Health, Wellness, and a Growing $120 Million Business. Meet Deanna Latson.

Deanna Latson was bulimic, overweight, and using over-the-counter medications to manage her life. Then, inspired by love of family and refusal to quit, she went on a quest that has created health, more wholeness, and a $120 million business.

 

TalkWhat’s your workout?

I travel a lot, so don’t have a consistent routine. I make it a habit, though, to always stay active and busy. Hey, I’m a mom with a 7-year-old son—I never stop moving!

What picture is on your phone’s home screen? Share it with us.

On my lock screen I have a photo of my son and me. On my home screen is another of my daughter and me.

What inspired you to start your business? Where did you start and where are you now?

It all started when I was in college and realized that my family and I were living a very unconscious life. I was bulimic, overweight, and using over-the-counter medications to manage my life, never realizing that I had a problem. One day I looked at my dad. He was taking 16 prescription medications and I remember looking at those bottles and thinking that he wouldn’t be around to see me get married, have children, or live my life.

I got serious about nutrition, convinced members of my family to make big changes for their health, and was amazed watching how resilient the body could be in coming back from such a hard place. I was inspired to make changes in my own life too. My own experience going from overweight, sick, and feeling crappy all the time to waking up and finally feeling good was eye opening.

I started talking about it from the stage, sharing what I learned. This was 20 years ago, when it wasn’t sexy to talk about nutrition and practically unheard of for a women to speak from the stage about health and nutrition. No one would talk to me, book me or even think about paying me to speak. Three years later I became a top ranked speaker in the college market. Five years later I was ranked among the best in the country. And in 2011, my five business partners and I started ARIIX.

Latson with sonWhat do you see for your future?

To continue to build a company that doesn’t just sell products and services, but one with a mission to help people live better and longer. And is deeply steeped in education. When people walk away from our company, whether they work for us, buy from us, or sell for us, they feel like their life has been improved.

How large is your business? How many employees do you have?

We currently do $120 million in revenue in 16 countries, and about 200 employees worldwide.

Latson with daughterWhat do you see as challenges for you and your business? What are some opportunities?

When you start a business, you’re not just making your own money, you’re providing employment for a lot of people who rely on you. I didn’t understand the stress that would come from that and all the pressure I would feel. However, that challenge is also a benefit, because you have the power to help the community and society through corporate responsibility and have a positive impact in a lot of ways whether it’s hiring great people or helping to change people’s lives.

Tell us a story about a success in your business.

I’m really fortunate, since I’m in a business that is all about improving health and wellness, I hear remarkable success stories every single day. People write me, come up to me at meetings and reach out daily to share their successes, from losing 100 pounds to doing new things they never thought they’d do again to finally enjoying life, when they really didn’t think they ever would again.

What do you love about being an entrepreneur?

So many things! I love having an idea, a vision, and then bringing it to fruition. As an entrepreneur I am in the driver’s seat of taking my dream, finding people and solutions to support it, and moving forward to make that dream happen. And I like the challenges that come with entrepreneurship. I’ve always had my own big ideas and thought that as scary as it is to push forward for your big ideas, I’d rather do that than push someone else’s big ideas. As an entrepreneur, I am in charge of my own destiny. There are a lot of perks, but it doesn’t come without significant sacrifices. Sometimes it’s not easy making the decisions, finding the right people to work with, and putting in more hours than anyone else you know. Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. But I get to be with who I want, when I want, doing what I want.

What about your business matters most deeply to you? How does it engage your values?

I love that I am creating products that really work, and helping people realize they have a choice in life in how they feel, how they live, and how they age. When you look at corporate America, it seems like a lot of the choices make are based on money, which gives us a bad name. At ARIIX, we make choices based on our values and with the intent of making a difference in people’s lives. I live what I talk about and have been doing it for 20 years, and there’s nothing better than that.

Latson familyWhat would you say is your “entrepreneurial superpower?”

Even if I don’t know how to do something, I will figure out how to get it done. My whole life, I never thought that no means no. I just figured that I needed to learn how to make it a yes. So I guess you would say that my super power is figuring out how to get things done!

Who is the entrepreneur you admire most right now? Why does she inspire you?

Katharine Hepburn said, “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” I love that! She’s known for playing strong-willed women when it wasn’t popular. She was unconventional, nonconforming, and did a lot for women that up to then had been totally taboo. I admire women who have extraordinary circumstances against them, but push through and succeed anyway. Like J.K. Rowling, who worked in cafes to save money on heat and kept working toward her dream even after she was told that no one would buy her idea for a book. She was a woman who didn’t take no for an answer. She had a dream, she knew what she wanted, and she didn’t accept limitations and pushed through. That’s what I admire.

What’s the best and the worst thing about being an entrepreneur, as a woman?

I think the worst is finding balance. I’m a mother as well as an entrepreneur. It’s a constant struggle to balance work and family. That’s the hardest: to be the mom I want to be and the businesswoman I want to be, all at once. But then again, the best thing about being an entrepreneur is the freedom it allows. If I want to go spend an hour or two at school with my kids, I can.

Do you think male entrepreneurs are “different” from female entrepreneurs, and if so, how?

Oh my goodness, yes! Men talk different, interact differently, they make decisions differently. I’m the only female owner in our company out of 7 of us. When we sit around an executive table, 6 men and 1 woman, and are making decisions for the future of our company, our differences are definitely out there. Yes, men can be kind and soft and gentle, but I am even softer and often approach issues in a much different way than they would. Still, I’m really grateful that my male business partners are able to make some of the hard business decisions that I really don’t want to make.

I think it’s important for women to not try to act the same as men in business, though. Men and women have different strengths. When we all bring those different strengths and perspectives to the table, we end up with more varied and balanced solutions.

What’s the best advice you ever got, and from whom?

Always from my dad. When I was really young, in pigtails and uniform at Catholic school, he told me that just because someone is older and in a position of power—that doesn’t mean that they are always correct. I was naturally very curious and always questioning everything back then. I would sit in the confessional with a flashlight and say “I know who you are, you know who I am, why are we sitting in the dark?!” I was always questioning the norm and wanting to know why. This often got me in trouble as a child, but as an adult it has served me well. My father also always told me to never settle for mediocrity. I’m always ready to give it my all, I always say “we’re all in!” Failure is not an issue.

How can our readers keep in touch? My Twitter handle: @JouveSkin

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