Photo: Longaberger’s Newark, Ohio, headquarters building, modeled on the Longaberger Medium Market Basket.
Annual salesforce conventions are a common practice among direct selling companies, but the gatherings themselves are as diverse as the companies they represent. For Ohio-based basket maker The Longaberger Co., this year’s event was a literal return to the company’s roots and a celebration of its four-decade history.
Now a part of the CVSL family of brands, Longaberger got its start in the village of Dresden, home to the company’s manufacturing plant and a shopping, dining and entertainment destination known as the Longaberger Homestead. Dresden also hosted this year’s Longaberger convention, held July 23–25. Known as The Bee—think quilting or spelling—the meeting has taken place in Columbus for the past 30 years. The Bee’s symbolic return to Dresden was reinforced by the event’s theme, “Home Is Where the Heart Is.”
“Probably the most important factor was that we were really trying to get back to our roots and tell the story of the craft, as well as the small town in Ohio where all this was born,” Longaberger’s Director of Communications, Brenton Baker, told DSN. “We realized we were at odds with ourselves, talking about the charm of the Homestead and village but asking people to come to a cold convention hall in Columbus.”
In addition to visiting the Homestead and meeting the craftspeople behind Longaberger’s handmade baskets and home goods, the crowd of approximately 1,000 heard from Longaberger’s new CEO, CVSL Vice Chairman John Rochon Jr. Rochon stepped in following Tami Longaberger’s exit in May, a less-than-clean break still disputed by the two parties. Longaberger is the daughter of Founder Dave Longaberger, who led the brand to nearly $1 billion in annual sales before his death in 1999. Last year, Longaberger recorded sales of about $100 million.
According to Baker, Rochon and the team at CVSL have a vision very much in keeping with Longaberger’s founding—a vision that includes the Longaberger family’s continued involvement in the company. “In fact, whether it’s because of his invitation to them to be present at this year’s festivities or the fact that it took place in their own backyard in Dresden, more Longaberger family members were present and active at this year’s Bee than we have seen in many, many years,” Baker noted.
Moving into the second half of 2015, the company’s top priority is equipping salespeople to share the product and bring new members into the organization. To that end, said Baker, Longaberger has refreshed its entire Home Consultant experience with tweaks that include a new business starter kit and updated technology.