The Accidental Entrepreneur
It’s an appealing business concept: Fall in love with a product and make a living selling it. In most cases, finding that product comes serendipitously. Many entrepreneurs start using a product faithfully and then, over time, decide to focus on that product to start a business of their own.
For most people involved with multi-level or network marketing, experiencing the product is their first foray into becoming an advocate and, ultimately, an entrepreneur. With an increased interest in health and wellness, many companies that feature such products are finding a growing audience.
Ted Ning, executive director of Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) and executive editor of the LOHAS Journal and LOHAS.com, isn’t surprised at the increased interest in multi-level marketing companies, especially as more consumers question what is in the products they use and seek healthful alternatives.
“There isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of company that will work for everyone,” says Ning. “But this model fits nicely for either supplemental or direct income if you’re passionate about the product, believe the company has depth behind it and feel you’re contributing to people’s overall health.” Ning also notes the longevity of most health-based companies, such as the 50-plus-year-old Shaklee.
Find Effective Products
For Jill May, the combination of finding a product that finally worked for her severe eczema and wanting to become an entrepreneur led her to her work with Arbonne International as an independent consultant. She already had been considering becoming an entrepreneur, and, after researching several companies, decided upon Arbonne. A Federal Trade Commission website, which discussed multi-level companies and what to look for in a partnership, confirmed her choice. According to May, Arbonne was the only company she was considering for which she could mark off all the positive items on the checklist. “From a business perspective, it made more sense [than the others],” adds May, who rose to the level of Arbonne area manager in her first year in the business. “Knowing that the products also worked, I knew I had found my match.”
For clinical psychologist Dr. Mark Bornstein, it was the results from a whole food, nutritional product called Juice Plus, 17 fruits, vegetables and grains in a capsule or chewable form, that convinced him. Bornstein and his wife, Tammi, a breast-cancer survivor, were amazed at what the product did for her health and subsequently for their entire family. Dr. Bornstein is now a Juice Plus distributor.
“Since I have always seen my role as a psychologist as a mental-health educator, it seemed natural that I would become a physical-health educator after I fell in love with Juice Plus and wanted to tell others about it.”
Sharon Weinstein, who has a background in the health industry, was dubious of any product that claimed it could heal. When she saw the results of Nikken magnetic wellness products, however, she ultimately turned her skepticism into a business.
“I wanted to see the evidence,” Weinstein says. “Once I started learning more about the products and the support from well-known organizations, I felt there were possibilities and wanted to learn more.” Today she offers Nikken products as part of her company, Core Consulting Group, which concentrates on health and wellness consulting.
Weinstein encourages people to have an open mind when considering a network-marketing company. Although she’d never heard of the term prior to her experience with Nikken, she appreciates the solutions Nikken offers and now enjoys sharing those solutions with others.
Flexibility Is a Bonus
As a consultant for the kitchen and cookware company Pampered Chef, Consultant Sara Hoffman enjoys interacting with hosts and guests. It took her 20 years of using the products, however, before she made the leap almost three years ago to be a consultant. “At the time I began using Pampered Chef, I was a banker and it never occurred to me to do this,” says Hoffman. These days she spends time at friends’ homes, cooking meals and meeting new friends through Pampered Chef. “The most important thing to me is that it’s flexible,” adds Hoffman, who can easily attend her son’s soccer games or make doctor’s appointments without schedule conflicts.
Lori Punko also was attracted to the idea of flexible work that naturally complements her life. Punko’s main business is as a yoga, health and wellness instructor, and incorporating a health-based product was a perfect fit to other business. Punko learned of Life Force nutritional products when a friend offered her a product to help her “destress” from her job. “After using the product, I found I had more energy, was sleeping better at night and felt that I could tackle anything that came my way,” Punko says. That was 15 years ago and she’s been offering Life Force ever since.
While some consider this option as additional income, others aim to make it full-time. Cynthia Kasper, for example, has hundreds of consumers and business-builders in her network, She sells Young Living Woman, which offers wellness products that are essential-oils-based. She has been excited to see her business grow in six years; soon it will be her sole source of income. Part of her success, she says, is that the products are unique. “Our advantage is that there is no competition,” says Kasper.
Do Your Homework
All the entrepreneurs emphasize the need for research before committing. “Check out the company with the Better Business Bureau; ask others about the company,” Punko recommends. “Just as important, make sure you have a strong person for whom you’re working. Will they give you the time of day? Do they have what it takes to be successful? Are they setting a good example? Ask others within their network how they like working for them, because you want to work with someone who is a strong leader and has the tools to help you succeed.”
Libertyville’s Suzanne Norman happily shares information about Juice Plus with friends and clients of her health and wellness coaching and yoga practice, Enlightened Living. Yet she admits that to be successful, it has to be treated as a business. “Create a business plan, work hard, and be open to connecting with other people,” Norman says. In addition to creating one’s own business plan, Norman recommends asking the company about their plans. “Make sure they are a solid company and will work with you,” she says.
Having experienced the benefits of products first-hand is definitely a selling feature for many of these entrepreneurs. They also report the satisfaction of helping others look and feel better. Working in an environment where the companies help them realize their dreams drives them as well. “It’s so great to be in an atmosphere where everyone has your best interests in mind and are genuinely interested in helping you succeed,” says May. “I’ve worked in corporate America and that’s not how it works there!”
She suggests looking at a corporation’s organizational chart. “At Arbonne, we all start at the same level and you, not your boss or the CEO, decide how quickly and how high you want to climb.”
With hard work and dedication, people with passion and solid business sense can successfully make the transition from employee to entrepreneur. More and more new entrepreneurs are learning that they can achieve, through network marketing and a good work ethic, the lifestyle of their dreams.
Lori Punko (Highwood)
Shanti Yoga Wellness (Life Force )
Megy Karydes is a freelance writer and founder of World Shoppe, a fair-trade wholesale importing company that works with artisans in South Africa and Pakistan.