They told me it couldn’t be done.
Luckily, I didn’t believe them.
My name is Nicki Keohohou, and I am the CEO and co‑founder of the Direct Selling Women’s Alliance, or DSWA. My daughter Grace and I had a vision for a place where women in direct selling could “virtually” gather for support and learning. This would be a place where they could learn to achieve more and rise higher in their companies.
Sounds great, right? We thought so. But in the beginning, it seemed like we were the only ones who felt that way.
When I told friends in the business about this idea, all I heard about were the problems or obstacles I would face in making this dream a reality. “You will never get people to come,” they said. “People will never participate, due to conflicts of interest,” they said. “People will try to cross-recruit each other,” they said.
Now that DSWA has been around for 15 years, those naysayers are pretty quiet. Women—and even some men—come to our site in droves. And, thanks to our code of honor, there are few conflicts. Our people honor each other and the choice of their profession.
Still, it wasn’t easy to get our vision off the ground, but seeing our dream realized has been worth it.
It took us two years to get our website up and running. We had no income at the time, as we were solely dedicated to creating the site, creating training programs, and developing the material. We knew we had to hit the ground running—making our debut with a website that showed not only what we wanted to be, but also what we had the potential to become. As the saying goes, you have only one chance to make a good first impression.
Today our site features 5,000 pages and is recognized as one of the most comprehensive clearinghouses for information and support on direct selling. Mission accomplished!
Now, when I say direct selling, I mean all types of direct selling—the party plan, person-to-person sales, and network marketing. We’ve brought all three of those methodologies under one roof with the DSWA. We cover everything from booking parties to offering products to potential customers. It doesn’t matter which methodology people are using; DSWA has tools and support that will make a difference for anyone who is in any kind of direct selling.
The DSWA is geared toward independent direct sellers, but we’ve also created strategic partnerships with others involved in direct marketing, from companies to vendors. This focus helps us realize our goal of being the best place for people to go for up-to-date training and support.
Our mainstay is our ELITE Leadership Program. ELITE stands for: Educating Leaders In Transformational Excellence. We say that we provide more than information; it is transformation. We tap into the skills that most companies and individuals have never worked on, even though they are critical for successful leadership of other leaders. Those skills include team building, creating community, training, and coaching.
Team building involves getting people to join you in your organization—not just for a paycheck or for a pit stop on their career path, but as members of a team devoted to each other and each other’s success. We teach about creating community—how people come into this profession and find a home and how leaders communicate with their teams to create that feeling of belonging.
Training is another focus of our program, because it helps many people become leaders in direct selling. Often people become leaders, yet have no background in training, nor do they know how to do it efficiently or effectively. But training is so important—not only does it help you and your team develop needed skills, it ensures that everyone is on the same page when executing key aspects of the job, from managing time to finances.
We deliver these programs in audio, video, and written material through an online learning management system. And then we have our coaching school, which is not only part of the ELITE program, but at the core of everything we do. We truly believe that coaching is the foundation of building a direct selling business, so we’ve developed a school that educates leaders and corporate executives on how to create a coaching culture at a company. This culture fosters an environment of success, by celebrating triumphs, recognizing leaders and sharing methods that work.
Today the DSWA is a global association, providing tools and support for those in direct sales around the world. We often speak at national leadership conferences, and even hold our own conferences. We continue to bring people together in support of the profession—not to recruit each other nor to find out trade secrets—but to learn from each other and to support one another in their work.
This is a multi-billion dollar profession and the people in it just want to grow their own business and become more successful over time. The DSWA partners with independent direct sellers to bring them cutting-edge material and training so they can be successful—not just in their business, but also in their lives.
We know we have brought up the level of professionalism in the independent direct sales field with our support, training, and education. For those who are part of the DSWA, we’ve created an environment where they can grow and thrive in the world of direct selling.
The naysayers did not make it easy to get the DSWA to this point. But we continued to stay the course. We kept our eyes on where we were going and our focus on what the future was. We didn’t look back; we didn’t regret. We just kept going, putting one foot in front of the other. There wasn’t a lot of money to be made, especially in the beginning when we were building the foundation. But we figured out that—if we continued on the path we were on—we would find people along the journey that would believe in what we were doing.
We did find them, and it has made all the difference.