our executive team brings to a meeting where she is involved that we don’t have a list of possible solutions within 24 hours. Competency is one thing, but having a great attitude and being just as eager as ownership to succeed is everything! That’s Arielle’s MO!” Reco said.
Arielle is a thinker and problem solver who is constantly pushed to expand her knowledge. She believes much of her success ties to her ability to adapt, learn and implement.
“I’m blessed to have leadership I can look to for direction whenever I need it. I’m able to talk through mistakes and turn them into learning experiences—and turn the good ideas into tangible results by proactively working through potential holes. They’ve really provided a safe space for me to learn and be inspired,” Arielle said.
Applying creativity and knowledge to function helps Arielle build a solid foundation for her family, something she aims to continue in the next decade. “I’d like to be in a position where I can use the knowledge I’ve gained and pour into others so that they can build steady foundations for themselves,” she said.
Chief Strategy Officer
Network marketing is at an inflection point, where many platforms and technologies are shifting. For a Chief Strategy Officer like Kenton Engel, there’s little better than bringing innovations to bear in a well-established industry and disrupting it.
A well-educated man, who holds two master’s degrees as well as a PhD in pediatrics, Kenton also spent a decade digitally marketing sports nutrition products. “In my career, I have generated almost $300M in quantifiable and trackable digital sales; I have founded or co-founded four brands, all of which became 8-digit revenue earners; and I did all of this while pursuing full-time studies.”
“Kenton has been instrumental in finding key markets and technologies to help expand our Awakend Nation blueprint,” Rodney James, Awakend Founder and CEO, said. “He played a critical role in our partnership with innovative third-party technologies that have helped grow our business.” That includes a new app and integration, as well as review of all compliance-related materials.
Legitimacy, Kenton believes, is the industry’s biggest challenge with its historical legacy that’s roundly negative. “But with all obstacles come equivalent opportunities; meaning that the newest generations of direct selling brands have an opportunity to be forces for positivity; to be innovative product developers; and to lead the way in digital marketing that is fundamentally honest.”
Director of PR and Communications
Stefani Green leverages her experience in fashion, food, fitness and beauty to help energize Arbonne’s future. “I have a solid understanding of the marketplace and I am intrigued by its evolution. I spent my longest tenure at Mattel working on the Barbie brand, and Barbie has had a huge influence on my career,” she said.
While Arbonne is her first direct selling position, Stefani finds the entrepreneurial spirit motivating and inspiring. She loves the initiative and tenacity the industry requires, including in her role collaborating with partners across the industry.
Joining less than two years ago during a major transition, with new leaders and a new corporate structure, Stefani jumped into the role eager to connect Arbonne to new consumers and media through conversation and exposure.
“Stefani took the opportunity to create synergy across business units, build excitement with consumers and employees and truly reignited the brand’s place in culture and with media,” shared CMO Jorden Bell. Stefani integrated Arbonne’s communications strategy to consider multiple stakeholders and launched a PR campaign at New York Fashion Week resulting in 15 high-profile editorial placements and a 15 percent increase in organic story engagement and total impressions on IG Stories. Brand awareness, she said, is the biggest industry challenge and opportunity.
“Through empowering messaging and increased accessibility, we can transform direct selling to be more understood and highly desired.”
Jeff Harwood is a stalwart and true team player, someone who is constantly sharpening the saw, brainstorming and assisting across departments as well as always going the extra mile to support distributors, Ryan Mumford, Vice President of Finance, shared.
A Utah State and Disney Institute grad, Jeff’s business administration, leadership, employee engagement and quality service schooling helped during an unorthodox new hire training at Activz. When the boss’s wife had a baby in his first week, Jeff dug in.
“I chose to take upon myself my own training, learn the ways of the business and make myself an extremely valuable asset to the company, to not stop until I had figured things out. Even though I was suddenly thrust straight into the fire, I consider that one of the best moments in my career and what influenced me to get to where I am today,” Jeff explained.
His exceptional diligence “is invaluable while launching new markets, releasing new technology improvements or simply reorganizing a department,” Mumford said.
“It’s amazing to interact with so many people that want to increase their value and develop themselves into something great,” Jeff said. “I learned a long time ago that it’s better and more fulfilling to lift others and discovered that by doing so, they in turn lift you.”
Chief Program Officer
Ashlee Headlee always dreamed of starting her own direct selling company and creating an authentic community, so she is living her wildest dreams and is the most fulfilled she’s been in her entire career.
“I instantly fell in love with all the elements of this industry. I’ve spent the last 11 years working and consulting for companies ranging from billion-dollar brands to start-ups. The fact that I got to take all the knowledge gained over these years and create my own company in this channel is a bit surreal,” Ashlee said.
As a mother, mentor, yogi, wellness advocate and business owner, Ashlee’s passion for people shines as she helps them wake up and remember how incredibly powerful they truly are. She’s the visionary behind three main pillars to abundant living that work synergistically with Awakend products, programs, tools and technology.
Ashlee feels the direct selling industry has been on the forefront of revolutionary for decades but has also experienced a copy-and-paste philosophy of highlighting the same things over and over again. She hopes to create a new model for the future.
“I believe people are looking for more. More connection. More truth. More authenticity. More. This industry—out of all industries—is primed and so capable of providing more on a life-changing scale,” Ashlee shared.
Chief Technology Officer
Software development is Kenneth Hernandez’s playing field. He’s spent over a decade on the technology side of healthcare, entertainment, hospitality and direct selling, executing roles like senior software engineer, software architect and chief technology officer.
“I have worked with a variety of companies in the direct selling space, in multiple industries with a variety of compensation plans, all of which have helped me succeed in this channel,” Kenneth said.
“Not only is Kenneth a master at coding he is an excellent problem solver and leader. He embodies the core mantra of our founders to constantly grow and improve and his team exudes this principle as well,” CMO of inGroup, Doug Corrigan shared.
He believes the key to creating a brighter future for direct selling rests on education, innovation and values. A mentor who has a positive influence on Kenneth is inGroup’s Co-Founder Frank Codina. “Frank has not only been a mentor with my career but in life as well. His business and leadership values continue to inspire me,” Kenneth shares. The biggest opportunities exist in connecting the world through technology. “We are witnessing our partner teams span many countries, and we have never seen a time where we can connect with people so easily,” Kenneth said.
Vice President, Associate Marketing and Incentives
Kristi Hudson joined LegalShield at 19. Since then, she’s gained diverse experience in customer service, data analytics, membership retention and leading agile development projects. Three years ago, she earned a promotion to VP and recently finished an M.A. in strategic communication and digital strategy from the University of Oklahoma.
Driven by a strong work ethic, Kristi thrives on tackling challenges head-on with her exceptional problem-solving abilities. High expectations equal her belief in her team’s capabilities. Actions, she said, are more powerful than mere words. So, she rolls up her sleeves to work alongside them, prioritizing teamwork because the best ideas and outcomes stem from collaborative efforts.
“I was honored to receive the Employee of the Year award at LegalShield. This award recognized my leadership and project management during the launch of the company’s brand to LegalShield, along with all-new associate marketing sites and web commerce sites. That award hangs in my office today and remains one of the biggest highlights of my career,” shared Kristi.
She gives a special shoutout to Don Thompson, President of LegalShield’s network division, as an outstanding teacher; is inspired by legacy founders like Madame C.J. Walker for creating success on their own terms; and admires Red Aspen’s founders for their empowerment of women.
Senior Vice President and General Manager
Tamila Kerimova proudly said “yes” to big geographic moves early on, working in Moscow, Cairo and Lagos. That global perspective informs her current role driving MONAT Europe’s spring 2023 marketing opening in France and welcoming new Market Partners at a first-ever Parisian event. “I love Europe!” she said.
Her “cultural map” encompasses Europe, Africa, parts of the Middle East and the Commonwealth of Independent States region in a career spanning just under a decade. To be a global leader means living in and understanding other cultures. “Learning more about Asian direct selling and adding that experience will allow me to create a truly global profile,” shared Tamila.
“It’s no surprise that her career focus is on people empowerment and business development,” said Ray Urdaneta, CEO, MONAT Global.
Strong management, communications skills and a hands-on mentality makes Tamila adept at setting up, managing and coaching multi-functional international teams focused on revenue.
Part of the bridge generation, who experienced social media’s rise but remembers life before, Tamila explained that, “Appearing on this list is a great opportunity to highlight why diversity in both age and background is so important across leadership. We are living in times of great change. To thrive and succeed requires keeping an open mind, maintaining a strong vision and not getting distracted by trends.”
Director of Operations
Elisa Kurzban’s resilience extends beyond her professional role. Elisa is a boxer, underscoring her ability to overcome obstacles and rise above adversity—a characteristic she brings to work with her every day.
An MIT undergrad in mathematics provided a strong analytical foundation, but the draw to problem solve in the real world meant seeking an MBA from the prestigious Wharton School of Business. Elisa now enjoys engaging with people directly and tackling stimulating business problems for Qyral, where she finds the proximity to technology and innovation and the immediate, positive impact on customers’ lives exciting.
“Groundbreaking endeavors necessitate visionary thinking, as well as a strong and scalable operational foundation. Elisa has exemplified these qualities, ensuring that our company remains resilient and capable of handling rapid growth,” shared Hanieh Sigari, Qyral’s Founder and CEO. “Her resourcefulness is unmatched, and she consistently provides creative solutions to any problems that arise. Elisa’s enthusiasm and adaptability have been instrumental in conquering unique challenges.”
Elisa is thankful for the guidance and support she’s received. “Hanieh’s mentorship provides me with a unique opportunity to learn from her diverse experiences as a biochemist, mom, entrepreneur and advocate for longevity and healthcare. Our mentor/mentee relationship is a source of motivation, encouragement and invaluable knowledge, making it incredibly valuable in my journey at Qyral and beyond.”
Chief Financial Officer and Director of People Services
No job is too big or too small for Matthew Kuzio. Finance, HR, IT challenges, custom resource planning systems, even replacing paper towels and stocking snack drawers.
“No matter the problem, Matt is always ready to assist anyone at Red Aspen in need of help in a quick timeline and with a smile on his face. He adds a priceless sense of humor to the Red Aspen office and is truly such a joy to work with,” CEO/Founder Jesse McKinney said.
Matt’s an adaptive, positive team player with international development, business finance and renewable energy backgrounds, who believes direct selling is “one of the most democratic and inclusive forms of capitalism.”
His operational, entrepreneurship and tech experience stem from ventures in Mongolia, where he founded and managed a climate-focused micro-finance program and partnership with the United Nations and Asian Development Bank to produce energy-efficient products like heating stoves and insulated yurts locally to combat pollution.
Matt’s passion for startups took root and he came state side, eventually landing at Red Aspen. “As a growing startup, I love how fast we move. It feels like every six months my role evolves into something new. We continually work to evaluate our practice, and the challenges associated with building that momentum are epically fun to solve!”
Director of Operations
Erin Lokteff delivers inspiration in everything she does. In fact, Amanda Moore, Co-Founder/Chief Operations Officer calls her “coach” and says Erin manages Red Aspen’s largest team with grace, grit and good, old-fashioned fun.
Previously a teacher and athletic coach, shaping young women and men of strength, dependability and reliability comes as second nature to Erin. She thrived through nearly three years of hypergrowth by using a results-driven communications style to train and develop a 30+ member shipping team, while elevating operational function with forward-thinking planning and order projections.
“I am inspired by the concept that not all success has to look the same. Each of us has a life that is unique to us, with its own heartbeat and its own source of air. Direct sales provides a means to find that source of air for ourselves,” Erin said.
Erin loves that Red Aspen is female owned and 95 percent female run. “We are modeling for a community of not only strong female leadership, but also showing that traditional gender roles are antiquated.”
Jesse, Erin shared, is “a big idea thinker, goofy and infectiously positive” with a silver lining always in her sights—someone who always leaves the right amount of pause time to allow for response. “Jesse’s compassion has allowed me to develop and grow as a leader.”
Working by her family’s side, Madison Mallardi learned to value community and take care of loyal customers. By the time she was 21, Madison ushered in a new era at the family’s professional make-up company, and in just four years LimeLife by Alcone achieved over $100 million in sales.
She’s literally had her hands in everything—operations, product development, finance, sales, customer care, branding and marketing. She’s addressed every problem, found solutions and driven forward-thinking strategies to retool her grandfather’s company.
“She has a maturity well beyond her years to stay calm under pressure; respond and never react; and ensure that the best path is taken. She is also incredibly fun and funny and can be seen late at night with our sales field dancing or playing beer pong,” said Michele Gay, Chairwoman.
“It is not one person that can make a company great but a community of people, who love a company just as much as their CEO. I think direct sales is the only industry where you can witness such a phenomenon,” Madison shared.
So far, over 100,000 people have said “yes” to the LimeLife opportunity with commission pay outs over $200 million. “I have no idea where this road is going to take me, but I know I am only getting started!” Madison said.
Director of Events
Amanda Neumann sets a new standard not only for BELLAME’s future but also for today’s entrepreneur industry by masterfully crafting experiences of appreciation for their Brand Partners. They are made to feel important, valued and seen—all while capturing the essence of BELLAME’s brand and mission.
“Amanda’s unmatched commitment to BELLAME’s events, marked by meticulous planning and attention to detail is unlike anything I have personally seen in my 30 years in this industry. She delivers a world-class, unforgettable event,” said Melissa Thompson, Founder/CEO.
There’s never a dull moment in events, especially at a start-up brand, but Amanda’s loved planning since she ordered free Disneyland brochures and charted pretend vacations as a child. In college, she connected with Make-A-Wish Greater Los Angeles working in events and development, then moved on to travel the world in bartending competitions, for which she earned a place in the Top 50 Bartenders in the U.S.
“Everything I’ve done has gotten me to where I am now. Working for BELLAME has been a blessing. I love getting to curate each event and experience for our Brand Partners. I keep setting the bar higher and higher,” explained Amanda. “I am excited to see where this journey takes me and look forward to the growth and achievements that lie ahead.”
Senior People Services Leader
Jazlyn Olmedo has drive, skill, a positive outlook on life and a passion for her career that shines every day. In three years at Red Aspen, she’s worked full time, served as a graduate assistant in STEM and diversity research at Boise State University and completed a master’s degree in organizational performance and workplace learning.
She injects a true passion for creating an inclusive workspace, brand and community that fosters a welcoming environment at Red Aspen’s Treehouse and with Brand Ambassadors, for which Jazlyn leads a voluntary group through annual product, promotion and campaign planning through the lens of diversity and inclusion efforts, CEO/Founder Jesse McKinney shared.
“Overseeing our People Services team and creating a workplace that is fun, welcoming and supportive for all our employees is very rewarding in itself. Additionally, I find leading our Philanthropy and Beauty Inclusion Council program to be inspiring and fulfilling—to lead such positive change and continue making Red Aspen a leading company in both the beauty and direct selling industries while carrying out our mission and values,” Jazlyn said.
Red Aspen is Jazlyn’s first direct selling experience, and her role will continue to evolve as the company grows. That excites her. “We have so many goals and ideas to continue serving our reps and are consistently courageous to pursue those.”
International Vice President of Marketing
Jessica Pape is the ultimate team player, who brings talent, skill, fierce loyalty, positivity and a witty sense of humor that keeps everyone at NeoLife International on their toes. She joined the company just before a major rebrand and name change and now finds herself leading a digital transformation and brand refresh.
“It’s exciting to have the ability to drive new brand initiatives. Evolving the visual elements that represent NeoLife and differentiating ourselves from the competition at this significant time in our 65-year history is a challenge I find thrilling,” Jessica said.
Having built a part-time NeoLife business and ranking up to director, Jessica coalesces that field experience with a unique understanding and passion for the industry. “She loves serving our field and makes every decision with their best interests in mind—all with a goal of equipping them with tools and support to make a positive impact,” CEO Kendra Brassfield shared.
Kendra introduced Jessica to direct selling, and now Jessica relies on and values her mentorship. “Kendra has been instrumental in my personal and professional development. She has a remarkable ability to instill self-belief and uncover and amplify strengths. Kendra challenges me to step out of my comfort zone, identifies areas for improvement and enables me to think more creatively.”
Chief Brand Officer
It takes a very strong leader to understand the needs of a start-up company like Olbali, and Lauren Paul is just that sort. “Lauren is not afraid to roll up her sleeves and get the job done by any means necessary,” said Courtney Adeleye, CEO/Founder.
According to Lauren, helping women learn to market and brand themselves fills her with excitement. “There’s so much untapped potential out there. So many talented women who are afraid to put themselves out there and take a step into the spotlight.”
“I’m able to unlock a whole new world of possibility for these women, simplifying marketing and providing them with the tools they need to take that critical first step outside their comfort zones,” Lauren said of the presentations, video and graphic content she and her team create.
With her creative vision and eye for detail, she has transformed Olbali into a stand-out company and ensures every aspect of the brand reflects the right messaging and values. She approaches each project with a heart of servitude—a reflection of her nursing background—and is motivated by making every consumer feel like family.
“Lauren brings happiness to the entire team with her ability to build a great working environment around her, ultimately transforming the way Olbali approaches marketing,” said Courtney.
Product Strategy Senior Manager
Sometimes when posting a job description, HR is aware there’s a slim chance they find a perfect fit. But then there’s a candidate like Natalia Potter, who joined Red Aspen last year and Genie Reese, Co-Founder/Chief Strategy Officer, considers a “unicorn.”
A results-driven specialist with a decade of experience in international business projects, product development and online sales, Natalia exceeded Red Aspen’s best-case scenario. She’s phenomenal at tackling existing challenges, implementing efficient work processes and successfully identifying new growth opportunities.
Hardworking, dedicated, organized, fun and professional, Natalia oversees the entire product development process from ideation to launch, including ensuring that every product adheres to Red Aspen’s “clean beauty” standards and single-handedly developing an ordering timeline to combat the worst supply chain issues.
The world of direct selling is new to Natalia, who is a Japanese translator, was educated in Japanese economics and gained product development and project management experience working in Japan for six years.
“I love seeing the reactions of our brand ambassadors when we launch new products,” shared Natalia. “Our team spends a lot of time concepting, designing and formulating products. And seeing the process all come together with such excitement at the end, so many social media posts about the new products and great feedback is really rewarding.”
Director of Product Development
Juliana Rochelle earned amazing global knowledge in brand marketing and product development at L’Oreal for a decade before transitioning to Neora in 2021. “She brings innovation and a keen eye for market trends. Juliana is fearless, collaborative, forthcoming and insightful,” Beth Hisey, Director of Marketing, said.
Her skills as a collaborator with Neora’s formulation partners means Juliana is constantly testing and pushing the team to go further.
“I absolutely love what I do!” Juliana said about the exciting and fulfilling freedom she has to develop products that respect a disruptive innovation pace. “A lot of times in this industry you see companies growing mechanically. Here, I’m not tied to a specific launch window that a retailer pushes on me, so I have the freedom to work with R&D labs and push a formula until I know I have hit something that delivers outstanding results, no matter how long it takes.”
Juliana said of her boss and mentor, Amber Olson Rourke, “She has such a clear vision of what her brand needs to stand for and the non-negotiables of her consumer base, and it has helped me greatly to transition into this new industry. It’s easier to work for someone that shares your same values and vision.”
Amber Olson Rourke
Amber Olson Rourke is a force at Neora—a passionate creator, marketer, mentor and visionary. She’s a tireless, natural-born leader, who cares about her work, home office teams and the field she supports, empowering people to “own what we do and learn from it—and her,” shared Beth Hisey, Director of Marketing.
After earning a BA in business marketing from University of Florida, Amber began her career in marketing/advertising, which was invaluable to learning how to craft a compelling story and create a brand that resonates with consumers. She also owned and operated a medical spa, giving her an up-close, small business perspective.
Amber has an amazing eye for details—from graphic design layouts to messaging to comp planning. She boils big concepts down into a language that suits her audience and provides direction with clear, actionable steps. Always on top of social trends, marketing perspectives and changes in relationship marketing, Amber’s never afraid to try something groundbreaking. “Her inherent intuition of the business is enviable and admirable,” said Beth.
Her future? According to Amber, the path is clear. “Continuing to evolve Neora to meet the ever-changing landscape of how people want to work and shop. And continuing to be an example to my three girls that they can achieve anything they want with hard work fueled by belief and passion.”
Director of Vision and Strategy
Brittan Sanders climbed the field ranks to lead thousands and earned PaperPie’s prestigious President’s Award. She transitioned to corporate last year and spearheads growth efforts that will impact literacy and learning along with content creation and curation for social media.
After a decade of teaching in the classroom, Brittan is now a direct selling model champion, full of innovative ideas to which her creativity knows no bounds. Gracefully juggling the responsibilities of wife and mother of three, she’s a customer of PaperPie books with immeasurable product knowledge and insight she translates into usable tools.
“Brittan has a pulse on what can take us to the next level and is willing to put forth the effort to make it happen. She works tirelessly, digging in alongside her peers and team members until the job is done,” shared Heather Cobb, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer.
No two days look the same with infinite projects, events, marketing campaigns and leadership strategies. “I cannot express how excited I am for the season ahead of us—the clarified mission, the cohesive and current branding and the energy, joy and passion it has brought to and rekindled in our Brand Partners,” Brittan said. “But I truly think the most fulfilling thing is to see a child’s world change because of a PaperPie product.”
Managing Director / North America
Andrew Schmidt’s leadership of a global discretionary incentives redesign was applied across 100 countries and impacted a million plus Amway business owners. He partnered with CEO Millind Pant strategizing a plan through 2029, which catalyzed growth in emerging markets. Then he spearheaded product sell-through visibility and performance trend enhancements, digital tool development and product price-point strategies to better meet customer and ABO needs.
“Andrew is an architect of lasting change—setting organizational pace at the front and leading at the grassroots,” Cynthia Droog, Vice President, Global Communications shared. “His energy is limitless and inspiring—he races against only himself in pursuit of improving the lives of others. We are proud to have a leader like Andrew at Amway.”
It’s the fundamental appeal of direct selling to the human spirit that inspires and excites Andrew to work closely with both corporate and the field. “The working partnership that we have is a source of excitement and fulfillment every day. We are working together to make the Amway business better in real time.”
Watching his mentor, John Parker, during his decade with Amway has taught Andrew what it means to genuinely listen to distributors, be humble and always approach contentious discussions as opportunities for collaboration. “His leadership is an example I aspire to emulate every day,” Andrew explained.
Director of Business Development
Blake Shaver’s ability to foster close working relationships with both Brand Ambassadors, as well as internal and external stakeholders, is pivotal in driving key, new business growth at Plexus Worldwide. His strategic role oversees the development and implementation of sales enablement tools, campaigns, acquisition and loyalty programs, incentives and promotions.
“Blake is the total package—a strategic and innovative leader with strong interpersonal skills and the ability to influence others at all levels and across roles. He sets the bar for work ethic and leadership accountability by being a role model for others at Plexus and in the field,” shared Joanna Gonos, Director of Internal Communications and PR.
Future focused and results oriented, Blake doesn’t settle for the status quo. Instead, he blazes the trail in an industry this former personal trainer admits caught him by surprise. He credits great people and perpetual learning for propelling his career and now enabling him to call the industry home.
Blake explained what he feels are the channel’s biggest challenges and opportunities. “Staying relevant without losing who we are. It’s important to keep up with technology and continually innovate our approach to the business model. The heartbeat of this channel is people and relationships. I believe it’s what makes us truly special.”
Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
For more than a decade, Amber Snow’s changemaker prowess has ensured Amway’s approach to employee engagement and culture is thoughtful, impactful and results driven. As one of few diversity, equity and inclusion leads in the industry, Amber blazes a path for other companies to follow with her strong communication and dynamic leadership skills.
From developing brilliant strategy that helps Amway engage meaningfully and impact lives positively to leader advocacy, training and development, hiring and talent processes, inclusion networks, education and awareness, community engagement and data-driven goals and accountability, Amber ensures the company creates a diverse culture.
“Each day is dedicated to integrating diversity and inclusion in every role she’s faced at Amway,” shared Cindy Droog, Vice President, Global Communications.
“We are creating a system designed to bring equity to all, especially those who’ve had systemic barriers to success in a corporate environment,” Amber shared. “Being able to embed diversity, equity and inclusion into our everyday business practices and create a corporate culture that represents all voices is what gets me up each morning.”
For Amber, the biggest industry challenge and opportunity is one and the same. “It’s that we are reliant on the most powerful, yet unpredictable, thing in the world: people!”
Digital Art Director
As digital art director for The Happy Co., Sheila Tran’s role brings together the best of artistic expression and strategic impact. “I can shape and elevate the visual identity of the company, playing a key role in capturing the attention and imagination of customers and driving sales through compelling digital experiences. Witnessing the tangible results of my work, such as increased sales, brand recognition and customer loyalty, can be incredibly rewarding,” Sheila explained.
Proactive doesn’t do Sheila justice—she’s constantly looking for ways to improve, whether through branding or user experiences. Sheila possesses all the qualities employers look for in the perfect employee, Clare Holbrook, The Happy Co.’s Chief Marketing Officer explained. “Her flair for graphic design is incredible. Her creativity shows up in everything she touches. Sheila is innovative and has a never-ending flow of ideas.”
Continuous growth, innovation and making a significant impact in the digital space—that’s what Sheila intends for her career. “Embracing emerging technologies, leading creative teams, collaborating strategically with cross-functional teams, enhancing user experiences and contributing to the industry as a thought leader. By pursing these objectives, I aim to make a lasting impact in the digital creative space, drive business success and continue to evolve as a dynamic and innovative professional.”
Chief Financial Officer
Kevin Trask came aboard Awakend as a start-up—cold, without previous relationships with its founders. It’s a testament to his proficiency and ability to cultivate trust that he was elevated to CFO in six months.
He’s passionate about establishing strategic growth metrics and KPIs, while maintaining operational and initiative funding liquidity. This strategic vision enabled more than $25 million in sales in the first six months.
“This can be a very delicate balance when overseeing the financial health of any company, but more precarious with a startup, where every penny is acutely analyzed, measured and planned,” said Justin Rose, Awakend President.
An actively licensed CPA, he audited small and large, private and public companies including direct selling companies, while in public accounting. His skills transferred easily and said rejoining the industry has created new opportunities to learn and develop.
From a “finance guy” perspective, without the common goal of generating brand loyalty among younger generations, Kevin said, “We will find our industry contracting in the coming years and decades.”
However, there’s immense industry opportunity in providing a successful landing place for people looking for a side hustle. “They start to see the returns on their money and time investments, then we can attract top leaders to come and grow with us,” Kevin explained.
Chief Commercial Officer
Kara Trousdale comes to Beautycounter following a successful career at Amazon. This outside perspective gives Kara a modern, fresh approach. She prioritizes strong listening, collaboration and partnership building. And—in short order—she has modernized Beautycounter’s highly competitive compensation plan and has been a positive influence to all.
“While this is my first job in direct selling, many principles I learned at Amazon apply to Beautycounter. Two that have been most helpful include ‘Customer Obsession’ and ‘Working Backwards.’ At Amazon, you are trained to always listen to the customer and work backwards to create the products and tools that meet their needs. I have applied this at Beautycounter and encouraged my colleagues to do the same. Some of the strongest insights have come directly from listening to the team that knows our business the best—our Beauty Advocates.”
It’s an approach that is making a difference. Her colleagues shared that, “She embraces all that is so special about the direct sales channel and pairs this with strong ideas on how to innovate, making her a unique leader with a competitive edge. Kara is not someone who stops at simply executing with excellence, she lifts up and inspires others along the way and has the incredible ability to drive this positive influence to her team and ultimately inspire the entire industry.”
Chief of Staff
Javier Urdaneta’s tireless dedication, leadership and initiative helped him build an operations team from scratch when he was still in his twenties, and he’s since piloted MONAT through fast growth, industry-wide slowdowns, international expansion and a pandemic.
Long before he was aligning day-to-day MONAT activities, supervising systems and process enhancements saving millions, improving customer service and increasing revenue, Javier’s parents gave him an insider’s look at the industry. “I’ve been able to see and experience first-hand the dynamics of working in the field, working with people and witnessing how the industry transforms lives,” he said.
Ray Urdaneta, CEO, MONAT Global, believes Javier to be the face of direct selling’s future—a man highly effective at managing cross functional team relationships, constantly learning and gaining insight to optimize operations. “His team always works ‘with’ him and not ‘for’ him.”
“No day is ever the same. I’m involved in multiple areas, each with its own unique processes and challenges which keeps everything very dynamic! It also provides me with a 360-degree view of the business,” Javier said.
Adapting to realities of post-pandemic life poses challenges, but opportunities await as the industry adapts to Gen Z and leverages new AI technology. “When it comes to AI, companies need to engage now or be left behind,” Javier said.
Chief Culture Officer
Having grown up in the industry, Lu Urdaneta was a child at her first “rally” with her father. His hunger for life and determination to make things happen, even when they seem impossible, inspired her. “He is a man of his word, honest, passionate and family focused…He shows me every day with his lived example that records are set to be broken and that everything is possible when you believe.”
Lu began work in the industry at 16. Today, she is a guardian of MONAT’s all-important brand voice, leading the family-focused mission; recognizing and developing an all-embracing organizational culture of love, care, unity and gratitude; and reaching out in philanthropy and community engagement through MONAT Gratitude, whose donations top $7 million to fund over 100 community service initiatives to date.
“Lu has inspired a global grassroots movement of giving, making a positive impact on communities around the globe,” Ray Urdaneta, CEO, MONAT Global, said.
“It is my goal to ensure that our culture shines through in everything we do, everywhere we go and to keep a strict focus on these values throughout MONAT,” Lu shared. “It’s often overwhelming to see how kind, generous and determined the MONAT Market Partners are when it comes to supporting those in need.”
Tiffany Wojtkiewicz, co-founding VP of Sales and later Chief Revenue Officer, grew ONEHOPE Wine from 0 to over 250,000 cases, helping place them among the top 200 wineries by volume in the U.S. Today, she leads as President.
“A true channel believer, Tiffany’s goal is democratizing opportunity for diverse peoples and enabling them to break into the wine business. Under her direction, ONEHOPE built one of the wine industry’s most innovative and scalable platforms,” Jake Kloberdanz, Co-Founder, said.
After 15 years, she still comes to work every day excited about growing the brand, bringing purpose to all and working with her Co-Founders, who she names as her greatest mentors. “I cherish the built-in network that we have…always ready to listen, support and challenge each other as well.”
“I oftentimes refer to her superpower of aligning ONEHOPE’s executive team as ‘keeping the band together.’ She inspires our community to be better and more productive. Tiffany is an incredible leader,” Jake explained.
Tiffany’s leadership has not only helped the brand scale in size, but grow its impact. The company, which donates 10% back to a customer’s cause of choice, has proudly donated over $9 million supporting 40,000 nonprofits. “We are changing the world with every bottle sold,” noted Tiffany.
From the July/August 2023 issue of Direct Selling News magazine.