JR Ridinger is the Founder, Chairman & CEO of Market America Worldwide | SHOP.COM and architect of the UnFranchise® Business System — a groundbreaking business model that rewards thousands of independent UnFranchise Owners around the world. Founded in 1992, Market America Worldwide is an award-winning global e-commerce and digital marketing company that specializes in one-to-one marketing. Since its inception, Market America Worldwide has grown into a global powerhouse with operations in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia. SHOP.COM, the primary global shopping site powered by Market America Worldwide, boasts millions of savvy shoppers and has generated more than $50 million in Cashback for consumers who have access to millions of products on SHOP.COM, including Market America Worldwide’s exclusive brands and thousands of top retail brands.
Built on product and powered by people, Market America Worldwide | SHOP.COM employs close to 1,000 people worldwide and was ranked this year by Digital Commerce 360 (formerly Internet Retailer) as No. 55 in the Top 100 Online Marketplaces, No. 80 in the Top 500 and Top 1,000 Online Retailers, and No. 10 in the Top 500 Online Retailers Primary Merchandise Category: Mass Merchant as well as No. 19 in Newsweek Magazine’s Best Online Shops for 2021. The company is also a two-time winner of the Better Business Bureau’s Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics, joined BBB National Programs as a National Partner in 2022 and was ranked No.15 in the 2021 Business North Carolina Top 125.
Since founding the company 30 years ago, JR Ridinger and his Corporate Team have grown Market America Worldwide | SHOP.COM from a startup business based in his small 1,100-square-foot home into a successful global business by offering in-demand, market-driven products through the company’s exclusive product lines and millions of other items via the company’s online Partner Stores on SHOP.COM. JR has created the ultimate online shopping business concept and e-commerce destination, where customers get paid to shop. He’s elevated this concept to the next level by helping shoppers convert their everyday spending into earning with a revolutionary system known as the Shopping Annuity®, which makes the UnFranchise Business and SHOP.COM even more powerful. Passing along his gift for entrepreneurism, Mr. Ridinger became an Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor through entrepreneur.com. He also ranked No. 1 in IndustryWired.com’s “Top 10 Influential Entrepreneurs in 2021,” was featured on the cover of Prime View Magazine for its February 2022 issue highlighting “The 10 Most Influential Leaders to Follow in 2022” and was World’s Leaders Magazine’s January 2022 cover story for the “World’s Best Performing CEOs to Watch in 2022” issue.
You started Market America 30 years ago. How did it all start?
I’m still amazed that what has grown into a global business with operations in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Taiwan, and Malaysia really sprouted from a very basic idea. We had gone to the movies one night, and I loved the movie and told lots of friends about it. Within a short time, many people called me back to talk about how much they enjoyed the movie after they had seen it. I witnessed firsthand the incredible power of word of mouth and realized that tapping into that could result in something big. It was a matter of harnessing the power of word of mouth by developing a technology that could track it and enable entrepreneurs to capitalize. I set out to create a business that empowers consumers while also providing people a pathway to entrepreneurial success — and the rest, as they say, is history.
What does a day in the life of JR Ridinger look like?
We tend to stay up late (my amazing wife Loren and I) because we have so many hopes, dreams and ideas that we want to bring to life, and then we wake up early to get a jumpstart on making them all happen. Ideas and aspirations are energizing. After checking email early, I make sure to start the day with yoga, which is good for physical wellness and staying centered mentally. After that, much of my day is spent meeting with our corporate team, strategizing and responding to emails.
I’m always on the go, between places and meetings, which is a key to staying productive. Running a dynamic business like Market America means there is always something to do. I always have a handful of projects in progress, presentations and events to prepare for, so I’m often busy with things of that nature. I read or listen to books as much as possible because I understand the importance of capitalizing on emerging trends or augmenting my approach to business to efficiently and effectively navigate the constantly evolving challenges in the marketplace. Aside from that, any free time I have is spent with my family and our three amazing grandchildren, who have me wrapped around their fingers. Although business is very important to me, nothing is more important than family.
What has been one key to your current success?
It is a seemingly simple and easy thing to do, but always follow up. No matter what you set out to do, the key to success lies in your follow up. For any entrepreneur, tenacity is a huge part of the success equation. Your follow-through habits also tell a lot about your character and play an important role in your personal and professional development.
Today’s economy is changing more rapidly than ever. What would you say are some of the major trends currently?
I would point to four major trends in particular:
1. Retail store collapse
2. Rise in online sales
3. One-to-one marketing replacing mass marketing
4. Rise in entrepreneurship
These almost seem self-evident at this point, but having a business model to capitalize on these trends is a different matter. There has been a direct correlation between the growth and success of Market America with the increase in these trends. How many well-known and long-standing retailers have shuttered their stores or filed for bankruptcy in the last decade? Look at the accelerated growth of online sales in the last ten or even five years. There has been a shift away from mass marketing toward one-to-one marketing, which Market America was built on, that many large corporations are just now realizing. The rise in entrepreneurship has been happening for a while but also experienced a significant increase due to an upsurge in remote work.
You mentioned that there is a correlation between the growth and success of Market America and these economic trends. Can you expound on that?
The success of Market America is directly related to the success of entrepreneurship. Through the UnFranchise Business, we enable entrepreneurs to take advantage of all four of the trends I mentioned above. We provide a systemized, standardized and uniform business with market-driven products and services, management and marketing tools, branding and increased visibility, along with ongoing training and support. UnFranchise Owners can develop their business part-time with flexible hours by following a detailed plan of action. UnFranchise Owners are provided with a SHOP.COM website and other retailing websites, as well as products, technologies and systems to support their business-building efforts. The company handles most of the administrative, shipping and distribution duties so the UnFranchise Owner can focus on performing the result-producing activities, serving their customers and building their UnFranchise Business.
Just from our conversation so far, you strike me as a big “ideas” person, or maybe a “big ideas” person, whichever you prefer. How do you bring your ideas to life?
For me, it is a process of internal reflection as well as outward consideration and input from others. Our corporate team works together as a whole to develop ideas. We have strategic summits during which we outline new goals, concepts and ideas. At Market America, it’s about developing ideas along with the means to implement them in a meaningful way. It’s not just about coming up with ideas; it’s about ensuring that these concepts work where the rubber meets the road.
We’ve talked about some economic trends in general. Are there any trends in particular that excite you?
We’ve got an extraordinarily forward-thinking and proactive corporate leadership team, so we’ve always got an eye on the horizon and all the emerging trends and opportunities right around the corner. Things like cryptocurrencies, NFTs and other digital properties are extremely popular right now, so naturally, we’re exploring different ways to make a splash in this arena. I’m proud to have a team and lead a company that actively looks to disrupt in a positive way.
What are some ways that Market America is acting as a disruptor?
We are giving consumers and entrepreneurs a powerful way to inject themselves into the retail process and utilize collective buying power to grab their piece of the retail pie. For consumers, it’s through our robust Cashback program, which has awarded over $50 million in Cashback to our customers. For entrepreneurs, we offer an even more empowering option known as the UnFranchise Business, which gives you the ability to own your own business and generate a supplemental income by leveraging different aspects of online retail and one-to-one marketing. The great part is it’s all based on the spending we all do anyway, so it’s a truly empowering system when followed properly. One of our key strengths is that we developed a revolutionary tracking system that connects consumers – we basically figured out how to digitize and track the whole customer referral process.
We’ve evolved to a point where we do business around the globe and have created a way for entrepreneurs to shape and define their own interactions with the global economy. Cross-pollination — in essence, building your business within different markets/countries — gives entrepreneurs a chance to develop a diverse, global business. We provide the framework for global entrepreneurial success in the modern age, the skeleton, if you will, which is essentially our technology and business plan. And entrepreneurs (UnFranchise Owners) provide the muscle that makes it all go. It’s a symbiotic ecosystem where technology and entrepreneurism become intertwined.
How do you use technology to ensure that the entrepreneurs working with Market America are set up for success?
We provide a wide array of videos, tools, resources and apps which empower our UnFranchise Owners and their customers. All of these different forms of technology represent various means to positively impact the consumer experience and growth of the UnFranchise Business. We try to make it all as easy and systemized as possible — so obviously, technology plays a massive role in this regard.
How do you make sure that Market America is keeping pace with all the economic trends that we discussed earlier?
We’ve made it a point to stay ahead of the curve in every conceivable way. While some companies are still learning to see the value in things like cryptocurrency, we have already partnered with BitPay and utilize them as a payment option on SHOP.COM. Crypto has been highly “disruptive” (in a good way). It’s all about cultivating opportunities — and sometimes it takes being an open-minded, proactive company to really capitalize on emerging trends and technologies.