Is direct sales right for you?

November 18, 2009 4:13:20 PM PST
The number of women taking advantage of direct sales business opportunities has spiked in this down economy. But it's not easy. Direct sales sounds like a great concept, whether it's Tupperware, beauty products or jewelry, you can earn up to 50 percent commission, work from home and be your own boss. But before you dabble into this industry, there are some things you should know.

University of Houston student Christina Gemellaro is a sales representative for Mark.

"Mark is a beauty and fashion brand. You can mix any two products that you like," said Gemellaro.

On this day, she has set up shop at the U of H book store. Gemellaro will make 30 percent of what she sells, and says she'll use her profits to pay for books and bills.

Across town, Georgette Duane is busy booking a party for Cookie Lee, a company that sells trendy jewelry. The mother of three says last year she had to find another career after losing her job at a car dealership.

"It's been a blessing ever since, I really, really enjoy it," said Duane.

Duane usually sets up nine parties a month, making an average profit of $200 for each party.

"If I worked a job making $8 or $9 an hour, I probably bring in a week's time what I bring in a day's time," said Duane.

Financial expert Marilyn Logan is known around Houston as "the money lady." She's such a believer in direct sales that she began selling Arbonne, a line of skin care products.

"Right now, the three things that are not suffering are alcohol, tobacco and skin care," said Logan.

She has been so successful with Arbonne that she's being rewarded with a white Mercedes from the company. But be warned: She says direct sales is not for everyone.

"If you don't like people this is not the business for you," said Logan.

Tori Johnson, CEO of Women For Hire, says before you consider a direct sales company, keep a few things in mind. First, the start up costs. Some can be pretty low. For Mark, it's just $20. But Cookie Lee's start up fee is $250. And Arbonne's initial investment is $1,100.

"I am a huge supporter of direct sales for a couple of different reason one is that it's a chance to make money, but even for a lot of people it's a chance to force yourself to get out there," said Johnson.

The next thing to consider with direct sales is how much time are you really willing to put in?

"You make as much money as you are willing to work for, so the more hours you put in the more money you make," said Johnson.

Next, are you willing to do what it takes? That means approaching anyone as a potential client.

"When your mouth is open, your business is open," said Johnson.

Finally, Johnson says if you really want to make your business venture successful, align yourself with a mentor within the direct sales company.

If you're still not sure if it's for you, consider that the worst thing that can happen is you lose your up-front money. So what exactly does that up-front fee pay for? With some companies like Arbonne, the $1,100 gets you a line of products for display and sampling. But with Mark, the $25 simply pays for your entrance fee.


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