Happy Monday morning, friends!
Hope everyone had a relaxing weekend. Unfortunately, B had to work all weekend, so The Bear and I were on our own for most of it, but we did have a fun visit Saturday with good friends who just moved to LA from Indianapolis. It’s always great spending time with old friends.
So, here’s one of many things I’ve learned from six months of living in the suburbs: ‘Burb ladies love throwing parties where their guests can buy something. Chances are, if you creep through a gated community on a weeknight in my town, you’ll find a chatty group of thirtysomethings drinking Shiraz and trying on dangly earrings or smearing on lip gloss with a Q-tip while an attentive hostess fills their glasses and touts the wonders of this incredible, not-available-in-stores product. Be it makeup, baby clothes, adult clothes, wine, candles, purses, sunglasses, jewelry, even essential oils, the options are numerous and sundry.
When I was invited to my first product party, it was a couple of weeks after we moved here. I was desperately seeking lady friends and time outside the house sans The Bear, but thrown into a bit of a tizzy by the invitation.
Questions began circling my head: If I went, did it mean I’d be obliged to buy something? If I did buy something, would I then be talked into selling the product too? If I said yes, could I make money doing it, or would I have to invest lots of cash into my new business, then be forced to explain to my husband when I got home that I drained our savings account so that my new friends wouldn’t be mad at me? What about if I didn’t buy something? Would I be shunned by all the partygoers and promptly ousted from my new spot in their social circle? The unanswered questions (though clearly neurotic and ridiculous) were too numerous: I turned down the invitation and stayed home to watch re-runs of True Blood.
Weeks turned into months, and with new friends came more turned-down product party invitations… but there were also conversations that went like this:
Me: “Hey, where did you get those adorable bracelets?”
Friend 1: “Oh, I went to an XYZ party last week. I thought I’d just go to get a night away from the kids, but the jewelry was actually pretty cute, so I bought some.”
Me: “What’d you do last night?”
Friend 2: “Rosemary threw a party where you could buy skincare products. They smelled weird so I just hung out and drank wine.”
Me: “So how did you girls meet?”
Them: “At a purse party. We really hit it off because we both like clutches.”
There was absolutely no talk of being tied down and forced to write checks… or of being tricked into investing your savings into a line of scented candles. Could it be that my city girl sensibility of being suspicious of everyone and everything was preventing me from actually having fun and meeting people in my new suburban environment? I hated to admit it, but it was probably true…
Last week I decided to meet up with a work-at-home mom friend of mine who sells essential oils. She occasionally hosts classes where attendees can buy them, but—you guessed it—I’ve never made it to one. I get migraines and was hoping she could help me treat them without having to rely so heavily on my usual cocktail of Excedrin, Gatorade and a nap (impossible with a toddler), so I gave her a call.
After an hour of chatting about the company she works for, and sampling some of her deliciously scented wares, I cautiously settled on a couple of oil blends (reviews to come) and promised to try more when I was ready. “I’m not ready to invest too much in this…” I started. I flinched, waiting for her to push back and try to convince me that it was smarter to buy the whole kit. Amazingly, she didn’t. She even pointed out a few money saving tips as I picked my way through her catalog. She just wanted me to feel better…and I did, immediately. But it had nothing to do with my migraines; I was so refreshed by the ease of the whole experience that I vowed right then and there to accept my next product party invitation.
The moral of my little suburban tale is this: before you make assumptions about something you’ve never done before, stop acting like a neurotic shut-in like I did and give it a try. No one will force your hand, you might actually find a product you love (or in my case, need) and maybe, just maybe…you might make a new friend (cue rainbows and unicorns). Am I being naïve? Jaded City Erin says maybe… but sassy suburban Mommy Erin says, “Free wine? Where’s the party?”
To get you (and me) started on your new adventure, I’ve put together a little guide for any other suspicious newbies out there looking to navigate their local product party circuit and maybe even hoping to start their own work-from-home business:
Mary Kay: The grandmama of all direct buy companies, MK has been around since 1963. I can remember going to a Mary Kay party when I was in college, and looking a little garish afterward, thanks to the orange-y lipstick I tried on, but I know moms today that absolutely swear by MK’s night cream as a miracle cure for diaper rash! Who knew?!? Consultants for Mary Kay make up to 50% of every sale they make, a percentage of their recruit’s sales, and there’s the famous pink car—consultants can “win” it after they hit certain lofty sales goals. Parties are an opportunity to try on makeup and skin care products after the consultant gives you a spiel on what’s new.
lia sophia A direct-buy jewelry company that has been in business for 30 years. A family-run company, feminist ideals, lifetime replacement guarantee, and huge variety. Consultants keep 30% of their sales and party hostesses get “paid” in product discounts and free jewelry. Their prices seem a little hefty to me, though. Despite the “lifetime replacement guarantee,” $98 seems like a lot to spend on a set of faux gold bracelets I could probably get for $8 at Charming Charlie. But, as a costume jewelry addict, I could be convinced to spend at one of these parties.
CAbi: An abbreviation of Carol Anderson by Invitation (she’s the designer), CAbi is a women’s clothing company that bills itself as the “ultimate personal shopping experience.” Their colorful (ok, very colorful) sportswear is designed to mix and match, helping women max out their clothing options. Parties are like miniature fashion shows, with a CAbi consultant introducing the line and helping attendees try on clothes to show their friends as they nibble on food and have cocktails. CAbi has a user-friendly website that helps its clients accessorize their CAbi designs, plus a blog with recipes, fashion tips, etc. CAbi lists their consultants’ median income at around 20K for 2011.
Pampered Chef is geared toward all things kitchen, from gadgets to cookbooks to cutlery. Pampered chef parties are designed to feel like you’re inside a Food Network cooking demonstration, with the recipes geared toward showcasing PC’s featured products. Anything with food sounds attractive to me, so I’d be excited to attend one of these. PC hostesses get free products, hefty discounts on products and free shipping on anything they buy. Consultants make anywhere from 20-25% commission on sales and get perks like vacations and jewelry when they hit certain sales goals.
Miche (pronounced mee-she) is a newcomer to direct buy products compared to the others on this list, but is gaining popularity due to its unique design features. Miche bags have interchangeable “shells” that can quickly be swapped to match your shoes without having to dump and transfer the contents inside. It’s a cool idea, and the prices are pretty great (around $20-$40 for the “base” bag and $15-$45 per shell), considering how many options you can create with one “base.” Consultants can make up to 35% commission on their sales, and party hostesses get discounts and freebies. Check out my friend Tiffany’s Miche page here. Tiff is hosting her big product launch party this week!
When it comes to direct buy opportunities, my list is just a microscopic sampling—there are hundreds of these out there… maybe even thousands. Some ladies get involved strictly for the social aspects and freebies, but it sounds like you can actually make a pretty decent income if you become a sales consultant, which explains why so many stay-at-home moms are joining the ranks and becoming work-at-home moms (or “naptime entrepreneurs,” as my friend Claire likes to call it!). I’ll be sure to ask at my next party and update this post accordingly!
Oh, and to my beloved girls here in town who might be reading this today and thinking “pssh, I’m not inviting her to any more of my XYZ parties.” Please keep inviting me! I promise I’ll be there next time with a bottle of wine… and my wallet, just in case 😉
Happy partying, friends!