The keys to direct selling success
Local entrepreneurs build businesses from home.
Direct selling businesses are exploding in popularity worldwide. In 2015, 20 million people generated $36.12 billion in revenue through direct selling — and an offshoot, networking marketing — per Direct Selling Association statistics. In the U.S., one in six households have a person involved in the direct selling, and 77 percent of them are women.
Robin Kerr started as an independent consultant with holistic health and wellness company Arbonne in November 2004. She had recently moved to Florida from Ohio and was able to build her original customer base with friends from back home.
“Back then the only real online technology was email and I had to have someone help me learn that,” she said. “I met with a lot of people and made a lot of phone calls.”
Today Kerr, of Suntree, is a regional vice president with the company that passed the half-billion-dollar revenue mark in 2015. In April, Kerr’s team — a combination of people building a business and preferred customers who sign up to purchase products at discount — netted sales volume of $73,000 for the month.
Along with a paycheck, Kerr enjoys another company perk for her tier of success: a monthly car allowance of $800 for a Mercedes Benz. Her current one is the seventh Mercedes she’s driven on the company’s dime.
Kerr admits that there is a learning curve involved in owning a networking marketing business, particularly in this country.
“In America, we’ve been trained to be employees and to work a set number of hours for set pay. Network marketing is different. For me, I worked a lot more up front for a bigger payoff later,” she said.
Kerr says there are many paths to achieving success in network marketing and that she takes a less-traditional approach now, doing most of her marketing online instead of in-person parties or phone calls.
“Every consultant does it how it makes sense for him or her,” she said.
Sharise Deimeke of Merritt Island is an executive regional vice president with Arbonne. She and Kerr are not on the same team but have been friends for many years. Before deciding to work with Arbonne, Deimeke was a registered nurse — an income that she says she’s far surpassed. Her team and customer sales volume in April was $330,000.
“I no longer trade time for money. This has given me both time freedom and financial freedom — and the freedom to spend both how I choose,” Deimeke said.
Like Kerr, Deimeke receives an $800 cash bonus per month, for a white Mercedes Benz, in addition to her monthly income. Her current vehicle is the fifth one she’s driven with her Arbonne vehicle allowance. She earned her first Mercedes in six-months’ time and retired from nursing within one year of launching her Arbonne business.
For people who are interested in having their own home-based business, Deimeke said it’s worth the leap.
“It offers great tax advantages and incredible flexibility,” she said.
Of network marketing specifically, Deimeke said the ability to build something that pays you residually is another perk.
“This will allow me to leave a tremendous legacy,” she said, referring to the ability to will her Arbonne business for six generations.
Victoria Hoffman is an independent senior sales director with Mary Kay, a direct sales company that started in 1963 and today has 3.5 million consultants in 35 countries. Hoffman’s team consists of 100 members across the country and she earned her first iconic pink Cadillac with the company in 1987, four years after selling her first product. She has since earned a new one every two years, or sooner. Mary Kay provides different ownership and leasing allowances for the Cadillacs that are painted “Mary Kay pink.” In Hoffman’s case, she has opted for the company to deliver a new car to her every two years.
“On a practical note, having another brand new one delivered greatly reduces or eliminates the cost of upkeep. I haven’t bought new tires or brakes in decades,” she said.
Prior to her time as a Mary Kay consultant, Hoffman worked in the airline industry and said she was disenchanted with her potential for advancement, both financially and career-wise.
“Mary Kay allowed me to step away from the corporate structure and limited financial opportunity of the airline industry and step into the world of entrepreneurship,” Hoffman said.
In her 30 years in the industry, Hoffman has seen other companies come and go. She encourages people who are interested in working at home, and in direct sales specifically, to take the time to research the companies.
“Compare the training, compensation and reward programs, they vary greatly, so you know you will be investing your time in the very best opportunity available,” she said.
From a practical standpoint, Hoffman suggests a company that sells consumable items that clients will need to order and reorder, which increases income stream.
“I have customers who continue to reorder products from me on a regular basis since my very first month in business in 1983,” Hoffman said.
When it comes to having the right entrepreneurial attitude, Hoffman said anyone with a home-based business must have realistic expectations that include the need to work hard.
“Be willing to work as hard building your own business as you did as an employee building someone else’s business,” she said.
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