When Amway approached Candace Matthews about becoming its global chief marketing officer four years ago, her first reaction was: "Oh, I didn't realize Amway still existed."
Women to Watch: Candace Matthews, Amway
That was about eight years after Amway had adopted the moniker Quixtar and tried to shift its focus to online sales in the U.S. Before that , many consumers recalled it mainly for its ties to evangelical religion and sales reps who pitched religion as vigorously as cleaning products.
But the reality was that Amway was already a $7.2 billion global marketer of beauty, nutrition and cleaning products, mainly through direct sales, but also through storefronts in China. And, in part thanks to Ms. Matthews, it was about to get bigger and more diverse still.
"I came to interview and found an unbelievably global company," said Ms. Matthews, who at the time was president of L'Oreal's SoftSheen-Carson division. But she also found a company whose U.S. division was struggling and lacked a global vision for its marketing, having been built up as a series of national affiliates.
Ms. Matthews, 52, was won over by the opportunity, and is happy she made the switch. "I've had an amazing time rebuilding the Amway brand and taking some of the great learnings of things we've done outside the U.S. and bringing them to the U.S.," she said.
Not that she's taking all the credit, but Amway has grown from $7.2 billion to $9.2 billion in global sales in the three years ended in 2010 -- a nearly 9% compound annual growth rate amid a recession in which almost every other beauty marketer stumbled at some point. And she has her sights set on $10.1 billion this year.
Last year's opening of the Amway Center, home to the NBA's Orlando Magic, owned by Amway founder Rich DeVos, helped put the company and brand on the map like never before -- including a rooftop shout-out in the form of the company logo to people flying in to see the Magic Kingdom.
Ms. Matthews brought to Amway one of the most blue-chip-laden resumes ever. Before joining L'Oreal, she worked at General Mills, Procter & Gamble Co., Bausch & Lomb and Coca-Cola Co.
"She's been the best client I've ever worked with," said Fitzgerald & Co. founder and CEO Dave Fitzgerald. "She's apolitical. She's incredibly smart. The objective is always to move stuff through to the consumer and she keeps that in mind. She has a unique combination of logic and magic."