Julie and Tracy Colburn got a taste of politics when they traveled to Washington, D.C., recently to participate in a lobbying effort by the Direct Selling Association.
The Apex couple are executive directors with Premier Designs, a direct sales jewelry company.
The main focus of the second annual Direct Selling Day on Capitol Hill was a growing threat to a law allowing companies to utilize independent contractor status for their salespeople.
“If that were to change,” Julie Colburn said, “it would change our whole business.”
About 500 people representing various companies assembled in Washington on Sept. 9 and received marching orders for the next day’s events. With 75 people, Premier had the second-highest showing, Colburn said.
“What I loved is that Premier paid all our expenses,” she said. “That says a lot about our company.”
Next year, DSA has set a goal of 1,000 participants for the event.
The amateur lobbyists were divided into groups and assigned to meet with lawmakers. The Colburns had appointments at the offices of Sen. Kay Hagan, Sen. Richard Burr and Rep. Virginia Foxx. Only Foxx agreed to personally meet with the group.
“I didn’t have a clue,” Colburn said of the process and what to expect. “I was scared. I highly recommend everyone to do it at least once.”
Colburn said there was a marked difference in the reception they received at each office. One aide with whom they spoke was not at all familiar with the issue.
“We had to educate the aide,” she said.
The Colburns have been involved with Premier for 17 years. For half that time, it has been their main income. The flexibility of being independent contractors allowed them to move from Florida to North Carolina and continue their business.
Premier reaches customers through home shows. Jewelers earn 50 percent of all sales and can increase their income by sponsoring new jewelers.
There are no sales quotas, leaving jewelers to decide their own goals and work schedules. That is at the crux of the DSA push to keep independent contractor status.
“If we were not independent contractors, it would change our ability to work when, where and how we want,” Colburn said. “That would squash the entrepreneurial spirit.”
Their day on Capitol Hill was a success, she said.
“I want to be more involved. It is our duty as American citizens to not put our heads in the sand. It was just a great, positive experience. I think we’ll be talking about it for a long time.”
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