The Other View: Herbalife Provides Opportunity Where There Is Often Little

Having read Chris Garcia’s recent piece in Fox News Latino regarding Herbalife, I felt obligated to communicate an entirely different – and more constructive and positive – view of the Company, its many benefits and the role it plays in the Latino community. As a strong advocate for Latina economic empowerment, I am deeply troubled by the misinformation surrounding Herbalife, as further evidenced by Mr. Garcia’s editorial.

Many in the emerging communities rely on the opportunities they have access to, like Herbalife, to earn the extra income needed to help build and sustain a healthy and productive life.

— Giselle Fernandez

Having known Herbalife, a multi-level marketer and developer of weight management shakes and nutrition supplements, for some time now, I have personally witnessed the Company empower many people in the Latino community, especially women. The Herbalife model allows Latinas to earn extra cash with flexible hours out of their own homes and by leveraging the networks they have built within their communities, door-to-door, church-to-hair salon. This type of opportunity is necessary for so many who have kids to take care of and little access to child care or steady full-time employment.

After all, and contrary to some common stereotypes, we are a matriarchal community. Data shows that Latinas are the driving economic fuerza, or force, in our community. Indeed Latin women are the predominant bread winner, start businesses more often than any other demographic, control our household spending, and care for the health and education of our kids, all this despite continuing to face significant economic adversity. Many in the emerging communities rely on the opportunities they have access to, like Herbalife, to earn the extra income needed to help build and sustain a healthy and productive life. Importantly, Herbalife does not promise riches overnight, but from the many distributors I spoke with, it provides an opportunity to get healthy and to sell products to enhance their life.

Opportunities like Herbalife are especially important in today’s economic environment, as America faces the greatest disparity of wealth in generations. Latinos are particularly hard-hit by this divide, having one of the highest unemployment rates and a historical difficulty in accessing capital to create or grow businesses. Herbalife – which operates similar to a Tupper Ware, Avon and Amway – provides an economic opportunity where there is often very little.

In addition, with fast food restaurants inundating many of the low-income, minority communities where America has the highest obesity and diabetes rates, access to nutritious alternatives remain limited. Herbalife has successfully filled this gap and is positively impacting the lifestyles and health of many in the Latino community.

For these reasons and more, the unfounded attack on Herbalife by hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman of Pershing Square and his emphasis on undermining the Hispanic demographic are perplexing to me.

Herbalife has been around over 34 years and the Company has shown to be committed to its customers and distributors by continuously improving the quality of its products, having brought on top University doctors and nutritionists from around the country to support the company’s efforts. Furthermore, following a model that first began in Mexico, Herbalife has supported the development of nutrition clubs, where people come together and share in the Herbalife experience and products. These nutrition clubs are especially vital in hard hit neighborhoods where there are no Equinox gyms or Whole Foods to help promote a healthy lifestyle. Yet somehow, a company that promotes healthy living and the opportunity to make extra income has garnered the wrath of a billionaire simply out to profit for himself?

What particularly irritates me is Mr. Ackman’s distaste and commentary on the appearance of some of the inner city nutrition clubs. No, it's not Park Avenue or Rodeo Drive; however, it is the real America. A place where, unbeknownst to the 1 percent, millions of Americans face challenges every day just to put food on the table.

So, to Mr. Ackman and critics like him I say:  forget how the façade looks, take a look at the neighborhoods where joblessness and an education crisis run rampant and see how Herbalife actually stands out as one of the things actually working for us! Herbalife is a beacon business creating opportunity for our community where most of America is not.

Being a successful business and helping people are not mutually exclusive. Herbalife has cracked the code for success in the Latino community and I hope Mr. Ackman nor any of his paid lobbyists will create a barrier to that success.