The calling card of LipSense, SeneGence International’s signature product, is that it doesn’t leave your lips until you want it to.
The cosmetics and skin-care company is seeking that kind of longevity in Oklahoma.
Headed by former Sapulpan Joni Rogers-Kante, the California-based firm is investing at least $100 million into a corporate campus west of Sapulpa on which it hopes to break ground by October, she said.
A couple of years ago, Rogers-Kante was considering three cities for a new distribution center: Oklahoma City, Dallas and St. Louis.
Then former longtime state Sen. Ted Fisher showed her a plot in Creek County.
“We just happened to be standing on this very flat piece of land,” Rogers-Kante said of the tract near the junction of the Turner Turnpike and Oklahoma 33. “The angels sang and the sun was bright. I just heard music in my ears saying, ‘This is your new home.’ One way or another, we were able to acquire the property and start building our campus here. It happened very fast.”
The company purchased 225 acres from the Creek County Industrial Authority in July 2016 for the campus, which is expected to add 100 jobs in the initial phase set for completion in the first quarter of 2020, said Ben Kante, Joni’s husband and chief company strategist. A couple hundred more jobs could be added in subsequent phases, he said.
“We plan on bringing in other vendors and providers,” Rogers-Kante said. “People that we need to help us build our products will also move here.”
Rogers-Kante spoke to the Tulsa World on Thursday at the Cox Business Center, which is playing host to SeneGence Seminar 2018. At least 6,500 independent distributors for the direct-sales company are attending the event that began Thursday and concludes Sunday afternoon.
SeneGence’s 300 products are sold domestically and in 11 countries, she said.
“It’s kind of an unspoken celebration of the commissions that they earn based on their sales and sponsoring,” Rogers-Kante said.
“They measure the growth of their business from one year to the next. It just keeps us moving forward, setting new goals incrementally every year. It really just is like a family gathering.”
The daughter of a military father, Rogers-Kante was born in California but grew up in Sapulpa, leaving the Creek County town after her ninth-grade year. She established SeneGence in 1999.
“I’m pretty passionate about making sure we pave the way and maintain an avenue for the regular people who are ambitious to own their own business and provide for their own families commensurate to how hard they are willing to work,” Rogers-Kante said.
As part of the company’s new presence in Oklahoma, SeneGence also has purchased and is revitalizing three buildings on Dewey Avenue in downtown Sapulpa. The century-old buildings are the Theo Berryhill Building, the adjacent Kress Building and the old city hall building across the street at 116 E. Dewey Ave.
The firm employs about 100 in Oklahoma, most of whom work at a call center on Sapulpa’s Main Street, she said. Social media has helped keep SeneGence vibrant, along with a life-changing event she experienced.
“I was 50 when I gave birth to this 10-year-old,” said Rogers-Kante, speaking of her son William. “When we started representing family again, younger people started becoming interested in the product line. It’s really what happened. So we just continued to get younger and younger and younger distributors, particularly those who are buying their home for the first time and having families and who did not want to go back to work.
“Businesses are cyclical. What there wasn’t at that time was a company that represented women and young families. I think we were at the right place at the right time to be that company.”