Hansen, Fred & Bernice
|Fred & Bernice Hansen|
Double Diamond 1970
Triple Diamond 1974
Sponsored by Emerald Walter Bass, Fred Hansen and his wife Bernice started to work with Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel in 1950 in the Nutrilite business. In 1958 Fred Hansen worked together with DeVos, Van Andel, Jere Dutt, Joe Victor, Walter Bass and Eleanor Tietsma to found the American Way Association (AWA), which later became Amway.
Until his death in 1968, Fred played a vital role in shaping the Association that continues to exist today as the Independent Business Owners Association International.
When Fred passed away by a heart attack in 1968, the Diamond business transferred to Bernice. About this time her daughter Susan and Skip Ross met in a seminar, in California. Skip and Susan Ross now manage the Hansen business.
The year was 1950, and my husband and I were shown the Nutrilite business by Rich DeVos. I felt from the beginning that if Rich and Jay Van Andel could do this, we could do it too. "That was the launching of a global business. Bernice had an accounting background and her husband, who had been a barber, had started another business that had failed. They launched into the Nutrilite business in earnest, and their efforts were quickly rewarded." It became very clear to us that building the business was the best investment of their time that people could make.” Sound like a dream business? “Personal freedom with financial options is a dream of a lifetime,” Bernice says. “This business has me very happy. This is the most wonderful way to help people fulfill their personal goals."
Bernice passed away on September 27, 2012.
Bernice Hansen was one of the early distributors who helped Amway founders Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel grow their basement business into one of the biggest direct sales companies in the world. She signed on as a distributor with her husband Fred Hansen, and her Amway business flourished with the company. Her team expanded to include tens of thousands of independent business owners, or IBOs, around the world, said John Parker, Amway's chief sales officer. "She was hugely important" to the company's success, said Parker, who developed a friendship with her over the past two decades. Hansen, who died Sept. 27 at age 101, was remembered by the Ada-based company for her pioneering role as a businesswoman and a philanthropist. She and her husband helped launch the American Way Association, now known as the IBOAI, which is credited for playing a key role in shaping the Amway business for millions of IBOs and distributors, the company said. The Hansens began working with the Amway-cofounders when they were Nutrilite distributors in 1950, nine years before DeVos and Van Andel launched the direct sales company that last year had sales of $10.9 billion. When Hansen’s husband died in 1968, she continued the business and became a top distributor status in less than a decade.
Rich DeVos described Hansen as a pioneer who set a solid foundation for all those who followed. “After Fred's passing, Bernice carried on their Amway business with extraordinary enthusiasm and unwavering integrity, helping thousands of other distributors around the world find success in achieving their dreams,” DeVos said in a statement released by the company Monday. “Bernice's legacy will live on for future generations to come, and she will be sorely missed." The Ada resident was described as a “remarkable bundle of energy” by Amway's current leadership: President Doug DeVos and Chairman Steve Van Andel in a joint statement. “Her lifetime accomplishments are truly awe-inspiring,” read the statement. “We are grateful for the partnership we’ve had with her through the years and appreciate the many lives she touched. Bernice will be missed by Amway distributors all over the world, employees here in Ada, and the DeVos and Van Andel families.”
She was in her late 30s when she met then 23-year-old Rich DeVos, who came to her Ohio home to lead a Nutrilite meeting. “I thought, ‘What? This young kid is going to tell us how to start a business and make money?,” she said during an interview for an Amway publication published two years ago. “No way!’ But he was pretty good. And of course, the kid was Rich DeVos. When we started out, we only had one product and one piece of literature, which Jay (Van Andel) wrote and mimeographed himself, so at that time, it only cost $1 to get in the business.” She grew up on a farm in Coopersville where she developed a love for people, horses and kitties, according to her obituary. There, she is described as “always having a smile on her face and words of encouragement for everyone she met.” Two of Bernice’s three daughters, Karen DeBlaay and Susan Ross, have continued building the Hansen legacy as IBOs.
“If there was one thing I learned from my mother, it’s to always be an encourager of people,” Ross said in the Amway story. “She really knows how to bring out the best in individuals and she would always go the extra mile to support those who worked hard to make their businesses succeed.” Her business success paved the way for her philanthropy. Hansen gave to several organizations over the decades including the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Van Andel Institute and Cornerstone University. “We at Cornerstone University are grateful for the part that Bernice Hansen has played in the advancement of our mission,” said Cornerstone President Joseph Stowell. “This is particularly true in terms of her generosity, which helped to make the Bernice Hansen Athletic Center a reality. The building plays a strategic part in student life and athletic competition. Her legacy will always be remembered on campus.” Hansen, whose second husband, Ralph Gilbert preceded her in death, is survived by her three daughters, Marianne (Wayne) Briggs of Gambier, Ohio, Susan (Skip) Ross of Sarasota, Fla., and Karen (Jerry) DeBlaay of Ada; three step-daughters, Joanne, Susan, and Kathy; 19 grandchildren, step-grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
For information on the Hansen downline, which is probably the largest in Amway, see the article on JaRi.
- North American Amagram, August 1975
- IBOAI Presidents Cabinet - Fred Hansen
- Farewell to an Amway Pioneer. Bernice Hansen, 101yrs