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13 years as an independent businesswoman, and going strong

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13 years as an independent businesswoman, and going strong

Meet BJ Pierce, executive national vice president for Arbonne
13 years as an independent businesswoman, and going strong
Arbonne Senior Vice President BJ Pierce with her Mercedes Benz SUV in Schenectady's Central Park.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

Even if you haven’t seen her out and about cruising in one of her signature Arbonne-sanctioned white Mercedes, BJ Pierce is pretty memorable — from her love for all things Disney and her passion for fitness and the outdoors, to her stand-out view on women and business. Did we mention she’s an executive national vice president for a leading international wellness brand and lives on Ballston Lake?

As wife to a retired Navy Captain, step mom to a trio of twenty-something boys, dog mom to a pair of rescued Great Pyrenees and coach to a host of Arbonne employees, BJ admittedly has a lot on her plate. But she wouldn’t have it any other way, she said.

We caught up with the Schenectady native and former Niskayuna resident to learn how she built her career and what keeps her going each day, as well as what advice she would offer any would-be entrepreneur in the Capital Region. She also filled us in on why the 5-1-8 will always be home.

The following interview has been edited for context and length.

Question: Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up. What did you dream of becoming as a kid?

Answer: I’m a local! I grew up in Woodlawn and am a Linton High School graduate. I’m the youngest of four, and when I say youngest, I mean youngest by at least 17 years. I’m kind of an only child in that way, and so I spent a lot of time with six nieces and nephews growing up who were all my same age. As a child, I didn’t really have that “one thing” I wanted to be when I grew up. At one point, I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian until I realized some pets wouldn’t get better. Then I thought I wanted to become a teacher. I also wanted to write, but only because I liked to read. But at the end of the day, I think I just wanted to do something meaningful—something with purpose, something that made a difference and something that brought good to people. The truth is I was always searching.

Q: Tell us a little about your educational and professional background.

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A: I went to SUNY Cobleskill for two years and then SUNY New Paltz for another two. I have an associate’s degree in secretarial science (my mom believed I had to have something to “fall back on”) and a bachelor’s degree in business marketing. I worked in an investment bank in New York City when I was first out of college before moving back upstate, getting married and settling back into the area. I also worked for Schenectady International for 12 years before leaving to grow my Arbonne business.

Q: How did you make your way to Arbonne?

A: It’s kind of a long story so I won’t go into too much detail, but my husband, Jamie, is best friends with my sponsor’s husband. They used to talk about owning their own business and what that would look like, so Sheila, my sponsor, always sort of knew we were open to an opportunity. Jamie and I had been looking for something and weren’t sure what exactly that something was. Sheila called me out of the blue one day in February of 2005 and I had never even heard of Arbonne. She and her husband came over, shared what they knew, gave me products to try and then Jamie and I did some research. I loved their philosophy of pure, safe and beneficial, and loved that they were vegan and didn’t test on animals. I thought, “I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Let’s do this!”

Q: Arbonne is known for its skincare and cosmetics, but what else should we know about the company, founded in Switzerland in 1975?

A: First off, Arbonne is not just skincare and cosmetics. We’re also wellness, sports, spa and essential oils, and our products are pure, clean and plant-based. Besides the products, the community is one of the most uplifting, positive communities I’ve ever been involved with. I’m passionate about the business model and the products for sure, but the community is just something tremendous. I’m not sure I would have become as successful as I have if I didn’t have this community. It’s funny because I know it’s a business but it’s also a “tribe.”

Q: What does your role entail?

A: As an Executive National Vice President with Arbonne, it means that I have been promoted to the very top level and promoted out someone else to my level. But I still do everything that a brand new independent consultant does: I schedule appointments and presentations, sell product, meet with people and help others start and grow their businesses. However, I also coach and train — I help consultants improve their skills to grow their client base.

Q: Tell us about what it “took” to get to the role of VP at an internationally-regarded company. Did you have to make any sacrifices?

A: It took a lot of desire and grit. I knew nothing about network marketing and nothing about selling when I started. But what I did know was that I wanted something different and I wanted to be successful, so I did everything our upline told us to do. If they said attend a meeting, I did. If they said get on a call, I did. I consistently asked, “what do I need to do?” and they would tell me “go out and do x, y and z,” and I would. Then I’d go back and say, “now what?” I read, listened and also worked full time, in addition to teaching 10 hours of fitness classes a week when I started. I had a widowed elderly mom with a health issue, three young step-sons and a travelling husband. I was busy but knew that if I could figure out how to fit it all in, I could change our future for the better. I sacrificed sporting events, stopped watching TV and didn’t have as many date nights. I filled in my “down time” with my Arbonne business. I knew that the imbalance was only temporary, and I was willing to go through it to create the life we wanted.

Q:  You've chosen to remain in the Capital Region, although you could live almost anywhere. What fueled your decision?

A: At first, it was my mom, as my dad passed away a few months before I started my business. She was going blind, she had a blood disorder and although she was living on her own she did need some help — so I wasn’t going anywhere. If she needed me, I needed to be here for her. She was one of my best friends and although I lost her almost eight years ago, I still wanted to be here. I really love this area and always have. It has my heart! We are so centrally located — two-and-a-half hours from New York City, three hours from Boston, three hours from Montreal and 45 minutes from good skiing. The capital district is a great community and we have great friends and a great church and I really don’t want to live anywhere else.

Q: What's an average work day look like?

A: Every day is a bit different, but typically I get up and go to the gym, come home and read. I always read two or three books at the same time, and it’s always something Christian — either a bible study or a book written by a pastor — and always some type of personal development or leadership book. I read for an hour each day. From there, I start ticking off my “to do” list: answering emails, posting on my client groups or team pages, making phone calls, coaching, checking in with clients and team members and meeting people for appointments. No one day is the same but that’s how I like it.

Q: How would you describe yourself? What are your greatest talents? Anything you're hoping to improve?

A: I am very loyal. I am driven, but soft, if that makes sense. I am disciplined and like to learn. I love to challenge myself and am also incentive-driven so dangle an opportunity or prize in front of me and I am going to figure out what it takes to go get it! I’m always hoping to become better in all areas of my life. I want to be a better friend, wife, step-mom, sister, aunt as well as be a better business woman. I want to become a better trainer, leader and coach. When I started, I was afraid to speak in front of a few people and now I speak in front of a few thousand people. It still scares me, but I’ve done it several times and felt great about it. So maybe next time it will be in front of tens of thousands at our global conference!

Q: How do you stay focused and productive, despite the challenges of everyday life?

A: I can get very thrown off when things don’t go the way they are supposed to. That’s why I work with my calendar and create a “to do” list every day. It gives me a road map. When I feel like I’m getting distracted I literally talk to myself. I tell myself to stop and get back to whatever it is I need to do. I’ll also turn the ringer off on my phone and sometimes I’ll even leave it in another room. Don’t get me wrong—there are days that distractions get the best of me, but I don’t beat myself up. I just take a deep breath and say, “tomorrow is another day.” And when I know something needs to get done, it gets done. I think I work more efficiently when I have a busy day.

Q: What advice do you have for someone considering a career as an entrepreneur?

A: I’d tell them to go for it! If they have something on their heart that they want to do and it keeps tugging at them, they should do it. It’s scary. It’s not easy. But it is so worth it. When you have a “no matter what” attitude, a strong work ethic and the desire to learn, you can grow a business. It just takes time. You also have to have thick skin. People will try to talk you out of it or tell you that you can’t do it or you’re crazy but you need to be true to yourself and listen to your inner voice. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Some of the greatest business leaders and greatest athletes in the world were told they couldn’t. Just imagine if they had listened! My motto is to never take advice from someone who isn’t in a better space than me.

Q: What's next for you in 2018 and beyond?

A: It’s going to be a big year! I’m looking to expand into Germany and am really excited about that possibility. But my biggest focus is on bringing up leaders in my organization. My Arbonne business has enabled me to have time-based freedom and financial freedom and I truly live my life first, and then work fits around it. Life is about living to the fullest and enjoying, not settling or just getting by. My financial advisor asked me to pick a date for retirement and honestly, I don’t know if I will ever retire. I’m sure I will slow down and cut back at some point, but I love what I do.

Q:  What else should we know about you?

A: I’m shy, which I know probably sounds funny. But I really am shy. Once I get to know people and they get to know me, I open up and am outgoing, but deep down I am a little girl, taking a deep breath and stepping out with a little fear in her heart. And for as much as I love to travel, I also love being home. There is nothing better than a Sunday afternoon, curled up on the sofa with one of my big fluffy dogs and a good, old movie.

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