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Cultural Makeover

Company looks for ways to add some color.

If you've never heard of The Longaberger Company, you're probably not from the Midwest. But now, whether you're in Rhode Island, California or any other corner of the country, you'll probably be hearing a lot about Longaberger, as the company makes a name for itself with an expansion effort aimed at recruiting minorities.

The Newark, Ohio, manufacturer of handcrafted baskets, and distributor of American-made pottery, fabrics and wrought-iron products plans to diversify its employee and customer base. Presently, its customer base is 98 percent Caucasian and 86 percent married, bringing home an average income of $60,000 per year.

"We're appealing to a very distinct audience and are missing significant opportunities as they relate to African Americans, Asians and Hispanics," says Donna Krueger-Simmons, executive vice president of business growth.

The Longaberger Company participated in the 1998 China Expo and visited six African American Women on Tour locations. It has also increased its product line with designs for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Longaberger offers its associates the opportunity to start without a huge capital investment and a chance to set their hours.

"Because it's more a friend-to-friend recruiting effort," Krueger-Simmons says, "the greater degree to which we can touch multi-cultural audiences, the faster that diversity is going to happen. It's critical for us to grow and represent the look of this country."

Contact Source

The Longaberger Company, (800) 966-0374,

This story appears in the February 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »