The partnership that launched more than a million businesses

Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos stand in one of their basements where they launched Amway in 1959.
Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos in the home basement where Amway began.

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*!

A simple agreement

The roots of Amway can be traced back to a partnership, a simple agreement between two high school students—one with a car and one who was tired of walking.

Jay Van Andel agreed to give Rich DeVos a ride to school each day in exchange for 25 cents a week in gas money. That was the first time the two had met, and it was the beginning of a lifelong friendship and partnership that produced a host of entrepreneurial ventures.

The start of something big

Those ventures culminated in 1959 with Amway, short for the American Way, which over 60 years has become a multi-billion dollar direct selling company providing opportunity to more than 1 million business owners across the globe.

It was an unlikely partnership. The men had very different personalities; Rich was outgoing and social and Jay was more serious. They likely would not have become friends were it not for Rich’s tired legs. But they did, and what developed has been described as one of the greatest business partnerships in history.

The foundation

What made that partnership so powerful? Common values and trust, said Rich’s son and Amway Co-chairman Doug DeVos.

He said his father and Jay shared a Christian faith, a spirit of adventure and independence, confidence in free enterprise and a powerful belief in people.

“They believed that every person had incredible potential within themselves, and all they needed was an opportunity to express it,” Doug said. “And they always trusted each other. That was easy when things went well, and absolutely critical when things went wrong.”

In a historical photo of Amway Co-founders Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel, the two men talk and work together over plans for something on a desk.

Continuing legacy

Amway Co-chairman Steve Van Andel, Jay’s son, also pointed to trust, and respect, as key to the partnership shared by the company’s cofounders. He said that partnership inspired the company through its 60-year history and will in the future under the leadership of new Amway CEO Milind Pant.

“Their example of strong partnership built a legacy for Amway over the years, and we carried that forward as the second generation started leading the business,” he said. “It continues to be a guiding force for us today as we bring Milind into the business as CEO.

“Partnership is all over Amway. It drives our business forward each day.”

Company DNA

Amway North America Managing Director Jim Ayres said that storied partnership is in the company’s DNA.

“Fundamentally, the whole culture of Amway, not only internally, but with our business owners around the world, was built on the foundation of that original partnership,” Ayres said.

“The idea of people coming together, understanding each other, being accepting of each other, helping each other and having each other’s back is kind of what we do,” he continued. “It’s the way the company works, it’s the way the business model works.”

Amway Co-founders Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos stand for a portrait in front of a globe.

An example to follow

Ayres said he sees it explicitly expressed today in the success stories of Amway Independent Business Owners, which, almost without fail, have a common theme: They struggled to find success no matter what they tried, until they began focusing on helping others on their team succeed.

“When they did that, all of a sudden their business took off,” he said. “That’s an example of the Rich and Jay partnership.

“When I think about that partnership, and what they did, it could be considered one of the greatest partnerships in the history of business—certainly in the United States, maybe the world.”

What’s your hashtag?

What does the partnership of Rich and Jay mean to you? What hashtag would you use to describe their friendship and partnership? What hashtag would you use to talk about the beginning of the Amway business?

Post your hashtag comment below and be entered to win a 4-liter container of floral scented Amway Home™ SA8™ Liquid Laundry Detergent. 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 8 – July 1, 2019. No purchase necessary.  See official rules here.

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