2017: A Year in Review

Direct Selling Association

Click here to order the December 2017 issue in which this article appeared.

I look back over 2017 with great pride at what the DSA team accomplished on behalf of our industry. We brought member company executives together to share their advice and concerns, to support our vital advocacy efforts, and to commit to ever-higher ethical standards in direct selling. We shall not rest on our laurels, though, for reflection affords an opportunity to pledge greater commitment to our priorities for the coming year, and beyond.

DSA’s ability to champion direct selling is strong because of the close working relationships we have with our member companies — and because of the relationships they have developed with each other through their membership in the association. At DSA gatherings and events, such as the DSA Annual Meeting in June and DSA’s Fall Conference this past November, executives from across our membership joined an array of policymakers and government officials to learn more about direct selling operations and to discuss areas of mutual concern and opportunity.

In September, DSA brought more than 125 member executives and salespeople to Washington, D.C., to meet with Members of Congress at DSA’s Direct Selling Day on Capitol Hill. We pressed strongly our advocacy priorities, including maintaining the independent contractor status for direct sellers and the need for federal anti-pyramid legislation. At time of writing, DSA efforts during 2017 have secured 27 co-sponsors of H.R. 3409, the Anti-Pyramid Promotional Scheme Act of 2017. Rest assured, we shall be ramping up efforts in 2018 to secure passage of this bill, and will continue to call upon the support of DSA members to that end.

Direct Selling Day on Capitol Hill was not the only time DSA’s presence was felt in the corridors of power. DSA hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill in March with the Congressional Direct Selling Caucus to discuss the value of direct selling to the economy, society, and millions of micro-entrepreneurs. In July, DSA’s Diversity and Empowerment Council hosted a Capitol Hill briefing on the significant and positive impact of direct selling on the Hispanic community. Influential leaders joined us at key events this past year. Helen Aguirre Ferré, White House Director of Media Affairs, spoke at DSA’s Board of Directors meeting in March, learning more about direct selling and sharing insights into the Administration’s policies on regulation, economic growth, and job creation. Lee Peeler, Executive Vice President, National Advertising, Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), spoke at DSA’s September Board meeting, where he complimented DSA’s long history of active self-regulation.

The Direct Selling Education Foundation (DSEF), of which I am proud to also serve as President, has continued throughout 2017 to mainstream understanding of direct selling, and the Foundation’s work is bearing significant fruit. DSEF has partnered with more than 100 professors through its Academic Fellows Program, leveraging those partnerships to reach more than 15,000 students across the country.

The Foundation has also continued to drive academic publishing throughout the year, making a data-driven case for direct selling. DSEF’s Academic Fellows are producing significant research on the economic impact of the channel, why people become direct sellers, how direct sellers define success, ethical entrepreneurship, and other issues important to informing and educating opinion leaders, regulators, and policymakers.

The shifting political and commercial landscape presents myriad challenges and opportunities for direct selling. Just as we did in 2017, DSA and DSEF will continue to educate and to build constructive relationships with member companies, policymakers, and all who support direct selling — through the coming year and long into the future. It’s sure to be quite the journey, and I look forward to taking it with you. Happy holidays!

Joseph N. Mariano is President of the U.S. Direct Selling Association and the Direct Selling Education Foundation.