Photo: Direct Selling Day participants gather outside the U.S. Capitol.
More than 500 direct selling entrepreneurs converged upon Washington, D.C., Thursday for the third annual Direct Selling Day on Capitol Hill. The U.S. Direct Selling Association (DSA) initiative is an opportunity for independent consultants to share with lawmakers the value of the business model, both to individuals and the economy.
Throughout the day participants from 32 states took part in one-on-one meetings with representatives and heard from congressional speakers from both parties. The event also featured a Direct Selling Marketplace in the Rayburn House Office Building, where Members of Congress and their staffs could see firsthand the kinds of products and services sold through direct selling companies. In a statement from the floor by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Co-Chair of the recently formed Direct Selling Caucus, the House of Representatives marked the occasion by formally recognizing Oct. 29, 2015, as Direct Selling Day.
“As a full-time student, direct selling provided me with the flexibility necessary to pay for college while in school,” Blackburn said of her own experience in direct selling. “Running my own business was an extremely rewarding experience and served as great preparation for my career in public service. It is a vibrant sector of the economy that embraces entrepreneurship and helps people achieve their American dream.”
Blackburn also emphasized the importance of the business ethics and consumer safeguards put in place under the DSA’s leadership. Those efforts were the topic of discussion at the DSA Global Regulatory Summit, held two weeks earlier in Washington, D.C. The summit brought together regulators, law enforcement officials, and industry leaders to explore various challenges facing direct selling companies, including issues raised by the Federal Trade Commission’s ongoing pyramid scheme lawsuit against Vemma Nutrition Co. and hedge fund manager Bill Ackman’s three-year short campaign against Herbalife Ltd. Both Direct Selling Day and the Global Regulatory Summit are part of what DSA President Joseph Mariano calls a “tapestry of communication and advocacy” the organization is weaving at the federal and state level to provide an accurate picture of direct selling.
“We want to have the important and sometimes difficult dialogue with regulators on issues that are of concern, but we also want to have this important conversation with lawmakers and policymakers, as a demonstration of who we are, and then we want to have involvement in the community by our member companies and members of the field,” Mariano told DSN. “It’s all of those things together, along with the day-to-day activities of the association and the Direct Selling Education Foundation (DSEF) that will end up, we trust, creating a positive understanding of direct selling and protecting and supporting us in the marketplace.”