More than 333,000 people were involved in direct selling in Arizona and it generated an estimated $638 million in retail sales in the state in 2018, according to the Direct Selling Association (DSA).
Arizona U.S. House Rep. Debbie Lesko (CD-8) met with direct sales professionals for a roundtable discussion earlier this week to learn more about its economic impact in the state and the ways in which she can make their voices heard in D.C.
The DSA describes direct selling as “a retail channel used by top global brands and smaller, entrepreneurial companies to market products and services to consumers.”
Ami Dalal of Amway explained that her work with direct sales allows her to earn an income and build her business while staying at home with her family.
“I have a degree in finance. But, I always preferred the [option] to work from home, be with my kids and at the same time generate that source of income for my family. Amway has really given me that opportunity to work from home with flexible hours,” Dalal said.
Amway was founded in 1959 and sells health, beauty and home care products.
While many use direct sales for earning potential and flexible hours, it has not gone without opposition.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 includes training and support for military spouses in Section 580D, which touches on direct selling.
“Basically, they want the federal government to require that programs designed to educate spouses and service members about the risks of multi-level marketing,” Lesko said.
Rep. Lesko is on the House Rules Committee and is the co-chairwoman of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, so direct sellers approached her to address the tone toward direct sellers in the NDAA FY 2020.
“They said, ‘Hey, this makes it sound like direct sellers are bad people or they’re doing something illegal or illegitimate, so would you talk about it and try to take it out of there?’” Lesko said.
Rep. Lesko worked to have that provision removed from the NDAA, but the Rules Committee voted to leave it the act.
Direct sales has an economic impact, but Rep. Lesko met with industry professionals to learn about the impact it has on their everyday lives.
“I’ve known women- boy, almost my entire adult life- who make either a living or extra money off of different organizations and businesses like you have. Why would we want to discourage them? I didn’t understand that at all,” she said.
Representatives and direct sellers of Arbonne, Amway, Isagenix and Mary Kay joined the roundtable discussion to share their experiences.
“It is that freedom of choice, being able to build on my retirement through residual income. It’s been wonderful,” said Donna Corbin of Arbonne, which was founded in 1975 and sells health and skincare products.
Laverne ‘Byrdie’ Goodloe of Mary Kay explained to the group that she initially joined to make extra money to send her children to private school.
“Things winded up changing a few years down the road when my husband ended up getting laid off from his company. It went from my plan B to pretty much our everything along with my full time job,” Goodloe said.
“The supplemental income from the Mary Kay really helped a whole lot,” she added. Mary Kay was founded in 1963 and sells beauty products.
Rep. Lesko thanked the roundtable for sharing their stories and encouraged them to attend district meetings and engage with their representatives.
“I would encourage you to go to these district meetings no matter what political party you’re with to get to know your elected officials because legislation can change with every election,” she said.