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Earl Tupper was born in New Hampshire in 1907 to poor parents who moved often. He dreamed of being a millionaire and an inventor, and he accomplished both goals without a college degree.

Brownie Wise, born in Georgia in 1913, was naturally gifted with social skills and personal drive. She completed school through the 8th grade and is credited with the success of Mr. Tupper’s inventions through home party marketing strategies.

The first of Tupper’s Tupperware products hit the marketplace in 1946 with sealable lids and plastic products in varying sizes. They didn’t sell well in retail shops because buyers needed a little demonstration to understand how the tight lids worked. Wise began selling Tupperware in 1951 at home parties only, quickly outselling all the retail enterprises. The unlikely duo ~ he secretive and introverted and she extraordinarily sociable with business savvy ~ teamed up for seven years. Wise alone devised the party plan system with trip and product incentives and built the sales strategy of success. When they parted ways in 1958, sales declined, and Tupper sold his company for $16 million to a Rexall Drug tycoon. [Not too shabby.]

Today’s home parties cross all industries from clothes and power tools to beauty products, wine and pet gear. Big companies like The Body Shop and Crayola have expanded to include a direct selling component to their retail stores. The appeal factors include low start-up costs and nearly unlimited income possibility, along with working for oneself and selling something about which one is already passionate. Love to cook ~ Pampered Chef. Love to make family scrapbooks ~ Creative Memories. Love candle scents and romance: Scentsy. Love wine ~ The Traveling Vineyard. Love tote bags: Thirty-One. Love make-up ~ Mary Kay. Love gardening ~ The Happy Gardener. And much, much more.

Home parties account for nearly 30 percent of more than $30 billion in direct sales, and there are more than 14 million direct sellers. “The majority of companies joining the Direct Selling Association are party plan firms,” says Amy Robinson of the DSA. “They are smaller, newer companies started by entrepreneurs from their basements in a lot of cases.” The opportunities are endless.

Lucy Copeland

Lucy Copeland of Christiansburg became an independent consultant with Mary Kay a little more than six months ago. “I want the flexibility to work my own days and hours,” she says. “With two kids in college and a third one who just graduated and is living in Tennessee, my husband and I like to visit them, and I can take MK with me anywhere. I love meeting new people and helping them with skin care and introducing them to wonderful products.”
The income possibilities are also an enticement, and while each consultant is independent, they encourage and help one another. “Mary Kay is celebrating 50 years of enriching the lives of women,” Lucy relates, adding that she embraces the three MK principles of faith, home, work ~ in that order, along with the Golden Rule.

Jessica Akers

When Jessica Akers of Floyd discovered Scentsy, she couldn’t find a local consultant and convinced her mother to join so she could host a party. “I have always been a big fan of direct sales parties, and I knew the value of earning free products,” she states. “I was too busy with a full-time job and opening a new business. We threw the first one at my house.” Her mother wasn’t enthralled with it, so Jessica found herself reluctantly hauling the starter kit to the next home party. Then she was hooked. In time, she closed her business, had another baby and continued to grow with Scentsy, which also sells Velata and Grace Adele products.

Jessica is a Star Director, just one level from the top of the ranking structure, with a group of a couple hundred team members. “It’s amazing how far a consultant can go with this company,” she says. “I’ve earned bonuses, free incentive trips, leadership retreat to Cancun, prizes, gifts and cash, but the most valuable thing I’ve earned is the ability to stay home with my kids and be a full-time mom.”

Mariekan Strachan

“My son is my why,” relates Mariekan Strachan of her reason for joining Thirty-One in 2008. Finding herself a single mom, she needed $600 per month to pay rent plus a flexible schedule for her then 3-year-old son. “When my husband and I separated, I had zero self-esteem, no friends, money or confidence. I learned the name Thirty-One derived from Proverbs 31, and it was like God telling me ‘This is what I want you to do.’” In the summer of 2011, Mariekan made her first big paycheck (which exceeded her full time teacher’s monthly pay) and had Thirty-One leaders who needed training. She was being asked to accept more responsibility at school. It was decision time.

Mariekan quit teaching to focus solely on Thirty-One. She hired her mother as an assistant, so she could retire and spend more time with her father. Mariekan finished her master’s degree the following summer. The woman who never thought she could make it on her own, Mariekan is now a leader and role model for others.

By Joanne M. Anderson

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