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Cayuga CC’s pilot of a national direct sales certificate program receives high marks from participants

DATE: 11-10-2011

Many of the participants in the 30-hour Direct Selling Certificate pilot training program at Cayuga Community College represent industries ranging from cleaning products, health and beauty products, Internet marketing, financial services, handbags, and energy. Others have been laid off and looking for a new opportunity; and some have always considered going into business for themselves and simply wanted to learn more about direct sales.

Whatever their reason for attending, the 14 pilot program participants who came from Rochester, Syracuse, and Auburn areas said the information has been invaluable in helping guide their career development.

"This has been a phenomenal pilot program," said Helen Ames Kelly, a certified motives trainer for Market America. "The coursework integrates ideas and practical knowledge, and I'd recommend highly to others. I hope the College continues to offer coursework for professionals in direct sales."

Katrina Wilson, an independent consultant for Arbonne health and beauty products, said it was interesting to hear the perspectives of guest speakers and fellow students who represent such a wide range of businesses and experiences.

"Having the College offer a certificate program in direct sales lends credibility to the industry," Wilson said.

Participant Bill Lyons said he particularly enjoyed the presentation by guest speaker and entrepreneur Harold Mars III of Graywolf Financial Services, who shared some statistics about the success rate of entrepreneurs.

"He gave a sober assessment of starting and running your own business," Lyons said. "That's important to know before you head into your own venture."

Understanding that they are truly small business owners and not just representatives of a company is one of the biggest lessons the participants are taking away from the program, according to Cayuga Professor Amy Valente, who taught the program.

"They are learning business skills in finance, marketing, accounting, communication, presentation, leadership, and sales that they are able to apply to their business," Valente said. "They are becoming knowledgeable in where to find tools and information that will help them in their business. Best of all, they are networking with each other and sharing tips and techniques so that they can each become more successful."

Cayuga Community College was one of three sites nationally to be selected to pilot the program, which was sponsored by the National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship and the Direct Selling Educational Foundation.

Valente has been invited to attend a pilot evaluation session in Washington, D.C, to represent the instructors on December 13.

"It is credit to Cayuga Community College and a tribute to Professor Valente that she has been selected to represent the faculty of the pilot institutions in finalizing the training materials to be used by the Direct Selling Association for its national training program," said Tom Paczkowski, the Fred L. Emerson Endowed Chair of Enterprise and Innovation at Cayuga. "This selection is growing evidence of Cayuga's growing national reputation and its leadership as a provider of high quality entrepreneurial training and education."

"There is a definite need for a program like this," Valente said. "The pilot went very well—even better than I anticipated. The students are constantly telling me how much they enjoy coming each week and the positive impact that it has made on their business. One participant told me that in the past three weeks, she has recruited 14 people on her team. She attributes her success directly to what she learned from the program."

For those who missed the 30-hour course and would like to learn more about direct sales, the College will sponsor a free two-hour workshop, Is Direct Selling for Me?, from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, November 14 at Cayuga Community College, 197 Franklin St., Auburn. For more information, visit