Editor’s note: 2019 marks Amway’s 60th anniversary. We’re celebrating with a series of blogs highlighting the company’s history, milestones, products and legacy. Join the conversation by leaving a hashtag comment on each blog. Published comments will be entered into a drawing for free products in our Amway through the Decades Giveaway*!
The first decade of business for Amway delivered milestone after milestone. Founders Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel knew they had something good in the U.S. and wanted more people to benefit.
They tested the waters of international expansion by opening up in Canada in 1962. That same year, taking control of some product manufacturing, they built the company’s first factory—an aerosol plant.
That factory empowered the company to deliver high-quality goods on its own schedule instead of relying on outside vendors. That initial growth allowed Amway to top $25 million in sales and reach more than 500 employees just five years after launch.
Their product line greatly expanded throughout the decade, too. In 1963, Amway debuted Queen™ Cookware, now known as iCook™ in North America—a high-quality line for use on any style of cooktop. 1967 saw the introduction of Dish Drops™ Dishwashing Liquid, a highly concentrated, biodegradable cleaner and still one of Amway’s top sellers.
And in 1968 the Artistry™ brand debuted with 11 skincare and cosmetic products with 37 different shades. Artistry™ would eventually grow to become one of the top selling premium skin care brands.
An explosion and fire
However, just as they learned with the failed business attempts that preceded Amway, success isn’t guaranteed. In 1969, a midnight explosion rocked the Amway aerosol manufacturing plant, destroying the building.
“We were at home, not far from Amway, and we heard a huge explosion,” recalled Jay’s son, Amway Co-chairman Steve Van Andel. “No one knew what it was. I noticed my dad got up right away because in his mind something was not right. Ada was not that big at the time.”
Rich was out of town, but Jay was on the scene when reporters questioned him about the impact of the fire. Rich’s son Amway Co-chairman Doug DeVos recalled watching the news coverage from that night.
‘We’re going to rebuild’
“Jay was speaking with the reporter and the flames were still burning in the background,” Doug said. “He was asked about what was next for Amway. Even though it was the middle of the night, Jay looked right in the camera, and without hesitation said, ‘We’re going to rebuild.’
“I reflected on all of the other answers he could have given. Maybe he’d have to wait and talk with Rich? Maybe he’d need to discuss with the insurance company? Perhaps a meeting with management? None of those. Jay never wavered on his commitment to taking Amway forward, no matter how difficult the current circumstances may have seemed. He only had one direction—forward!”
Steve said that reaction exemplified who his dad and Rich were and continued to be throughout the history of Amway, whether it was a foreign government creating roadblocks for the direct selling industry or a tsunami wiping out a distribution chain.
“It didn’t matter what it was from their perspective, when something stopped they tried to figure out how to keep it moving forward,” he said. “Their commitment to Amway Independent Business Owners was a priority.
“Even at that time, they had so many IBOs with a business of their own, and they were going to keep it going for them, the employees and everyone else who depended on the Amway business. That’s always been their perspective.”
And the aerosol plant? It reopened in six months.
Today, Amway owns and operates 15 manufacturing and processing plants across the globe, including at the original Ada campus.
What’s your hashtag?
What does the story of the first decade mean to you? What hashtag would you use to describe that time of Amway’s history? What hashtag describes their never-ending efforts to keep moving forward no matter what obstacles came their way?
Post your hashtag comment below and be entered to win a 12.3 fl. oz. bottle of Amway Home™ Prewash Spray. And come back to Amway Connections each week for more blogs marking Amway’s 60th anniversary and opportunities to win our Amway through the Decades Giveaway*!
*The Amway through the Decades Giveaway is sponsored by Amway Corp. and runs from April 18 - July 1, 2019. No purchase necessary. See official rules here.