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Headquarters: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Top Executive: Founder and President Traci Lynn
For Traci Lynn and her namesake direct selling jewelry company, everything beautiful has come in its own time. Her story is her company’s story.
It began in West Philadelphia where a very wise woman made her 4-year-old granddaughter useful on her door-to-door clothing sales and delivery route. The same young girl went on to earn entrepreneurial acclaim as a 20-something. Her success, however, was abruptly derailed after she silenced her own gut instincts—but not for long. Traci Lynn pushed on and reinvented herself. She became a motivational speaker and an author. She earned not one but two doctorates, in divinity and theology, and finally on a plane bound for California nearly a decade ago, time came ’round again and delivered something beautiful.
It was 1989. Lynn could almost reach out and touch her memories of the University of Michigan at Dearborn, and of being that campus’s founding chapter president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc. Her ambition and drive had advanced her to a managerial role at the investment firm Vanguard, but entrepreneurial seeds long ago sown by her grandmother sprouted a little more each day.
She left Vanguard and for a while ran her entrepreneurial-self ragged. She sold clothing, started a nail technician agency and even created a wedding planning company. They were all “failed blessings” until Lynn deposited $200 worth of jewelry into a Tupperware container and sold out in 10 minutes. Traci Lynn Jewelry was born. She was 25.
Lynn became a local success story in Philadelphia, and national media like Essence magazine and Good Morning America came calling. The company even won a coveted Madame C.J. Walker Award for entrepreneurial excellence. Her salesforce numbered 1,000 and was paid through a straightforward, one-level compensation plan. There were sales rewards and incentives like cruises and furs. She took no loans, yet operated “an incredible budget” for a young company.
“I read Mary Kay’s book, read Mary Kay’s story, and I just figured some stuff out,” Lynn says. “Unfortunately, I did not figure it all out, and that’s why the success of that business was short-lived.”
Fast-forward some 15 years, and Lynn’s full-time motivational speaking career had placed her on a cross-country flight that changed the trajectory of her future and gave her jewelry business a second take.
If regret burns slow, acceptance burns slower. That’s why so many years later Lynn vividly recalls the gnawing decision to remain snug within a comfort zone that kept Traci Lynn Jewelry a showroom-only sales company. Back then, Lynn’s gut told her they needed a custom-branded catalog of uniquely Traci Lynn pieces, rather than selling more wholesale, cash-and-carry jewelry. But she succumbed to status quo pressure that lulled her into believing showrooms in Philly and Baltimore were enough. Turns out, it wasn’t.
“I didn’t understand anything about organic growth back then, and I wasn’t bold enough to take that leap into the catalog,” Lynn says. “The business couldn’t sustain itself that way, and I learned some incredible, valuable lessons as a result.”
So mid-flight—somewhere between Philly and California—a slightly older version of herself sat chatting with a direct selling jewelry consultant with catalog in hand. Page after beautiful, colorful page, Lynn flipped. She says, “I was screaming inside. I was excited because that represented where I never went, what I didn’t do, and it represented the future.”
Lynn went back to her original vision, the one she hadn’t been confident enough to grab, and she embraced it wholly. Within a year, Traci Lynn Jewelry softly and slowly launched, and by 2008 the jewelry business’s second take was officially underway. This time would be different, and Lynn would make sure of it.
Small Is a Beautiful Thing
Lynn embraced the notion that small was a beautiful thing. That first year, the company’s Representative base was strictly regional and limited to Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania. “If I couldn’t drive to a location, then we couldn’t open up that market for recruiting. I used to go to every business opportunity meeting, every training. I wanted to know the field. I needed to build relationships,” Lynn says.
During this time, she also took that leap she long ago hedged—Lynn added a catalog to the company’s fledgling cash-and-carry jewelry business. Traci Lynn Jewelry began to establish a brand and a culture, and when Representative numbers in the tri-state area reached 2,400, Lynn loosened the reins and opened recruitment in Virginia.
She understood all too well that until the company’s culture was set, until they found their niche, and systems were fully locked in place for who they were and what they were doing, Traci Lynn Representatives would just be selling jewelry. “Anyone can sell jewelry,” she says.
Tracy Lynn’s story began in West Philadelphia where she tagged along with her grandmother who sold and delivered clothing door-to-door.
This time around Lynn developed a careful, slow growth strategy, inspired by a cover story in Direct Selling News. “I’ll never forget it. I still have it today. It had a picture of a flower in a pot made of money, and it said, ‘Organic Growth.’ It talked about how you could make a choice to organically grow the business at a slower pace, and long-term you would have more retention, more of a relationship with the field, a much deeper salesforce, and much deeper roots in your culture,” she says.
The key was developing a path that would never be out of control, a path solid enough to springboard future growth. She read about companies that had succeeded and committed to the concept then and there.
Taking the Hill:
Small became an incredibly beautiful thing at Traci Lynn Jewelry because it gave her time. “It wasn’t about staying small forever,” Lynn says. “It was really about financing it ourselves. I needed proof of concept. I put so much of my life into this business. My family is involved too. I wanted to make sure it would work when all the finances—the dust—settled.”
Lynn took loan-to-value ratio off the table using only what was necessary. She used personal funds to finance the company and to quickly repay any short-term loans for inventory. She found financial stability easier to accomplish with organic growth. “If you operate the way that we do, you always know you have a profitable business,” Lynn says. The company, now a multimillion-dollar enterprise, continues to operate nearly debt-free today.
Frugality meant staving off the bells and whistles that many other direct sellers took for granted. Lynn held tight to a dynamic, color-coded Excel spreadsheet masterpiece that ran the company commission plan until she could afford and locate an ideal software development partner. She drew on her motivational speaking skills, saved a bundle on outside speakers for conferences and took to the road for major city recruitment tours—something she continues to this day.
With some 25,000 independent sales consultants now spanning nearly every state, Lynn’s need for the personal touch with her field morphed from driving to every single meeting to getting to know them through Facebook. She prompts her photographic memory before heading to Washington state to meet a group of dynamic Representatives in a growing market. She learns their faces and what they and their kids are doing. “People love that you care enough to know them. I don’t look through them. I look at them,” she says.
And for all of these reasons, Lynn’s field loves her. In fact, it’s safe to say that Lynn’s dynamic personality and dedication to what she calls, “passing the MIC” is key to almost every aspect of the company. It stands for Motivate, Inspire, Change—which are Lynn’s goals for herself, her company and her field.
The company’s national events brim with personal development opportunities and lessons on communicating effectively as women. They celebrate field successes with rewards and recognition, launch new product lines with fashion shows, and cap each weekend with a Super Soul Sunday type of event.
While immensely popular and productive, rising expenses and drooping attendance at their January national event sent Lynn looking for alternatives to their annual, two-convention schedule. It was a hard call. Sales always skyrocketed in February. Dare she tinker with rising sales? An industry colleague at the U.S. Direct Selling Association suggested replacing the large-scale national event with small field launches in January, so Lynn pitched it to her field.
Buy-in came from more than 200 leaders, so the company hosted its first National Launch Day last January. Corporate sent cohesive and consistent branding and messaging on travel drives and in Dropbox files. They supplied catalogs and party favors too. “It was Super Soul on steroids!” Lynn says. And it worked.
More than 4,000 people attended satellite events in homes and hotels across the country, compared with just 2,000 at typical January conventions. In the end, they recruited 450 people and amassed nearly double-digit sales in both February and March this year. “We did better than we ever did before, and we cannot wait to do it again in 2016,” Lynn says.
Prepping to Springboard
Three years ago, prep began for springboard growth at Traci Lynn Jewelry. The company relocated its corporate offices from Delaware to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to better position itself for international expansion, and started tweaking the business model.
The evolution of Traci Lynn Jewelry’s cash-and-carry model into a dynamic party plan direct selling model has taken two years of planning. Among the company’s goals were to minimize Representative inventory, offer direct-to-consumer shipping while leaving the option for the personal touch of home delivery, and meeting the needs of the international marketplace. Party plan rollout commences with the opening of the Canada and Puerto Rico markets in February 2016, with adaptation within the U.S. market to follow.
|It’s safe to say that Traci Lynn’s dynamic personality and dedication to the field are key to almost every aspect of the company.|
“We want to allow our Representatives to use 100 percent of the assets we have available, use our inventory and sell directly from our inventory,” Lynn says. Good news for a field that proves its loyalty month-in and month-out.
Traci Lynn Jewelry boasts a 50 percent retention rate and almost half of the company’s field is active, doing at least $100 in business every month. The company tracks progression through leadership ranks, and Lynn says, data reveals Representatives easily advance through the first three levels. Overtaking the fourth takes more time. New coaching software, she says, should help individuals at that point move past that waterfall and accelerate their pace through leadership ranks.
But Lynn also recognizes human nature’s tendency toward comfort. “People like the celebration but few want to do the work to stay there. We want to be Miss America. Unfortunately, that crown goes back,” Lynn says.
So corporate works hard to inspire and motivate everyone, including upper-tier leadership. Lynn and other field leaders burn up the telephone lines every Monday night. They connect using the live streaming video app, Periscope. But perhaps, nothing excites the field more than Traci Lynn Jewelry front and center in the public eye.
Popular industry bloggers and stylists for television’s Real Housewives franchise, regularly show off Traci Lynn Jewelry. When Raven-Symoné wears a piece on The View or Wendy Williams gives the company a shout-out on her talk show, Lynn says, “Our Representatives pause the TV, take a picture and put it on social media, saying, ‘Look what they’re wearing! We’re everywhere!’ ”
With some beautiful double-digit, organic growth behind her, Lynn looks forward to the stair-step, incremental growth party plan will bring. Party plan has the stability that she likes, and she expects serious double- and even triple-digit growth in the next 12 months. Lynn says, “I know we’re on a faster track now. We are a much stronger and solid company, much more financially stable as a result of our organic growth, and we’ve got deep roots.”