By Nancy Dahlberg
The Miami Herald
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Great Q&A with Loren Ridinger, senior executive vice president of Market America, serial entrepreneur, fashionista, mentor, mom and grandmother.
The Miami Herald
Loren Ridinger has been changing the face of the beauty business as well as internet shopping for more than 20 years, and the entrepreneur and senior executive has no plans to slow down. “It’s not in my blood,” she says.
With humble beginnings working out of their rental home’s garage at the time, she and her husband, JR, co-founded internet retailing giant Market America in 1992, in Greensboro, North Carolina, where the company is still headquartered.
Earlier this month, the company held one of its twice yearly empowerment conferences there, hosting 25,000 people, and she gave the opening speech. Today, the Ridingers live in Miami Beach, and each February, the Market America World Conference takes over AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, bringing about 25,000 people to town.
Market America — Shop.com has generated more than $5.5 billion in accumulated retail sales and individuals have earned more than $2.9 billion in commissions and retail profits, the company said. In addition to the U.S., the company operates in Canada, Mexico, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Mexico and Spain.
Ridinger also founded the award-winning cosmetics line Motives, her first line. She also created the solution-oriented personal care line Fixx and the jewelry collection Loren Jewels. Her daughter Amber is also an entrepreneur, having created DNA Miracles, a line of body and wellness products designed for babies, children and expectant mothers.
Loren speaks about entrepreneurship regularly and has mentored young entrepreneurs. Last year, she partnered with Miami Beach startup Flat Out of Heels to create a line of shoes for the young fashion company.
Active on social media, Ridinger blogs regularly on www.LorensWorld.com, named one of Forbes’ Top 100 websites for women, and her fashion blog, www.MyFashionCents.com, often speaking about inspiration and women’s empowerment. “I use my voice wherever I can to make a difference,” she says. “The message cannot be heard enough. Sometimes thousands of people have to read for one of them to get it, but if one of them gets it, that’s all that matters, right?”
Loren Ridinger, senior executive vice president of Market America, serial entrepreneur, fashionista, mentor, mom and grandmother with a third grandchild on the way, surrounds herself with successful people and those who want to be. She calls Jennifer Lopez and Eva Longoria good friends. Still, Ridinger is a self-described private person, who puts socializing at the bottom of her priority list as she manages her many ventures and adventures.
She took time out this month to share her views about Market America, entrepreneurship, what’s next and the importance of knowing your “why.” Here are excerpts of that conversation.
Q. Regarding your Market America journey, when did you and JR know this was going to be really big? Was that the vision from the beginning or did it evolve?
A. JR has always had that vision, to be honest with you. He’s always been a great leader. Even prior to 1992 when the idea was forming, he was a strong believer that the world was fast changing, that technology was fast changing, and people would want to shop at home.
Q. Market America was ahead of its time and has stayed ahead, but that can’t be easy when e-commerce trends change so fast. How do you stay relevant in this changing world while at the same time continuing to innovate?
A. That’s the key, being relevant all the time with technology changing so fast. . . . It’s about staying ahead of the curve. JR has always been very connected and taught us to be very connected as a team to who our customers are. We know who she is, we know what she likes, we know what she likes to buy, we know how many children she has and what kind of pets she has. . . . Being connected in that fashion to your customers — even for 6 million of them and we have been constantly collecting data about them — we have been able to gear who we are toward her. It’s him too, of course, but generally, the shopper in the house is the woman.
JR has always been very connected and taught us to be very connected as a team to who our customers are. We know who she is, we know what she likes, we know what she likes to buy, we know how many children she has and what kind of pets she has. Loren Ridinger
We’ve always been so connected to our customers, we can’t fail. By knowing what people want, we are always creating technologies that can work alongside. If people want to find better deals or want to know when the price drops, we have technology to do those things. You really have to be moving at the speed of sound, and that’s what we do, what we have done for 26 years. It’s been an incredible journey.
Q. Over the years, what are one or two of the most important lessons you have learned — maybe the hard way — about entrepreneurship?
A. To manage my time wisely, that’s been a lesson for both of us. It’s hard to run a company of this size and still have a life with your children and your grandchildren and juggle everything. I’ve learned what may not appear to be normal for other families is normal for us, it works for us. If we have to have dinner at 10:30 at night or 4:30 in the afternoon, and it works for us based on our schedules, we don’t punish ourselves for it.
I’m a big believer that time is everything. I loathe people who waste my time. I learned how to manage it really well. If I want to see my grandchildren for a couple of hours, I wake up really early. Socializing comes last on my list because the people I associate with are very successful too, and I try to make sure they understand I can’t be there all the time. And they understand because they are the same way.
Another thing I have learned is to do the hardest things first. . . . If I do, everything else falls into place for the rest of the day and you can control your schedule better.
Q. Of the brands you personally have created, what are you most proud of and why?
A. All of them, really. Motives is special because it was a tribute to the way I grew up. My mother died at a very young age at 42, but she was always super glamorous and I watched her as a child spend hours looking beautiful. I watched how it made her feel; it gave her confidence. I was always in awe of her. Motives is not about lipstick color, it’s really about what makes women feel good inside.
Q. Entrepreneurship seems a true family tradition, with your daughter also launching a brand several years ago. Do you think entrepreneurship is born or made?
A. I think it is something that can be for anyone at any time in their life. If we look at people like Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein, it’s really about their passion. And when people finally realize that they are sick and tired of being sick and tired and frustrated and fed up [in their current jobs], entrepreneurship can be born at any age.
Q. What do you see as a few of the key trends out there driving e-commerce?
A. Mobile shopping is a huge trend and where things are moving. We are seeing massive growth, that is how young people are shopping. Another trend is lifestyle merchandising: They can visualize it on someone they love, maybe a celebrity, and they want it and they can easily purchase it. We are going to have to be constantly on top of what our customers want . . . and we have the technology to be ahead of the game. Mobile shopping is a whole new world that we have been involved with for years now, but it’s constantly evolving.
Q. What’s next for Market America?
A. We’re growing massively. We are entering Malaysia, we are in the UK, Spain, Mexico, Hong Kong, Singapore. We’re doing a conference in Taiwan for 30,000 people in a couple of months. People are tired of working for someone else for 35 years. Our message is, if you want to talk all day for someone else, why don’t you learn to talk about things that are benefiting you?
When you are doing that at home, your children and grandchildren see that you are a role model for people to look up to.
I don’t believe in growing through competition — that never helped anyone. I believe in growing through cooperation — people working together. Loren Ridinger
In our home, our daughter Amber followed in our vision. It becomes a natural thing when you watch your parents work hard and want to make a difference and are impacting lives. It makes such a difference. I don’t believe in growing through competition — that never helped anyone. I believe in growing through cooperation — people working together.
Q. And next for Loren Ridinger?
A. Oh, I don’t know. This past year, I worked with Daymond John with his book; I was one of the people he interviewed in the “Power of Broke.” JR and I have both been offered our own books. Anything is possible right now. We’re focusing on new products, possibly clothes and shoes. Everything we’ve done has worked out well because we understand who our customer was and what she wants, at a price point that is affordable. That has been my goal with all my products.
I always have so many things working all the time, so many exciting things coming, it always involves working with other people, helping other people. I’m never going to slow down — it is not in my blood. I am going to be around for as long as God lets me. There are a million things on my plate — I don’t keep a to-do list, but I prioritize my priorities.
Q. What is the best advice you ever received about business or work-life balance and who gave it?
A. Oh, from my husband. I really generally do a really good job at thinking through processes and projects so I cannot fail, but failure is part of our success. We have both failed many times, but getting back up and dusting yourself off is the key to success. Nobody said success is a straight, narrow line. When I’m feeling bad because I made a bad decision, JR is always reminding me not to beat myself up but to pick myself up. He also always says, surround yourself with people better than yourself because you want to have an interesting conversation all the time.
Q. What most inspires you to keep going?
A. Knowing my “why.” If you know what your why is, you have a reason to do what you do. I don’t think anyone can be successful without knowing what their why is. You have to have passion, something that inspires you. For me, my why is to instill in my children, and now my grandchildren, that you are worthy of something better and that you can achieve anything you want. They are my why — to inspire them to greatness and to let them see that working hard as a woman is important and you don’t need a man, even though I have [had] a great man for 26 years, it’s important. That is really what it is.