Loren and JR Ridinger have it all– a beautiful family, successful business, the house of their dreams and wonderful friends to share it all with. here they welcome us into their world, and show us how the American dream can come true.
By Kamal Hotchandani and Stephanie Wilson
Photography by Reynaldo Ales
Why not be an entrepreneur and develop a residual income so you can still work your job because you want to do it, not because you have to do it?
James “JR” Ridinger and his beautiful wife Loren believe that life is full of magic moments– moments when the certain is undetermined and you are unsure what the future will bring. Their life has been full of such ‘magic moments’ that have allowed their dreams to come true and this has enabled others to achieve their dreams. JR and Loren have invited Haute Living into their extraordinary home to discuss exactly what their life of success entails. First things first-make sure you dream big!
“When we are younger, we are taught to believe we can achieve anything, but as we grow up, we lose focus of our dreams and get caught up in the everyday routine of going back and forth to work and making money for someone else,” says Loren Ridinger, Senior Vice President of Market America (MA). “It’s called getting stuck in a rut, and before you know it, it’s so deep, you forget your dreams,” interjects JR, President and CEO of the same company. “People need to stop and realize that the time is ticking-the calendar keeps changing days!” Loren continues. JR quickly jumps in to finish her thought, “So that’s what we really do: We sell dreams. We sell an entrepreneurial experience that allows people to achieve those dreams.”
THE DREAM MACHINE-MARKET AMERICA
JR and Loren’s Market America was born fifteen years ago out of a combination of necessity, frustration and incredible insight. JR was frustrated with the nature of the entrepreneurial world, with the huge amounts of money it took to break into the food chain at a level that was worthwhile, and frustrated that the traditional marketing methods seemed so wasteful and inefficient. “The amount of money put into advertising and inventory is almost 55% of the costs of a product, and I knew there had to be a better way to do it.” Thus MA was born.
Since the company’s inception in 1992, over $1.2 billion have been earned from commissions and retail profits, making a major difference in thousands of people’s lives. MA’s mission centers on revolutionizing the way consumers shop for products and services, in hopes of shifting the paradigm from mass marketing to one-to-one marketing. MA is a product brokerage and Internet marketing company. JR explains, “We are a cross between Amazon and QVC. We match people with the product and product with the people.” In other words, MA gives entrepreneurs an online presence similar to Amazon.com, but is also backed by people who know and care about their customers on a personal level. The model works through a management compensation plan, and an UnFranchise ® Development System, which is similar to a franchise, but without the startup fees, ongoing royalties and overhead costs.
“We do this because we are enabling people to have the American Dream,” says JR. “A job will never pay you what you are worth. And if you love your job and are great at it, why not do it as an avocation rather than an occupation? Why not be an entrepreneur and develop a residual income so you can still work your job because you want to do it, not because you have to do it? Although MA has numerous people making six to seven figures, there are thousands putting an extra $500-1000 per month in their pocket. That may not sound like a lot to you or I but to some, that is the world.”
The combination of JR’s technological savvy-ness and motivational leadership has made him a mix of Bill Gates and Tony Robbins. JR says, “There is a lot of great material out there about self-help, like by Tony Robbins. But how many people go out there and ever use it in a way to change their life? They don’t have the vehicle, so what [MA] tries to do is combine that way of thinking with a vehicle that anybody can get involved with. And if someone has an entrepreneurial spirit and is willing to work, they have a blueprint for success-all they have to do is follow it.”
JR and Loren started MA out of their own garage in Greensboro, North Carolina. Loren explains: “We were under twenty and we did everything we could to make it. We packed boxes, we took phone calls… and nobody in the company was getting paid! But JR said, ‘If you keep working at it, one day this is going to pay off, and I am going to make you guys plenty of money. Stick with me.’ And everyone did.” In 2005, MA’s retail sales reached $360 million and are positioned to reach a billion dollars within the next three years.
THE DREAM TEAM
At the end of the day, the dollar amounts don’t matter to this family. As JR says, “When it is all said and done, family is all you’ve got… We have been fortunate to be able to build our business and our life around our family.” In fact, their 15-year old daughter Amber was born right around the inception of MA. “At the birth of MA, we were also giving birth to our child. We couldn’t afford a nanny, so she would come to the office with us. I would strap her on my back, he would strap her on his back and we would take turns with the phone!” Loren remembers with a laugh.
Loren cites the family’s personal motto, one she, her husband and daughter follow to the fullest: “You can’t play hard if you don’t work hard.” Amber has inherited the family’s entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic-for her out of this world bat mitzvah at The Forge, Amber debuted her own clothing and perfume line. The party made nationwide headlines with its $500,000 price tag and celebrity-studded attendance, which included performances by Ja Rule, Ashanti, Marques Houston and Omarion.
JR and Loren also follow this work hard, play hard philosophy in life. Through their hard work, they have accomplished a lifestyle to which it is easy to become accustomed. It is not unheard of for the Ridingers to take a spontaneous trip to Puerto Rico with Loren’s best friend Jennifer Lopez, or jet to Paris for the weekend with someone else from their diverse group of friends. This allows them to keep embracing the many adventures in life. JR says, “I love to ski. I love to Jet Ski. I love to race cars a little bit, to travel, to dive. Not that I am going to be the best at any of them, but just good enough to enjoy them, and to keep exploring life. I believe that is why we are all here.”
THE DREAM HOUSE-CASA DE SUENOS
The Ridinger family, comprised of JR, Loren and daughter Amber resides in an estate on North Bay Road in Miami Beach aptly titled “Casa de Suenos,” which beautifully translates to ‘house of dreams.’ Loren says, “I dreamt of this house as a little girl. When we first looked at this house, it was five years before we bought it. JR was always taking me to the biggest place we could go, so even if we couldn’t afford it, we could dream about having it. He has always taught me to think and dream big.”
The first five months after buying into the dream house, JR wasn’t allowed to see it while Loren worked decorating-He was banished to live in their house on the Venetian. The property was previously owned by a president of General Motors. Loren contacted GM for old pictures of the estate and went to work on finishing the vision of the property, using her own palate of pastels instead of the darker colors the previous owner had chosen.
The Ridingers have homes spanning the continent, including Casa de Suenos in Miami Beach, a penthouse in New York City and a house being built in Bali with nightclub and restaurant entrepreneurs Eric and Stacy Milon. Their biggest property is in Greensboro, North Carolina. JR laughs, “Once you are used to being in Miami or NYC, you are amazed by how far your money goes elsewhere!” They are also currently building a home in the mountains of North Carolina.
The family is always on the lookout for more real estate ventures. JR says, “I think one of the great discoveries in life is that you don’t have to live in one place… I think that is what makes life rich. And when you come back to Miami, you will love it even more!”
Loren has filled her homes with wonderful works of art. The quest for the perfect pieces has become an all-consuming hobby of hers. She explains, “Everything we put in our homes, whether it be a chair, a piece of art or a beautiful book-I want to make sure it has value and I want to be able to pass it on as a legacy one day.”
She will have no problem passing along the artwork that fills her homes. Their New York City penthouse is a virtual museum, filled with works by Rembrandt, Renoir and Picasso, while the Miami home is filled with 18th century art from some of the old-world masters.
Antiques are another one of Loren’s passions. Her mentor Al Malnik is an esteemed collector who taught her to have a sharp eye. JR laughs, “I always thought antiques were just ‘old stuff.’ And she was spending quite a lot of money on ‘old stuff.'” Her investments have paid off, and she has found some real gems now deemed to be worth millions.
Other legacies Amber will be happy to inherit? A pair of multi-million dollar yachts aptly named Utopia 2, a 116 foot Feadship and Utopia 3, a 162 foot mega-yacht made by Trinity.
Loren and JR firmly believe in helping other people’s dreams come true. They do this through their work in the company and through extensive work in the community. In fact, every Friday at MA’s training center in Greensboro is a day when employees are encouraged to get involved with the community, through such things as food and clothing drives. The Ridingers are also involved in many charities-so many they begin to lose track! Some of their favorites include the Fashion Art Ball for Cystic Fibrosis, giving money for juvenile diabetes research, ongoing Hurricane Katrina relief and The Humane Society.
Loren, JR and Amber serve as honorary chairmen for the Make a Wish foundation in Miami and Greensboro. They choose to dedicate their time and money to this foundation because it is one where they see results. Loren says, “In so many charities, money just ends up going to the administration, but at Make A Wish, you are able to make a real difference.
“Just recently we were able to send a little girl to the Country Music Awards with Reba McIntyre. This girl was able to have her dream come true, and in turn was able to believe in dreams again.”
In the end, that is all this family wants-to spread the wealth of dreams coming true.