Multi-Level Marketing (MLM): Stepping Stone to Business?

~3 min read
Child walking across stones
Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

From old-fashioned Tupperware parties to online Facebook groups, MLM never seems to fade. Candles, kitchen utensils, cleaning products, dietary supplements, cosmetics, essential oils… I won’t go on. Almost everyone has experience with MLM, whether as a customer or as a sales representative.

My recent conversation with Marie-Andrée Ouimet yielded so many interesting topics, including self-care and small-town jealousy, but one of the most provocative topics we tackled was the stigma of multi-level marketing sales.

The “Side Hustle” Stigma

Marie-Andrée explained how her first foray into entrepreneurship was what she called a “side hustle” selling Beach Body products.

As soon as she started talking about MLM, I immediately recalled the familiar fear of “Oh, is she going to try to sell me her stuff again?” I too have felt obliged to host a party for someone selling through MLM.  I’ve bought candles that still sit in my cupboard and kitchen utensils we’ve only used once.

To be honest, as an entrepreneur, I long believed you’re not a “real business owner” when you’re selling for a multi-level marketing company. You’re not testing your own creativity and establishing your own brand. You’re just a vehicle for big American brand that is taking advantage of your time and effort.

Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) is type of direct selling that operates outside conventional retail settings. Sales representatives or consultants not only sell products, but also recruit new sellers or representatives. Someone selling through MLM earns commission not only on the products sold but also on the sales of their recruits.

The Potential

But, Marie-Andrée opened my eyes and made me realize that MLM can be a good steppingstone. It may be a very good training ground for entrepreneurship. You have to get to know your products and your market. You establish relationships with customers, hopefully feeling helpful and not desperate. Plus, you have to be resourceful with your promotions and business purchases.

The Concerns

I know I am treading into controversy here. My purpose is not to hurt or demean. I fully realize that many MLM entrepreneurs are hard-working and well-meaning. Many create value for their customers and earn a very decent return.

I still have concerns, though:

  • the purchase of large start-up kits and samples
  • market saturation (too many MLM entrepreneurs selling in the same area)
  • aggressive sales targets that may not be achievable, particularly in the long run

But putting aside MLM entrepreneurs is not helpful in our community of women in business. This is why the Business Sisters Facebook page puts the spotlight on some of our MLM entrepreneur friends. Side hustle or full-time hustle, we are here to help each other out.

What Do You Think?

If you have MLM experience, we want to hear from you. Do you see it as a stepping stone into business? What lessons did MLM selling teach you?

Please share your experiences and thoughts below. Let’s learn from one another and celebrate each other’s successes.

Thanks for reading!

Doreen Ashton Wagner
Doreen Ashton Wagner
Founder | Fondatrice

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