Direct selling companies provide hope, opportunity and freedom to women around the world and around the corner.
Empowering women is at the heart of IWD—it’s also at the heart of direct selling, so to celebrate this year’s event, we are taking a look at some of the companies within the channel that use their philanthropic efforts to provide economic support and practical training to help women and girls around the world explore their entrepreneurial dreams and create stable, sustainable lives for themselves and their future.
The greatest impact any company can have in advancing women’s economic empowerment is through its core business operations. But they can also make a substantial contribution through their philanthropy programs that enable women and girls to grow as leaders and achieve financial independence. Key areas of philanthropic focus for many companies include initiatives to improve women’s access to education, training, skills development, financial literacy and programs that proactively support women’s health, safety and wellness.
International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women held every March 8. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.
It’s a guiding, foundational pillar of the philanthropic endeavors of many companies within the channel, including Young Living, LimeLife by Alcone and Thirty-One Gifts. And it should come as no surprise that each of these companies are led by a female CEO.
There has long been a tradition of women helping women in direct selling through philanthropic missions of aiding domestic violence victims, combating food insecurity and funding women’s cancer research among many other worthwhile pursuits. But the companies we are examining today focus—at least in part—on helping women achieve their entrepreneurial dreams with tangible, comprehensive help ranging from funding and training to research and advocacy. They are helping women around the world develop the skills, connections and access they need to secure a brighter future for themselves and their families.
Helping Global Artists
Young Living invests in programs that help female artisans living in challenging socioeconomic conditions build marketable skills; start small businesses; and secure fair wages and ethical work with capacity-building grants. They then connect these companies with the Young Living global marketplace through monthly promotional offers. The program not only helps these talented artists sell their goods but also showcases their talents to a global audience.
The Young Living Foundation is working with several women-led businesses across the globe, and one of them is a female artisan group called Mabira Collective located in Lugazi, Uganda who handcraft beautiful jewelry.
In addition to fair pay, women in the Mabira Collective program receive benefits like school-fee sponsorship for their children and medical benefits as well as training in small business development, literacy and health. They can also receive paid maternity leave, on-site childcare, work-from-home options and opportunities to advance into management positions.
Free Women, a U.S.-based group, empowers female artisans with financial independence. Free Women employs women from Afghanistan and other conflict regions who have fled oppression and abusive environments to relocate to Salt Lake City, Utah.
As refugees, these women work hard to provide for their children. A series of grants and orders from the Young Living Foundation helped Free Women acquire much-needed work space and equipment to improve their ability to earn an income and obtain job security to become truly free.
Research has shown that providing women in economically disadvantaged communities with living wages empowers them to be a financial force of change in both their immediate families and their communities. By achieving the goals of full employment, which include work security, food security, healthcare, childcare and shelter, they’re able to break the generational cycle of poverty.
Funding Females’ Futures
At LimeLife by Alcone, their efforts to help aspiring entrepreneurs are two pronged, simultaneously providing equity capital, coaching and resources to up-and-coming female entrepreneurs while rewarding high performing distributors with an investment opportunity through The Fempire Fund.
The fund’s $2 million in capital comes from a contribution from their parent company, L’Occitane en Provence. This capital is then distributed to the selected small businesses. Candidates go through an extensive interview and vetting process (including a panel with selected LimeLife distributors).
On the distributor side, once they hit specific benchmarks and rank, LimeLife rewards them with a share in a bonus pool tied to the performance of the fund. As the fund grows, their gifted investment grows as well. Distributors can help promote the selected small businesses through their social media channels to help them gain exposure and continue to grow. It helps the distributors—micro-entrepreneurs in their own right—to make an important shift in mindset: To think like investors focused on their financial future.
Qualifying distributors are given their first $5,000 in returns as a pre-distribution. LimeLife CEO Michele Gay explained the strategy. “I encourage them to put it in the stock market or in something that has long-term growth. I’m trying to show them that direct sales is a compounding business, and you can take your earnings from that and further compound it in the financial institutions that we’re so blessed to have access to.”
The company has granted funding to three small businesses to date, with plans to add a fourth to the mix in the coming year. To be considered for funding, the businesses selected for the portfolio must meet three or more of the following criteria:
- Owned and led by a woman
- Products or services provided by the business help to elevate women’s confidence or women’s income earning potential
- Has a sustainable competitive advantage
- Has revenue streams and is on a path to profitability
- Owner has a compelling story and synergies with LimeLife’s distributor network
The current recipients offer powerful stories of female empowerment, innovative products and are led by women with compelling stories and a contagious passion.
Slick Chicks is a female founded and run company that designs accessible undergarments and apparel for people with disabilities, limited mobility, chronic pain, the aging population and people with various physical challenges or post-operative needs. Another recipient is invisaWear which creates smart jewelry and accessories with safety tech hidden inside—two clicks alert loved ones and police that the wearer needs help. Finally, The Most develops tech-enabled appliances and products for textured haircare; the company has identified the biggest pain points in natural, textured hair styling and designs tools and appliances that make the process of product application easy.
Helping Girls Shine
Thirty-One Gifts understands that helping further the cause of female empowerment can (and should) start at a young age. That’s why a portion of their charitable efforts revolve around empowering young girls and teens with self-confidence, leadership skills and peer mentorship.
Girls’ self-esteem peaks at age 9, and the company felt compelled to do something about this ongoing confidence crisis. They launched Thirty-One Gives in February of 2012 as a partnership between their distributors, customers and employees to support nonprofit organizations aligned to their mission of helping girls build the confidence and self-esteem needed to live a purposeful life. One such organization is Girl Talk.
Girl Talk began in 2002 when one high school girl identified a problem and decided to make a difference. Haley Kilpatrick founded the first Girl Talk Chapter to help her younger sister through the challenging years of middle school.
And those years can truly be challenging. Between the ages of 8-14, girls’ confidence levels drop by 31 percent; only 21 percent of girls believe they have the qualities to be a good leader, and between the ages of 12-13, the percentage of girls who say they are not allowed to fail increases by a staggering 150 percent.
Girl Talk provides a safe place for girls to learn and grow and teaches them key components of leadership. Topics covered include stress management, perfectionism, social media, anxiety and financial literacy. For the younger girls, this allows them to develop confidence; transition from middle school to high school more easily; have fun; and gain tools to overcome the everyday obstacles that often seem so daunting at this vulnerable age. The high schoolers can also develop confidence, refine leadership skills, focus on community service and have scholarship opportunities.
And it’s making a difference. Students who regularly meet with their mentors are 52 percent less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37 percent less likely to skip a class. There are over 485 chapters of Girl Talk in 10 countries and 48 U.S. states serving 70,000 girls.
While it’s important to celebrate and acknowledge the achievements of women on International Women’s Day, it’s clear that there is much to celebrate every day when it comes to direct selling’s ongoing ability and effectiveness at empowering women of all ages.
DIRECT SELLING HAS ALWAYS BEEN A VIABLE, POPULAR CAREER AND GIG CHOICE FOR WOMEN OF ALL AGES. In fact, a 2020 report from statista.com stated that about 75 percent of distributors are female. It just makes sense: The winning combination of flexibility, community, financial opportunity and personal growth has provided real meaning, direction and impact to generations of women. But direct selling’s opportunity extends far beyond distributors. From the call center to the C-suite, women are finding meaningful careers in the corporate office of direct selling companies around the globe. We’ve assembled a list of some of the most impressive and impactful CEOs in direct selling—and they all just happen to be women.
From the March 2022 issue of Direct Selling News magazine.