In 1951, the retail world was transformed when Earl Silas Tupper pulled his storage containers off of store shelves and presented them directly to the consumer. With the help of a charismatic single mom, Brownie Wise, Tupper developed the direct-selling strategy that would turn into a phenomenon—The Tupperware Party.
Today, the grandmother of all home party systems is still going strong. In 2011, Tupperware Brands had over 2.7 million sales professionals in almost 100 countries, generating revenues exceeding $2 billion.
From Tupperware to adult novelties to children’s toys, direct sales companies and home parties have been a force to be reckoned with. Sales figures in the U.S. are nearing $30 billion according to the Direct Selling Association. Not only is the industry growing year-over-year, but is outpacing growth by the U.S. economy.
Women (and men) are turning to direct sales to supplement incomes, explore career opportunities and, in many cases, fulfill their desire to be a business owner, help determine their own fate and have a little fun while doing it.
Social Media Boost
Companies like costume jewelry designer Stella & Dot are creating a new breed of consultants, where making a lucrative income is not only plausible, but attainable. Stella & Dot cultivates its stylists helping them to become small-business owners, finding passion in their merchandise and their company.
What was once reserved for at-home parties and catalog sales only is now being bolstered through social networking sites like Facebook, Pinterest and even Twitter. Thanks to social networking, consultants are expanding their networks, hosting online parties, offering online specials, sales and orders.
Stella & Dot is forging the way, bridging traditional home parties, called trunk shows, with social selling.
Tysh Mefferd heads a team at Stella & Dot which was responsible for over $16 million in revenue last year. She credits social media with much of her success and uses Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest on a daily basis to help promote grown and engage with her customer base. “I use social media for building my personal business. I have a fan page and invite my customers to be in the know on style tips, FLASH sales, etc.,” she says.
Stella & Dot stylist Alexandra Gay agrees, and saw her online sales grow dramatically when she became more visible on Facebook. “Our generation is dialed into social media and people are always looking for a better opportunity, easier and quicker way to shop. You name it and social media can really be a game changer,” she says.
In addition, Mefferd turns to social platforms to help build and stay connected to her team, which has recently grown to over 3,500 members. “We have Facebook groups set up for our various teams and our leadership team. We use it all day long for quick communications, reminders, recognition, etc. It allows for all entrepreneurs to feel connected to a community and a place for brainstorming, sharing best tips and the like.”
No Success Without Passion
For Allison Price, an independent representative with Miessence certified organics, what started off as a mission to find products that were purely organic turned into a career selling products she not only believed in, but felt passionate about. “It takes a few things to be successful. First, you need to be truly passionate about the products you’re selling. Second, you need to be self-motivated. And third, you need to have the spirit of an entrepreneur,” explains Price.
Price says it’s up to the individual rep to decide how much energy they want to expend on growing their business. For some, it’s just an opportunity to make a little extra spending money or enjoy a night out of the house, but for others it can be a lucrative career choice. “People on my team are making anywhere from $400 a month to $125,000 plus a year, depending on the time and effort they have invested in their business,” she says.
Not a Hobby
Toni Van Schoyck, an independent advanced director with Gigi Hill, a company offering fashionable and functional handbags agrees that building a successful direct sales company takes investment and dedication. “Direct sales is about 100 percent accountability and responsibility,” she explained, saying that the business must be cultivated daily. “Get in and stay in. Work your business consistently every day,” she said.
Van Schoyck’s formula has worked for her. Through her dedication and business savvy she has worked herself up, earning a six-figure income after only three years. “You make this what you want it to be,” she says. Although she has been successful thus far, she’s also quick to note that she has much work to do to continue building her business.
As in any business venture, direct selling companies are not all created equal. It’s important to do research on the company prior to investing your money or your time into the corporation. Some companies will offer you direct commissions on your sales while others require you to recruit a sales team before you see any significant earnings. Some companies will also require you sell a certain amount or percentage in order to stay active within their system. “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” explains Mefferd.
Mefferd also recommends speaking with consultants that have been top performers in their respective industry. “My best advice is to learn all you can from those that have experienced success and then go out there and follow the steps or process that is proven to work.” Mefferd adds that success in any business, and especially in direct selling takes “tenacity, determination, huge belief and working together as a team.”
Angela Stringfellow is a PR and MarComm Consultant and Social Media Strategist offering full-circle marketing solutions to businesses. Angela blogs via Contently.com.