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The year was 1959, and a manufacturer and its separate marketing company were locked in a dispute over distribution rights that could affect the livelihood of the company's independent Distributors.
Faced with this crisis, two of the leading Distributors, Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos, called a meeting with several of their top downline Distributors in Charlevoix, Mich. Out of that meeting came a new Distributor organization, the American Way Association.
The original members of the AWA included not only Jay and Rich but also other pioneers such as Walter Bass, Fred Hansen, Joe Victor and Jere Dutt. It was decided that Jay and Rich would head a sales company that would supply products and that the AWA, now the IBOA International, would serve as the voice of the Distributor network to promote the interests and protect the rights of the Distributors.
Fred Hansen's widow, Crown Direct Bernice Hansen, recalls Jay and Rich asking what they would like to see in the new corporation. "We told them we wanted a voice for Distributors in the field and Distributorships we could pass on to our heirs," Bernice says.
Crown Direct Jody Dutt is the son of Jere and of Eileen, who have passed away. Jody says, "In those days (leading up to 1959) the rules had been changing almost monthly. The AWA was founded to protect what people like my dad and mom had built."
Jody Victor, Crown IBO and son of Joe & Helyne Victor, points out "Every Distributor has a chance to be heard. The ADA listens intently to everyone, from the smallest to the largest Distributor, the newest to the oldest."
To this day, the voice of the Distributor is a vital component of the business opportunity.
"My father sold the Association more than anything," says Jody Dutt. "He'd talk about the rights, the independence you were guaranteed—that you could build something you owned and pass it on to your kids."
Crown Ambassadors Frank and Rita Delisle, already highly successful Distributors, soon joined the original group. "The Association is what really got us to believe. And we could tell people we recruited it was truly their business," Rita says.
That original concept of inheritable Distributorships was prophetic of the family nature of the business. All of the pioneers mentioned previously have children and grandchildren in the business.
Phyllis Chesebro, daughter of Walter Bass, the first AWA Board president, now heads the family business, the first to span four generations.
Great-grandmother Bernice Hansen has three daughters and sons-in-law in her business. Jody Victor's son Steve became the first third-generation Direct. The Delisles' son Dennis also serves on the Board. The Delisles have grandsons in the business, and Rita's mother, who lived to be 90, joined the business while in her 70s.
Like the other founders, Jere Dutt insisted there was no limit to what the AWA and The Corporation could accomplish. Jody Dutt remembers his father saying "that we would grow around the world because what we're selling is not just a product or a company. We're showing people how to be independent."
Copyright 1998. Source: October 1998 Amagram® magazine. Reprinted with permission.
(Amagram® was the monthly publication for IBOs. Effective 9/1/99, Amagram® was replaced by Achieve™.)
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