Oct 22, 2015

UPDATED. I started selling with a direct sales company and I’ve been embarrassed ever since (or, why my side hustle isn't less than yours)

UPDATE: I am no longer selling with a direct sales company. So many reasons. Mostly, though, selling in its truest form just isn't for me. Since I stopped, I have read a lot of posts about how selling these types of product can be a shitty experience for the seller's friends, who feel obligated. I'm still of the belief that each person has to take responsibility to be honest with one another. If you aren't interested, tell your friend. And sellers, if it is clear that someone isn't interested, stop pestering them. It's pretty simple if we can all be real with one another. Isn't that how life works? Rant over.

Truly, embarrassed. Like, haven't-told-my-coworkers embarrassed.

Why? Because I’m not the kind of person that gets suckered into things. Because I am well educated. Because I am a hardcore feminist. The kind of feminist that didn’t shave in college, and for a good amount of her life spelled women with a Y, and would most certainly not have married her husband if he wasn’t a feminist too.

And because I'm assuming that most of my facebook friends are looking down on me. Because I used to do that too. It's direct sales, after all.

Wikipedia says this: "Modern direct selling includes sales made through the party plan, one-on-one demonstrations, and other personal contact arrangements as well as internet sales.[2] A textbook definition is: "The direct personal presentation, demonstration, and sale of products and services to consumers, usually in their homes or at their jobs."[3][4] " I was taught early on to be skeptical of direct sales companies, along with telemarketers, politicians, and shoe salespeople.

But then my twenty-something cousin started selling from a well-known direct sales company. Unlike when coworkers notified me that they were repping some product I didn’t really want, with my cousin, my first instinct was to be supportive of her new business endeavor. Notice I said be supportive, not necessarily support, because while the products weren't a great fit for me personally I knew she was trying to make a life for herself and support her family - two goals that I could really get behind.

I started to think about our acceptance of the mostly-male-run store brands we happily spend big bucks on (big bucks, by the way, that go to CEOs making so much more than any one human needs) and all the ads they buy to get us there, versus my lovely cousin with her genuine, honest, humble goals in life. This company she worked for gave her a nice commission, and was flexible enough to meet her needs. I started to wonder if products from direct sales (predominantly sold by women) weren't a (the?) most feminist choice I could make with my purchases, save for the woman-owned, woman-made local product business (which is still the company I’d recommend above all else if you’ve got access to one).

I assumed someone had already written about this, so I googled it. 

Most of the articles you find when googling “feminism” and “direct sales” are about how they take advantage of women, fooling their poor consultants into believing they can make millions. The Harper’s article “How Mary Kay Sells Women on Having It All” is a great example. It's beef is with the company's non-feminist beginnings, goal of making money off of its consultants, and profiting off of women believing traditional workplaces do not provide flexibility to raise a family. It says, “Most of today’s (insert direct sales company here) ladies are struggling, though, even as the company flourishes at their expense.” Wow. So many things to say about that one. 

Let’s start with this. Have you visited a grocery store or chain store or department store lately? Do you think those stockers, or cashiers, or even department managers are making good money? Yeah. They are not. 

Secondly, traditional jobs don't actually provide a great amount of flexibility. Even if the company itself is ok with a mom or dad taking off when their kid is sick, our society (and the parent's coworkers) most likely aren't. There is a whole lot of guilt that goes along with leaving work mid-day to clean up barf for the next 24 hours. 

And lastly, I’ve got to ask:  How stupid do we think women are? The fairer gender can do math, after all. Percentages, minus the samples, carry the nine… this isn’t a quick trip to financial freedom. Obviously. But to make ends meet, or pay for the extras, it can help.

I’ve seen social media posts from consumers who feel that their friends are using them for sales. This one is my favorite – oh, the anxiety I felt after reading that thread. It still fills me with shame. 

But to put it into perspective, do you have any idea how much your favorite brands are spending (and then charging you) for marketing? But wait! There's more! Do you know that stores are then upcharging the health and body care products you are buying by a 50% markup? It’s true. See the proof here, here, and here. Welcome to capitalism.

This is not to say that local stores don’t need such a high markup (they do). It’s to clarify that the 30-50% that direct sellers make on the products you buy is certainly not out of line with the industry standard. And it’s to say that you aren’t supporting your friend’s bank roll when you buy from a woman-owned direct sales business. At least not any more than you are supporting some rich white man’s bank account when you buy products from your favorite company at your favorite store.

I think what it really comes down to is that when our friends ask us if we are interested in buying something, it is harder to say no. And that is a feminist issue all of its own, amiright?

I cannot stress this enough: do not buy what you do not want. From your co-op, your chain store, or your friend. OF COURSE. I, and I imagine the majority of my colleagues, have no interest in you feeling obligated to “help” us in any way. I promise that you will never lose a true friend because you say “no thanks” to the products they are selling.

But hey.

I happen to be the seller of a set of products that I think are bee’s knees (which is a designation I don't give lightly.)  And it seems pretty silly to me that anyone would avoid them simply because of a selling structure that gives women extra income, freedom to choose their hours, and a bigger cut of the profits than traditional retail.

So. (she takes a very deep breath.)

I sell Ava Anderson NonToxic products. Because I believe in them. You can hear more about why by stalking or liking my facebook page. And if you are interested, you can buy them at http://avaandersonnontoxic.com/joey and I’ll get credit as your consultant.

And that is NOTHING to be ashamed of. 


  1. Cousin, you are AWESOME! You GO girl!!! Obviously we sell for different direct sales companies, but the important thing is that we are both behind products that we BELIEVE in and we are backed by companies that empower women! I'm not a feminist by any stretch, but who doesn't like girl time and girly products that make us beautiful while making us money? I agree with everything you said and I'm so, so happy that you found a product that you LOVE, even if it's not the one I sell! And thank you times a TON for being supportive of my business as well! I love that we can not only coexist as competitors, but we can love and support each other like family should! Miss you, Joey! <3 Hugs