Refashioning the Familiar

Candace S. Matthews updates the Amway brand and sales force while fine-tuning its global message

“This fall we will unveil the new Amway brand identity, which will be modern and contemporary with a strong connection to distributors and consumers,” she says. The components include a powerful promotional video that she directed, highlighting Amway products and how they enhance the lives of individuals across the globe, and a vibrant new Website offering details about corporate history, brands, business-building opportunities, and community engagement.

While most companies were battered by the worst economic climate in a generation, Matthews’ efforts helped boost Amway’s revenues to $8.2 billion, an impressive 15% gain in 2008. The company projects solid growth in the single digits for 2009.

She’s on track to hit those growth targets, having already designed a multipronged platform to propel Amway to its next stage of business development. Her intense focus on the impact of culture on brand acceptance and regional sales models has reinforced a marketing approach that blends innovation, technology, and interpersonal relationships. Through her business prowess and inventiveness, she is helping turn Amway into an even more dynamic global powerhouse. For that reason, Candace S. Matthews has been selected as our 2009 Black Enterprise Corporate Executive of the Year—the first such honoree to serve in the C-suite of a privately held corporation.

RETELLING THE AMWAY STORY
Amway has a history of growth and transformation. Headquartered in Ada, Michigan, outside Grand Rapids, Amway started in 1959 when two spirited entrepreneurs, Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos, who had started roughly six other businesses, began selling a line of cleaning products door to door. By the early 1960s, the high school buddies’ determination and sales prowess had paid off: The company had expanded to more than 700 employees, a network of 100,000 distributors, and estimated retail sales just exceeding $500,000. The two had found a formula that worked for any dedicated salesperson: A good sales pitch, a demonstrable product, and reasonable pricing. By the 1980s, Amway had grossed a whopping $1 billion in retail sales.

If you were a child in the 1970s or 1980s, chances are you knew of loyal, entrepreneurial-minded folks who sold Amway products and, in turn, would try to persuade others to not only become a customer but to join its network of independent business owners, or IBOs. But this novel distribution model drew criticism and accusations that the company was operating a pyramid scheme or, even worse, a cult. In 1979, the Federal Trade Commission ruled that Amway was indeed a legitimate business.

By 2000, Amway had grown to a multibillion-dollar operation run by the founders’ sons. Today, product lines manufactured by the company are supported by a broad team of professionals including 400 scientists and 100 engineers. Amway owns and operates 6,311 acres of organic farmland in the U.S., Mexico, and Brazil. In the past decade, the company has gone through several permutations as the owners sought to continually enhance their business model.

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