Click here to order the May 2015 issue in which this article appeared.
Princess House carries on its rich heritage of providing opportunity to those with a desire to succeed
Headquarters: Taunton, Massachusetts
Executives: President and CEO Connie Tang
Products: cookware, kitchenware and home décor
It was 1963—Beatlemania was being birthed, Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous speech, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, gasoline was 29 cents per gallon and the average income was $5,807. Most of that income was earned by men in a society where only 37 percent of the workforce was made up of women. Women who did work outside the home were paid, on average, 59 cents to every dollar earned by men.
To give women an opportunity to earn equal pay, entrepreneur Charles Collis started the direct selling company Princess House in January of that year. There were just a handful of companies marketing through direct selling, and Collis saw it as the best way to empower women both personally and financially in a culture that offered them few viable career options. Ironically, a much noted piece of legislation, the Equal Pay Act, passed the House and Senate and was signed into law on June 10, 1963, allowing women to earn the same pay as men doing the same jobs.
According to Princess House President and CEO Connie Tang, the first products offered through Princess House were various pieces of hand-blown, hand-cut crystalware and collectibles, which were not as readily available in retail stores as they are today. “One would have to order quality crystal products from Europe, and it was cost-prohibitive for most households,” Tang says. Women could now have access to fine products plus the freedom to earn income based on their own dreams while still managing their household responsibilities, which remained an important goal for many in the early 1960s.
Princess House Consultants soon earned the nickname Crystal Ladies, and by 1969 there were 1,000 of them sharing the opportunity with the changing world. “The company first made its mark with the Princess Heritage Collection,” Tang says. Some pieces from the collection are still available. But over a span of 50 years, the needs and desires of the culture changed, and the demand for hand-blown glass pieces took a backseat to more practical and innovative types of kitchenware.
And Princess House responded to the change.
“I like to say that we moved from breakables to durables,” Tang says. “In 2002, our company introduced a line of stainless-steel cookware that has been highly successful. There are now four cookware options—classic, nonstick and tri-ply stainless steel, plus cast iron—each accompanied by a lifetime warranty. We also offer various types of storage and bakeware, and tabletop and home décor products.”
Giving Goes a Long Way
Woven into the Princess House culture of nurturing women to pursue financial freedom and personal dreams is an emphasis on giving to those in need. Since its founding, the company has given to various organizations, including being a corporate partner with the United Way for over 25 of those years. “Our corporate headquarters is in Taunton, Massachusetts, and we give to the local United Way as well as the Boys & Girls Club and other local organizations,” Tang says. “We have deep ties to our community, and our corporate staff is extremely committed to giving back to local charitable efforts.” Tang explains that the company has not aligned with one specific group, but in the past 10 years they have donated nearly $5 million in cash and goods plus hundreds of volunteer hours to various organizations.
2014 was the biggest giving year in the history of the company at over $1.5 million in corporate donations to organizations around the country. “It was significant because it was on three different levels. The first was the Today Show Toy Drive. We gave from the Cooking Kids line of Princess House products,” Tang says. “Consultants local to the event gave volunteer hours to help the Today Show pack the hundreds of products for the kids.” The next layer of giving involved partnering with TV Azteca’s national toy drive. Princess House donated $300,000 worth of product, which Azteca distributed to organizations nationally. “We also offered the opportunity to our Consultant leaders to nominate their favorite charitable organizations, and we ended up giving to over 70 organizations that were nominated. Employees at headquarters were invited to nominate local charities, and we gave over $200,000 in donations to various local entities,” Tang says. “In the two months before Christmas we gave over $1.5 million!”
Lucy Rivera, a Princess House Field Organizer from Texas who participated in the 2014 program, states that, “For us, Princess House is more than selling and making money. It’s helping people, without any agenda. I think it’s very important for me and for my team to work within our community and to help any way we can. Being able to nominate an organization that helps women who are victims of domestic abuse meant so much to me.”
Princess House’s contributions to the greater good have grown over the years, thanks in part to the company’s own resiliency in the marketplace. At Princess House, adapting to change throughout the years has become crucial to its survival and success.
Responding to Changing Times
Along with changes in salesforce demographics and customer needs, Princess House has experienced changes in its leadership throughout the half-century. In 1978, Colgate Palmolive purchased the company, and then in 1994 a group of private investors led by Ray Chambers acquired Princess House. The Consultant base continued to grow, and the product line became more relevant, attracting more customers.
The company’s Latino salesforce began to flourish as early as 1979, and by 2005 the Latino population among the salesforce outpaced all others. Today 75 percent of Princess House Consultants are Latino. “We have worked hard to make sure that we are aware of the needs of our Latino Consultants and customers,” Tang says. “We have embraced the diversity of our Consultant base and believe we have found our niche.”
In 2010 change included yet another switch in ownership when the Chambers family personally purchased the company. Then in 2012, history was made when Princess House hired Tang as their first-ever woman President and CEO. Her experience in the industry, earning her the prestigious honor of being named one of the industry’s Most Influential Women by DSN two years in a row, as well as a desire to take the company to the next generation, made her the perfect fit. “It is a wonderful opportunity for me to take a well-established company to a place of growth and renewal without alienating the customer base and without disrespecting the heritage that is already in place,” Tang says. “The diversity of the salesforce attracted me. I believe the face of America has been changing for quite some time, and I’m excited to direct the sales field to embrace the diversity within our rather Americana type of brand.”
|Princess House donated nearly $58,000 to the Texas Head Start Association during the company’s Share the Joy program.|
Tang assures that the company will not walk away from who they are but will refresh their image. “After taking an intense 360-degree look at all parts of the company, the transformation began with the brand, which manifested over the past couple of years in our printed materials, websites, packaging, etc.,” she says. “We have reorganized the customer service process, including adding a distribution center on the West Coast to complement the East Coast center.” New technology has also pushed the company forward, but they strive to stay sensitive to the precarious balance of how much change can be absorbed by the field before becoming overwhelming. “Change is scary sometimes, and we want to work within what people can handle,” Tang says.
A Vital Part of History
One Consultant has grown through Princess House’s rich and diverse history as she has been with the company for 49 years. She knew the founder personally and started her Princess House career when she was 50 years old. “At 98, she is still very active, participating in weekly leadership calls, attending national conferences, and sharing energy and love with her downline,” Tang says. “Some of our most active Organizers have been with us for 40 to 45 years, and we also have staff at the corporate office who have been with us for 40-plus years. It’s very important to us to embrace the established culture and tradition while bringing in new thinking and new ideas.”
An important aspect of generating such Consultant loyalty starts with training. Of course, technology has influenced many changes throughout the 53 years of the company’s life. Now each new Consultant kit includes training materials, such as a workbook that helps them plan their business, as well as informational guides, DVDs and a Consultant manual. Field training managers have been hired to train the leaders in the field, and weekly training calls are also available. The minute new Consultants sign up they receive a Consultant portal and a free Consultant website, and videos have also become a vital part of how Consultants are trained. “Videos overcome language barriers quite easily as well as help us stay consistent in the information we release,” Tang explains. “We actually have adapted some of the cooking videos we offer with our cookware to appeal to the Latino market. Some videos teach using tortillas and fajitas while the non-Hispanic market receives training with salmon and vegetables. Our market knows that we know them and think of them when we develop business tools.”
Reaching into the Local Community and Beyond
It is through the support of this loyal salesforce and the Princess House employees that the company is able to give so generously to its community. The money is raised through employee contributions, matching donations by the company, and “round-up” efforts where sales totals are rounded up to the next dollar and the difference is donated. “We also are involved in a local effort called TASC, Taunton Area School to Career Inc.,” Tang says. “Students come to our headquarters and are given valuable firsthand experience in what working at this kind of company is like.”
As an employee of Princess House for 25 years, Cheri-Lynn Catalan shares her appreciation for the company’s emphasis on giving and for the influence it has had on how she views generosity: “I have been with Princess House since I was in my early 20s, and the leadership has taught me that giving back and getting involved is an important aspect of our culture. Because of this valuable training, I now serve as a board member for two local agencies and participate whenever I can in a variety of community and fundraising events. Princess House is more than just an income opportunity—it’s a place where Consultants and employees can learn the value of connecting with one’s community, which is both personally and professionally rewarding.”
|Arizona Helping Hands receives a generous donation.|
Dan Shufelt, President of Arizona Helping Hands, is grateful for the generosity Princess House has shown his organization. “In our effort to ease the burden of kids in foster care, Princess House donated a semi-truck full of kids’ cooking supplies at Christmas time last year,” he says. “Connie Tang presented the donation, and 14 Consultants showed up to help package the gifts. Our program, Birthday Dreams for Foster Kids, still uses some of the extra gifts leftover from the Christmas donation.” The supplies have fostered a desire in some of the children to further their cooking skills, such as one young girl who used Princess House tools to make her single mom some pancakes one morning. “She told me it was because I had worked a double shift and she wanted to give me a break,” the mother told Shufelt. So far, the large donation has touched the lives of over 19,000 kids in the foster system.
Another benefactor of the giving spirit of Princess House is La Maestra Community Health Centers. Lindy Webb, Executive Assistant and Special Projects Coordinator for the organization, explains that they have four clinics that service those in need. “We assist people in signing up for government services such as health insurance and food stamps, offer legal advocacy, and offer help with other health and social services,” Webb says. “One program we offer is Healthy Cooking Workshops. Princess House has donated over $200,000 in products in the past two years that we have been able to use in the classes.” Although the workshops take place once a month, the cooking tips are offered to people on a daily basis and the products are useful tools in the teaching.
As the saying goes, the world moves on and we must move with it. And Princess House has enthusiastically embraced the charge to move forward. With a record-breaking 25,000 Consultants in 2014, Tang explains that it is in her heart to “expand the reach we have in order to benefit and touch more lives across the country.” A worthy goal, indeed.