Gail Bennison Special to the Business Press
AdvoCare, a Plano-based health and wellness company, was founded in 1993 by Charlie Ragus. His vision was to create a company of people who were advocates and would care about other people. Ragus had been in the direct selling industry for a long time and he wanted AdvoCare to focus on personal development, superior products, and a great compensation plan. Ragus passed away in 2001. That mission has not changed in 20 years, says AdvoCare’s current president and CEO Richard Wright. “Charlie Ragus was a great visionary in setting up the company the way he did, “Wright says. “That has allowed us to grow and develop and help people make a better life for themselves and others.” Wright attended Louisiana Tech and nursing school at Northwestern State with a plan to become a nurse anesthetist. After graduation, he began his professional career in Houston as a pharmaceutical sales representative, becoming the top salesman within his first year. Wright spent nearly 10 years learning about and building his reputation in the direct selling industry. After heading up an IT company and contemplating running for Congress, he moved to Dallas, as he was Ragus’ recommendation for the AdvoCare Board of Directors. Wright has served as president and CEO for six years. Under his leadership, the company has nearly doubled in size. Today, AdvoCare offers more than 70 exclusive nutritional products that have been developed through comprehensive research and are backed by a Scientific and Medical Advisory Board. AdvoCare Distributors use the direct selling business model to create an additional source of income for its representatives. The company has more than 200,000 Distributors nationwide. “AdvoCare is a unique business opportunity because of all the investments we’ve made in things that are important to us,” Wright says. “It’s the superior products and personal development and leadership training that we invest in our distributors. It’s quite unique in the industry. Of course many other companies do personal development,” he said. “That’s certainly a key component in any good direct selling company, but we take it a bit further. We really invest in helping our Independent Distributors grow as individuals, so they grow their AdvoCare business. This is a business that husbands and wives can do together. That’s an opportunity for them to grow and develop as a family and lead healthier lives, and they’re earning extra income.” Another aspect of the company is its investment in the sponsorship world and with athletic endorsers. AdvoCare sponsors NASCAR races and college football bowl games. They are the jersey sponsor of FC Dallas. AdvoCare has a strong history of giving back. In 2009, they joined forces with Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit that leads more than 4,500 volunteers in 30 chapters nationwide. Since then, the health and wellness company has committed more than $750,000 in cash and product donations. The commitment and the results are through the shared efforts of the company and its Independent Distributors. AdvoCare has donated Spark Energy Drink and multivitamin and rehydration replacement drinks to troops deployed at home, abroad, and in the Operation Homefront Village. They also donate product in support of the Operation Homefront team participating in the annual Marine Corps Marathon. And, for each of the three annual AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowls and the 2011 AdvoCare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race tickets were donated to soldiers, veterans and their families. In March 2010, AdvoCare announced New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees as the first-ever AdvoCare National Spokesperson. The company has continued to ally with his foundation The Brees Dream Foundation, which was founded in to provide care, education and opportunities for children who are facing difficulties in life. AdvoCare returned as the presenting sponsor for the Brees Dream Foundation’s Amazing Race for the third consecutive year in 2012. “For 20 years, AdvoCare has had relationships with high-profile athletes,” Wright said. “It has always been a part of who we are, the credibility of our company, and the seriousness in which we take quality and safety of our products. Banned substance testing is on the increase, not only for professional and amateur athletes, but high school athletes as well. In an effort to ensure AdvoCare products and supplements are free from substances that are prohibited in sport competition, the company has enlisted INFORMED-CHOICE to test and certify that AdvoCare products are banned-substance free. “While not all of our products are, a large majority of them are certified banned-substance free, specifically those that athletes are taking, Wright says. AdvoCare is transparent as to the labeling of ingredients, Wright said. “Just like the Lance Armstrong story, there has been some negative publicity about the energy drinks out there,” he said. “AdvoCare Spark is an energy drink. It has vitamins, amino acids, and it does contain caffeine. All of the ingredients have always been disclosed on the label. Twice a year, AdvoCare hosts a large convention in Fort Worth called Success School, where they company conducts extensive training and motivational speakers for its Independent Distributors. For AdvoCare’s 20th anniversary, the company is donating $20,000 to local food banks in 20 cities across the country. Not only is AdvoCare donating the money, but distributors are conducting canned food drives at their AdvoCare training events. “We’re really excited about that,” Wright said. “We want to make a big impact in helping wellness and finances and affording people an opportunity.