Loren Ridinger‘s life began humbly enough: Leaving her home state of New Jersey for Greensboro, NC when she was a young girl, working as a retail clerk when she was 16, dreaming of somehow being involved in fashion… At 19, Loren and her husband JR took a chance and acted on their dream by beginning a revolutionary marketing and product brokerage company on the Internet. Today, Market America/SHOP.com serves more than 10 million customers and more than 180,000 shop consultants worldwide. Ridinger and her husband are multi-millionaires with homes in New York, Miami Beach, the Bahamas, and London.
How on earth did she and her husband do it? Upscale Living Magazine was granted an exclusive interview with Ridinger to find out.
How did you wind up in North Carolina?
My dad was moving around, he was in the car business and he was like, “There’s this great dealership that just opened in North Carolina,” and we’re like, “North Carolina?” And we ended up falling in love with it! We moved there when I was in 9th grade, and it was incredible. Our company is headquartered there so we made the best of it. I met my husband there. There are so many great things about North Carolina and the city of Greensboro. It’s kind of a place that will bring you back home when you need to chill out and relax.
What was your first job?
I worked in a retail store. It didn’t last long because I thought it was all about trying on clothes – because I love fashion, but it was all about hanging them up and folding them after people used them. And I thought “this is not for me.” I’m so bad at this part because I just wanted to play with the fashions. People were so rude. they just dropped everything on the floor, you know they’d come out of the fitting room with like 30 things and they never bought one.
Where did you go from there?
My second job – Sears had a huge catalog company in North Carolina and Greensboro, and to have a job in Sears when you’re 16, you were the BEST. They paid so much money – at the time they paid like $20 an hour which was unheard of. And I went to apply for another job but there were 100 people in line. So I went to look for a bathroom in the upstairs, and I saw on the vice president’s door there was an opening for an assistant, so I knocked on the door, walked in and it was the vice president’s office and he was in there. He thought, “Oh, are you lost?” He hired me. I worked there for two summers. It was great.
So fast forward – at some point, you and JR had a conversation at your kitchen table or someplace where one of you said, “I have an idea.” Is that how it began?
I think JR is just a genius. He was always the person I looked up to. I was fascinated with him. I always had great people skills, but he knew how to create things that were just genius – that no one had ever thought of. So listening to him was always intriguing to me. So he said, “I have this incredible idea. We can actually offer people whatever they want to shop for and we’ll use the Internet.” But back then no one was using the Internet 21 years ago. I thought, “that’s amazing, but who shops on the internet,” You think that will never happen?” He had a vision before anyone else saw it.
Did it work right away?
It took a minute. I think that was part of the growing process. The first couple years we struggled and I remembered a few times he said, “You know, we can’t afford to keep doing this.” We didn’t have any money. Remember neither one of us came from successful families. We didn’t borrow money from anybody so he had a little bit of money saved, maybe like $50,000, and we were burning through it fast. And he said, “We’re going to have to throw in the towel.” And I thought, “Don’t do that, we’re so close.” And he didn’t. Within the next year, momentum started building and we hit a million dollars within our second or third year. But it was rough, it was rough. We were all living in this one little house of mine, our vice presidents, my brother, everyone who was involved in the company – and we shared one car. Wendy’s was my big date. There was no money.
Ross Perot once said, “Many great dreams die on the 10-yard line.”
It’s true. I always tell people”Success is just around the corner so right when you think you’re getting ready to fail, you just need to tie a knot in that rope and hang on.”
So, fast forward again, all is going very well – and then you had a life-changing incident. You had a brain aneurysm and subsequent surgery. What did you learn about yourself?
You think, “How can this happen to me? Everything in my life is so great.” Maybe it meant to happen because my whole life has been dedicated to empowering women, helping women through my makeup lines or my blogs. I thought, “This is something we have to educate people about because they don’t know.” We check everything about our bodies but we don’t check our brains. When I told my husband and my daughter Amber, “Look I have this aneurysm, and we are going to get through it.” It was a risk, there’s an 80 percent chance of a stroke on the operating table, all kinds of things could have gone wrong. But we agreed immediately that was the right thing to do. It was a life changing experience. You never really take time to smell the roses or enjoy all the things you worked so hard for until you have something kind of tragic happen. You are like “How do you deal with it? But you do.
So – does adversity reveal character, or does it build character?
I think it builds character. I thought (that) everything I had done I was so proud of because I worked so hard with my husband and my daughter. That was the part of my life that I really didn’t let anybody see. It’s easy to say to somebody, “Your life looks great.” But it’s not always great and it’s OK for it not to always be great. So it allowed me to gain a lot more confident about being able to share the things that people didn’t see. I thought that was so critical because life is not always a bowl of cherries, it is not always perfect and adversities make you better and stronger. I think people look up to you when you share it with them.
Let’s lighten the mood – besides the weather, what’s the biggest difference between working and living in New York and Miami?
I think it’s the environment. I love being in Miami because of the colors, the sky, the water, and you see all this beautiful Art Deco which has been preserved so well. New York is very chic and urban and it’s easy. In Miami, you don’t have dinner until 10 o’clock at night, you get all dressed up to go to dinner. In New York, you have your jeans, your leather jacket, and your white Tshirt and you’re hooked up for the month. And in New York, you eat dinner at 8 o’clock and a big night is going to a play. Miami Beach is amazing but it’s a bit like 90210. Everybody knows each other, it’s the big “305.” In New York, you can disappear. You can remain anonymous which is critical for your sanity. You can walk down the street with no make-up on; you put your baseball cap on. It’s normal.
Are you ever mistaken for anyone?
Who would you think? …. Jennifer Lopez. She’s my best friend. I am her children’s godmother.
How do you stay focused on your work while living in Miami?
I stay inside, I never leave! (Laughs.) I try not to get diverted with all the distractions. I am one of those people who always believe that success takes a lot of work – and it does. It’s not that hard to be successful, because most people don’t try. Yet it does require showing up. A lot of people don’t show up. For me, I don’t think about going out and doing things that are appealing to me personally unless I have the time to do them – which is rare. So if I am seeing my girlfriends, I try to do it all in one night. I have 20 people over for dinner – because I so stay focused on what the mission is.
Back to Miami. You’ve lived here for almost 20 years. How has it changed?
I’ve been in Miami in this house for 15 years, and on the Beach for 18-19 years. I was part of the original boom when Miami Beach took off. Everyone knew each other and it was hard to go anywhere without someone saying, “Oh my God, there’s Loren and JR, there are JR and Loren.” (But) It was such an exciting time when it first launched and I think it (Miami Beach) is inventing itself again. I love when I talk to people who are running for mayor or commission and they tell me what they’re trying to do with the city and I love that. It’s really important to stay grounded and remember what your mission is. I’m not a big club girl, you probably won’t catch me there. But great events, great charities, great friends. I usually have everybody here because I am really a homebody. Nobody believes that. I like to stay at home. I like to be around my friends and my family and my friends happen to be really well-known, so being in this environment is really great for that because we have a lot of privacy.
Can you name drop for us? Who are some of your best friends?
Oh, Jennifer Lopez is one of my longest, best friend. Eva Longoria is another one of my best friends. I’m the godmother to Alicia Key‘s son as well (As Jennifer Lopez’s). Mike Piazza. I don’t have to have celebrity friends, they just happen to be most of my friends because I work so hard, and I think when you work so hard and your whole life is what you do, you want to create it, you want to design it, you want to get your hands on it, you want to touch it. Whatever it is you are working on, whether it’s jewelry, cosmetics, clothing, you want to have your hands on it – and all my friends are very similar. Jennifer has built a huge empire, but there’s nothing she wouldn’t have her hands on. She has her hands on every little thing and when you go there she has mood boards all over the place, she has four phones in one ear and I’ve always admired that trait that she has and I know it’s something that is easily found.
You have a cosmetics line, a jewelry line – is there one you are most proud of or is that like asking a parent to choose a favorite child?
Our business, Market America/Shop.com, is really our baby. You give birth to something over time and then you realize it takes a lot of time. We love so much what we do so and people say, “You work all the time,” but if you see your work as something you enjoy doing then it really not works. Market America/Shop.com has been a dream how we’ve grown and my family is involved and we’ve taken it from zero to almost a billion dollars a year in 20 years – it’s amazing!
Where did you get the name “Motives” for your cosmetics line? Is there a story there?
The name came from wanting to motivate women inside to be really great and believe in themselves. Most women go home, they take care of their family and they put themselves last. I know my mother was that way. (Editors note: Loren’s mother died of a massive heart attack at the young age of 42.) It’s easy to fall in that trap. It’s important for women to feel they can have it all. Don’t get me wrong – being a mother is hard work, being a housewife is hard work, all those things are real jobs but you can also put your dreams first. So, when I made “Motives,” I also cared how it made them feel on the inside “Because if you look great, you feel great.”
Your daughter Amber is in the family business too?
She is. We have five brands of skin care in our business, which are incredibly successful and Amber’s line is No. 1. It’s amazing. We’re so proud of her and everything happened at once. She launched her line, she got married in Puerto Rico on April 6th, so many things are happening and I feel like I am officially my mother now! (Laughs.) I am there. You want your kids to be better than you are.
What’s the best advice you would give to our readers?
Never give up. You know it’s really easy to quit. People say, “What are the two things you do every day that help make your life successful?” Everyone knows who works around me I tackle the hardest things first, always. People have a tendency to procrastinate the hardest things in life, and I always tackle them first because once you get them out of the way, it’s like you are done. And then it’s not quitting. There are challenges. It’s not easy to be successful but it’s not that hard. Eliminate negative people around you. I really control who I socialize with and who I am around because I don’t want anyone who is negative infiltrate my thoughts. With positive thinking, I can do anything I want.