GREENSBORO — It’s not for the claustrophobic.
About 20,000 eager people filled the Greensboro Coliseum on Saturday — for a convention. The entrepreneurs browsed products, sampled cosmetics and learned what Market America products will help them exert more financial independence.
They came from nine countries to attend the 23rd annual convention for Market America, one of the world’s biggest online retailers. The four-day invasion will provide a $23 million economic boost for Greensboro, according to Market America.
Market America sells more than 40 million products through www.shop.com.
Loren and JR Ridinger and Loren’s brother Marc Ashley started the company in Greensboro in 1992. With the development of the Internet, the company went from a direct-sales model, in which entrepreneurs sold the products during in-home parties, to an online retail giant. It bought www.shop.com about five years ago.
This year, advances in technology stoked the crowd.
Entrepreneurs, citing cyber security, have demanded the ability to pay for products online through PayPal.
The masses cheered when Ashley, the company’s chief operating officer, told entrepreneurs they will have that ability as early as Tuesday.
Furthermore, he said, the company will be one of a few to offer PayPal Credit.
“Approved customers get an instant line of credit at the point of sale,” he said. “Consumers who use PayPal Credit will spend more and buy more often.”
Outside the main floor, attendees crushed against each other to gain a moment with Loren Ridinger as she discussed and demonstrated new products in the Motives Cosmetics line, a cornerstone of the company.
“We’ve been here for 25 years,” she said. “I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”
They’ve spent some time in Miami, where they would occasionally run into Rohan Marley the son of Bob Marley — who co-founded Marley Coffee in 2009.
“I would see JR and Loren out,” Rohan Marley said. “They always told me, ‘We love the coffee. We should talk.’”
Now, Market America entrepreneurs around the world can order Marley Coffee on www.shop.com.
“Market America is allowing the community to buy coffee and get cash back,” Marley said. “It’s created a lot more awareness for the brand.”
Gina Munyon of Rockton, Ill., attended the convention for the first time this year.
She said her husband has been a Market America entrepreneur for nine years, but she never considered selling the products herself. She decided she needed to go to the convention to learn more about the company and its products.
“I realized if I wanted my kids to have things they’ve never had before, I had to get into this,” Munyon said.
Loren Ridinger said the convention lets people come in and try products without having to buy them.
“You might launch new products, but who can afford to buy everything?” she asked. “It’s a pretty amazing event.”