Southwestern Advantage

Program FAQ

    Each person who participates takes away something unique to them. You’ve heard ‘you get out what you put in’? This program has proven that to be true for 150 years. Success in our program is directly tied to an individual's attitude and effort. A few of the benefits are as follow:

    • Income: Running a successful business generates significant money.
    • Personal growth: Many students are interested at first because of the money, but end up staying for the personal growth.
    • Professional growth: Students can build a resume with content and not filler.
    • Soft skills: Build skills not learned in the classroom such as communication, problem-solving, attitude, work ethic, goal-setting, confidence, emotional intelligence, etc.
    • Travel: See different parts of the country and have the opportunity to attend meetings in other states and win international incentive trips.
    • Community & Leadership Culture: We're each the average of the people we spend most of our time with. The students selected to our program are campus leaders from all across the nation.
    • Giving back: Help families with their educational needs and donate the Southwestern Advantage websites and apps to organizations, children who are help at-risk kids and families in need. Students can even participate in the Service Project on the annual incentive trip through donating and in-person sweat equity.
    • Many students can earn college credit hours.

    Success in our program simply comes down to following an ironclad 150-year-old proven schedule. The schedule is not required, but it is strongly encouraged and recommended. From a purely objective and financial standpoint, history has shown that students who follow the schedule, which has been fine-tuned over generations of participants, tend to have profitable experiences. Students who choose to not follow the schedule tend to have less profitable experiences. It's very simple: students who maximize their time by speaking with the most potential customers, finish the season with the most customers.

    The most successful students choose to work long hours, often 12 or 13 hours a day, six days a week in order to maximize the short time they have to run their business. The day often begins waking up at 6 am, getting ready for the day and eating at a local breakfast spot with roommates. The first interactions with families often begins at 8 am with pre-set appointments or cold calls starting where you left off the night before. Students typically pack and bring their own lunch and dinner each day. Many calls during the daytime will result in demonstrations, but the time is also used to set up for the times when more families are home: 6 pm – 9 pm.

    After the last call is made for the day, the student heads back to their headquarters or host family to finish any record keeping for the day, have a coaching call with a regional leader, and prepare for the next day. On Sundays, students meet up regionally for training, weekly recognition, and to enjoy some responsible fun in the area like MLB games, water parks, skydiving, or swimming at a lake/beach.

    College/University Students: If you are wanting to learn more about being a student dealer with the Southwestern Advantage sales and leadership program, fill out the online form to have a sales leader contact you: (include link to apply now form)

    Customers: 888-551-5901 (M-F 8 am – 5 pm CST) or custoemercare@southwesternadvantage.com 

    Parents: Trey Campbell, Director of Communications, tcampbell@southwestern.com or 888-602-7867

    Media: Trey Campbell, Director of Communications, tcampbell@southwestern.com or 888-602-7867

    Campus Officials: Dr. Ralph Brigham, rbrigham@southwestern.com 

    Host Families: Sarah Bunning, sbunning@southwestern.com

    Yes. Safety is our #1 priority. In training, students learn how to safely run their business. This includes what to do in the rare event of an emergency, how to know what homes to visit and which ones to skip, how and why to check in with local authorities, how to obtain proper business licensing, and how to avoid disadvantaged areas that may be a safety risk.

    Most of the suburban and rural areas sold in have lower crime stats than even the college campuses the students attend. The students can work from referrals and are not following a set pattern from day to day. This helps with safety. Students are asked to constantly be aware of their surroundings and to set appointments if they choose to work after dark. Each night the students check in with a local sales leader and map out their scheduled sales area with a leader in the morning. An app used for their business can also track their path using GPS technology.

    Female students have additional safety training that includes topics such as how to set appointments, host family relations and awareness training. 

    If anyone ever feels uncomfortable or threatened in any way, they are to remove themselves from the situation/place and call the proper authorities of the home office immediately.

    Students who travel to another part of the country gain independence, similar to how going away to college builds independence. In addition, it looks great on a resume to show work experience that involved relocation. Relocation is also a fun adventure that allows students to learn about another part of the country, focusing on their business with fewer distractions.

    When students relocate to another state, they typically choose to live with a host family. This has been a part of the program since 1868. Host families have proven to be the safest and most affordable option, as they are often empty-nesters, program alumni, families of other participants, or connections made through local churches or community members.

    While the students are independent and can live where they choose, we have found the most successful housing situations are with host families. This is because it is most economical, safer and the local hosts know the area. Most often, students live with other students also participating in the sales and leadership program, one or two of which have participated in past years. Host families serve the basic needs of having a safe place to sleep and shower, keep food and belongings and point students in the right direction with questions since they know the community.

    Students typically pay $25-$35 per week each for housing. This comes out of their profits as a business expense and can be written off on taxes. 

    If you would like information about housing students or have questions about housing, Southwestern Advantage has a Host Family coordinator, Sarah Bunning, who can be reached at sbunning@southwestern.com. 

    The program starts with 5-7 days of company training in Tennessee after spring finals and lasts until the end of summer break (typically 10-12 weeks). Students who demonstrate leadership qualities may be invited to interview for the student-leadership team to gain management and team-building skills. Student Leaders receive training year-round and still participate in the summer selling season. Many students enjoy the program for multiple years and often find careers with Southwestern Advantage.

    Students who participate generate their own customer base through cold call and referral selling. Like other small businesses, they get products at a wholesale rate and offer them to customers at a retail rate. Students use the deposits collected with each order to pay the wholesale cost of the products, therefore they do not use any of their own money upfront for inventory. The student makes a profit on each sale made.

    There is a significant difference between owning/running a business and working at a business. An individual running a business has access to whatever is in the cash register – unlike those who work at the business. This means the person running the business is able to use their business's money to pay for both their professional and their personal expenses. If you run a lemonade stand, you can take money out of the cash box to buy more lemons, cups, and even a pair of shoes if you'd like. If you work at the lemonade stand, you don't get to do that.

    In our program, students run their own businesses. Things like food, gas, rent, and personal items are able to be paid using the profit that the student is making. Because this is often a first-time practice, all students are personally coached in business management and shown how to stay organized, keeping their expenses low so as to maximize their profit.

    Keep in mind all of the tax advantages that a small-business professional is able to claim such as mileage, rent, and food. 

    Our program works the same way as the real world: despite how great the product/service might be, ultimately the success or failure of a business is a reflection of the day-to-day decisions made by the person running it. Thankfully, our program comes with 150 years of best practices for students to follow, proper expectations, and a personal coach and support teams to assist them day to day. Visit our Disclosure page to see the latest year’s average profit per student by year running their business.

    Students will sell education learning tools for school-age children from Pre-K through high school. The products consist primarily of websites, apps and books that work together to complement and enhance the learning process.

     For a full look at the product line, click here.

    The students generate their own customer base made of families in the communities they will live and work in during the summer. These are families that have school-age children who are in public or private schools or homeschooled. The sales are made in-person with the demonstration taking place with the parents and (typically) the children. Demonstrations can be made in the home if the students feel comfortable, on the porch, or in the yard. Occasionally, some demonstrations may be done from referrals via Zoom.

    Yes! Students undergo approximately 100 hours of training between training received on campus and for five full days in Sales School prior to starting their business. The training includes everything from business management and product knowledge to safety, ethics, and even inventory management. The students also spend lots of time learning the “Cycle of Selling” and practicing their sales talk and product demonstration. Training continues into the summer and beyond that covers advanced sales techniques, additional product attributes, leadership, and team building. Value-added courses are taught at almost every meeting that are applicable in both personal and professional settings.

    While students are independent and can set their own hours, the most successful students choose to work 12 or 13 hours a day, six days a week during the selling season. This is a challenging schedule that not every young person is ready for. All executives of the company and those in sales leadership have worked the same recommended schedule and will not ask anyone to do something they have not done themselves. We believe that hard work is fun and rewarding – especially when you enjoy what you're doing. If a strong work ethic is not your thing yet, our program would be a bad fit. Come check it out again in the future 🙂

    Students have the opportunity to grow within the program and enter sales leadership. Or, with their sales leader’s recommendation, they can join any of the other companies in the Southwestern Family of Companies that include industries such as real estate, investment services, insurance, fundraising, publishing, executive search and placement, travel, or coaching and consulting to name a few. Or, students can even start your own company with Southwestern's business development team one day.

    Juniors and seniors have access to a career counselor with our Family of Companies member, ThinkingAhead. A team of experienced Southwestern Advantage alumni can help with grad school applications, building resumes, effective interview techniques, and gathering recommendation letters. In addition, they place within the southwestern family of Companies. Alumni of Southwestern Advantage have free access to the Career Service division of ThinkingAhead for life.

    Students attending schools in the U.S. can earn college credit hours through Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, TN. The credit hours, pending academic advisor approval, can be transferred to the students school.

    Three upper level courses offered:

    First summer: SALES FUNDAMENTALS - MKT OR COM 3150 - 3 SEMESTER HOURS

    Introduces basic principles of sales success, sales theory, sales techniques and sales role playing. This course applies communication theory and principles to the sales situation.. The history and philosophy of Southwestern Advantage as an example of a successful sales organization will be presented.

    Second summer: SALES MANAGEMENT - MKT OR COM 3200 - 3 SEMESTER HOURS

    This course concentrates on the leadership of the sales force. Major concerns are planning and organizing the sales process, motivation and goal setting, and analysis and evaluation. This course attempts to build on the student’s experience in personal selling by adding leadership understanding and skill,

    Third summer: SEMINAR: SALES TRAINING - MKT OR COM 3210 - 3 SEMESTER HOURS

    A study is made of the most effective ways of training salespersons. The student is taught the responsibilities of a sales trainer and fulfills this role through interaction with a sales training program. This advanced course in sales training is intended for students with a relatively strong background in sales training and leadership. The focus of the course is an inquiry into the most effective ways in training and guiding salespersons and increasing their performance. 

    Grade Criteria: 

    Sales School - 25%

    Essay - 35%

    Sales Leader Eval. - 5%

    Sales Production - 25%

    Personal Statement - 10%

    Click here for a PDf of the most recent syllabus and course requirements and guidelines: PDF link to College Credit manual

    Contact: Trey Campbell, Director of Communications, tcampbell@sotuhwestern.com or 888-602-7867.

    Each student is an independent contractor running their own business. They work for themselves and are their own boss. The students have been participating in a gig economy long before this was a term. They purchase products at wholesale and sell them at a suggested retail price along with local taxes and shipping & handling. The students keep detailed business records and receive a 1099 tax form for them to file taxes on their business. This is the typical model used in direct sales.

    No, it is not. Southwestern Advantage is the nation’s oldest direct selling program. Misinformation online has made it common for people who are unfamiliar with direct selling to conflate it with multi-level marketing or with illegal pyramid schemes - which is certainly not the case. Southwestern Advantage student dealers make a profit on the personal sales they make while running their own business (single-level, just like any other small business owner). They are NOT paid to recruit others into the business. Our business model has been in effect since 1868 and has been a successful launching point for thousands of careers.

    For a full explanation with cited sources, visit southwesternadvantage.com/businessmodel

    'Share The Advantage' is an outreach program made possible by Southwestern Advantage student dealers and their customers. For every online membership that a customer purchases, product donations are provided to organizations that help serve the needs of children and families who are considered at-risk. As customers, you make this possible. On behalf of our company and the organizations we've visited, THANK YOU!   

    Click to learn more about our 'Share The Advantage' donation program.

    When you support Southwestern Advantage, you support the fight against human trafficking. We're honored to commit a portion of our business to an exceptional group, End Slavery Tennessee, an organization whose mission and values align so well with ours.

    ESTN promotes the healing of human trafficking survivors and strategically confronts slavery through training, aftercare, advocacy and prevention services. ESTN is the single point of contact for all human trafficking referrals in Middle Tennessee and provides comprehensive, holistic, trauma-informed care to every survivor in their program. We are honored to be partners with ESTN and to stand with our student reps against human trafficking.

    Part of our mission is to share our resources in communities that student reps don't reach. To this end, our Share the Advantage program serves as a way to give back and help children, families and nonprofit organizations who need our support most. Projects have included school assistance, expanding libraries and community centers, cleaning city parks, and assisting safe shelters for young women who have been victims or are at high-risk for human trafficking.


    Learn more about our Share The Advantage initiative:

    https://www.southwesternadvantage.com/Share-The-Advantage