An Amway Pioneer – Bernice Hansen
Bernice Hansen, Crown. “And so often over the years, I’ve thought: What if Fred had listened to me that day and said, ‘You’re right, let’s call it a day.’ But he didn’t. And that made all the difference in our lives.”
Bernice Hansen, now 99, has been inspiring people her whole life. “I was just a farm girl,” she says about her humble beginnings. “But my dad taught me the value of hard work. When you believe in yourself, there’s nothing you can’t do. And I have to say, I’ve had a wonderful, wonderful life.”
Only one product to sell
The Hansens were two of the very first IBOs in the business; in fact, when they started as NUTRILITE® distributors in the 1950s, Amway wasn’t even a company yet. Bernice likes to tell the story about how their sponsor, Walter Bass, came to their home in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, to help them conduct their first meeting. “Walt had this young kid with him and told us this 23-year-old was going to run the meeting. I thought, ‘What? This young kid is going to tell us how to start a business and make money? No way!’ But he was pretty good. And of course, the kid was Rich DeVos. When we started out we only had one product and one piece of literature, which Jay [Van Andel] wrote and mimeographed himself, so at that time, it only cost $1 to get in the business!”
Knocking on doors
Bernice and her husband, Fred, started out literally going door to door, talking to people about the idea of food supplements and selling NUTRILITE DOUBLE X® multivitamins. The first day, Bernice had a couple of doors slammed in her face and decided she was done. She went and sat in the car. “Fred came back and said, ‘What’s wrong?’ I said, ‘Fred, I’m just not going to do this.’ He knew there was no arguing with me, so he said, ‘Well, I’ll just finish passing out this literature at a few more houses, and then we’ll go have coffee, ok ?’
“So I watched him go and he’s talking and laughing with the ladies, and I thought, ‘Wait a minute, I can do this!’ And I went back out and knocked on another door, and spent the next hour and a half explaining nutrition to a nice couple. They didn’t buy anything, but they gave me a lead. And she bought, and gave me another lead. And from that, we sold 18 bottles of DOUBLE X®, and we were on our way.”
They had been building their AMWAY™ business for nine years when Fred died in 1968. By then, they had built a strong business, had great leadership in place, and Bernice knew how to run the business. So it continued to grow. And grow. And grow – from one country to the next until it circled the globe.
“When she was 88, I put her on a plane to speak at a gathering in Seoul, Korea. A month later, she was on another plane heading for Japan!” laughs Bernice’s daughter, Karen DeBlaay. “Mom has always been ‘Captain Energy’ and she believes strongly in the NUTRILITE® products.”
Encourage people to think outside the box. The “box” is so limiting. Who wants to be average? Create goals that are bigger than what might feel natural to you.
Sell people on the products first; the best IBOs come from being happy customers.
“Encourage People” thoughts from Bernice’s daughter Karen DeBlaay
“If there was one thing I learned from my mother, it’s to always be an encourager of people. She really knows how to bring out the best in individuals and she would always go the extra mile to support those who worked hard to make their businesses succeed. She’d say, ‘You have to encourage people’s passion for success, but you also have to give them the right vehicle to achieve it; and this AMWAY business is the right vehicle.’
“She also believed very much in keeping the customers happy. Even today, I call people continually to remind them about our products and put things in front of them. And to think that my mom and dad started out with just one product to sell! I know I’ve got the genes, but I’m not sure I would have had the guts to do what they did.”
“No Excuses” thoughts from Bernice’s daughter, Susan Ross
“My parents taught us many lessons, but I certainly learned about courage and perseverance at the time of my father’s death. Mom could easily have retired comfortably. But she didn’t; she made the choice to stay with it and then developed a significant business on her own. And that took a lot of courage. So when things are tough and I start thinking, ‘You know, this is sort of hard,’ I just say to myself, ‘I am not going to disappoint her.’ There’s not an excuse in the world I can offer after seeing what she did; it keeps us all going. Whenever I’m having a bad day, I think about her and say, ‘You get out that door right now and start talking to those people. No excuses.’”