Thank you to Trish for sharing her experience of being a senior distributor in Arbonne:
My journey with network marketing (multi-level marketing) started in 2016. The company I signed up to, Arbonne, was launching in my country. It was ‘ground floor’ and they assured me I would go straight to the top!
It sounded too good to be true, but I’d met a mum through an online mums’ group on Facebook, and her Facebook feed looked pretty real deal. She went to lots of parties, drove a white Mercedes Benz, and at only 26 yrs old she was coaching people to live the life they deserved—and this is what got me most. I am driven to help people and genuinely believe people deserve to live the life they deserve.
She had me hooked. I believed I could do it and I had just had my second baby, so I would never ever have to return to work, ever. So I jumped in, I sold my car to raise funds, and spent $2,300 on product to start my business.
Before we officially launched I spent a couple of months going through my 100 people list and offering them this ‘life changing, ground floor opportunity, and on launch day I had a couple of girls signing up with me. I was on my way to the top!
But the moment I signed up, I felt depressed and I cried, and I had this thought of ‘What the f*** have I just done?’ But that was ‘the fear talking’, you see, rather than listening to my intuition.
My upline immediately said ‘Right, let’s get you up and running by the end of the day!’ And I again thought ‘How the f*** am I supposed to do that?’ More tears—but I ignored them, put my big girl pants on, and went at it like a bull at a gate.
Within seven days I had reached the first level of management, and by the end of my first month I was in qualification for the second level of management.
Then month two—yup, just month two, I started wondering who I was going to ask to get more Pamper Parties booked, and who else could I offer the business to? ‘Just keep asking’ my upline told me, ask everyone. You liked a girl’s service at the coffee shop? Offer her a life changing business opportunity (forget that this makes you feel sick—suck it up and do it anyway). The girl at the bookstore likes make up—ask her if she would like to borrow a bag of full-sized products (that you spent hundreds of dollars on and are praying all gets returned), in the hope she will become a client and place a big order.
It was relentless. I started this online health and wellness business for more time and money, but it took over my life, constantly trying to make sales, build my team, motivate/coach/mentor my team, and be on all the coaching calls.
As I mentioned earlier, I had a young baby, and with a young baby comes a lack of sleep. My first experience of being told off/emotionally blackmailed was when I was relatively new. I messaged my upline to let her know I wouldn’t be on the coaching call that night (with time differences, calls were at late at night in my country) because I was tired and needed sleep. Her response was ‘Oh I’m sorry, do you want to fail?’ Of course, she was right, I would fail by not getting on the call, I’d better not worry about the sleep I really need.
Monkey see, monkey do—and I started talking to my team the same way. It was awful. There was a lot of training, most of it free team training, but some training cost a lot of money. Money my family didn’t have. What I was earning helped my family be able to pay bills, although it wasn’t enough to put money aside. But if I didn’t get to these trainings, I would fail.
That’s when the debt spiral started. I asked the bank to loan me money, and they did. I had to get to this training in another country. I got there. I asked my dad to fund the trip, sold my beloved wedding dress (something I never wanted to do, as I have daughters), and sold all my beautiful eyeshadow palettes (who needed them anyway—they weren’t Arbonne, cruelty free, vegan, or free of nasty chemicals—but I loved them all the same). Then I lied to one of my best friends and I missed her engagement party. It (rightly) took her two years to talk to me again after that. I also spent approx $3,000 (that we didn’t have) on all this extra mindset training that I needed so that I wouldn’t fail.
We were always told ‘You’re only a failure if you quit’. When you hear it enough, you truly begin to believe it. We heard it when we chatted to our uplines.When we saw our team members start dropping off, we’d say ‘I always knew they’d quit’ ‘I knew they weren’t cut it for it’ ‘She was a bit weird anyway’ and so on. When friends and family started turning their backs on us, well, we didn’t need them anyway, we didn’t need their negativity in our lives. It just blows my mind that we would so flippantly be told not to worry about those people who had been in our lives forever.
Things started going downhill for me when I worked my ass off helping one of my team to elevate to the same level as me in her business. It was crazy busy for both her and me. It was exciting seeing her succeed, but it was exhausting—we had to hound everyone for sales! She was then no longer in my direct business, it meant I basically had to start again, from the bottom and rebuild an entire new team.
Now there is nothing wrong with hard work, but for that time and financial freedom that we are promised we can have if we just keep going—that comes at a price. You need to constantly (I am talking multiple times daily) offer the business, share the product, build your team, clientele. This takes a lot of time. I was away from my family a lot, I was checked out from my little girls because I had this big team that needed me and now I had to start all over. I would tell myself I could do it, that I wanted to do it—but the truth is l, I didn’t, and if you don’t constantly do it, your business goes backward … fast. But all the personal development we were encouraged to do was starting to pay off. The fog was starting to lift.
That’s one cool thing I found about network marketing: I was encouraged to grow myself, and I think this was really powerful and beneficial for me. Unfortunately for my uplines, it meant my mind grew clearer. I got tired of growing myself so that I could attract better people into my business, so that I was strong enough to deal with all the hate thrown at my MLM businesses. I started loving growing myself for me. There were people I looked up to in the business like they were celebrities—but they weren’t. They were just really good at selling things and that’s OK, but it was then that I decided that it wasn’t for me.
Of all the amazing women I met and connected with in my time in Arbonne, 90% of them no longer talk to me. I thought they were my friends, but they weren’t. I have however met two amazing women who have become a special part of my life and I’m grateful for that, but finally turning my back on the business was one hell of a mental rollercoaster. It took months to actually decide I was done. Our third baby was on the way, and we could have done with the income, but I had lost all my belief and passion. I watched women throwing thousands of dollars at starting their businesses. I no longer felt excited for them, I felt sorry for them but, boy did it screw with my mind. I left what felt like an emotionally abusive relationship. My self worth was so low, I felt like such a failure and I still have $5,000 debt that I have no idea how I’ll pay back—but I knew I was doing the right thing in getting out.
On the whole, I don’t regret giving MLMs a go. It taught me some really valuable skills, and it really showed me how much I genuinely love to help other people. I still use a few of the products because I enjoy them, but for the most part, they’re just too expensive. Do I believe network marketing can sometimes work, for a small minority—and you need to be unwaveringly ruthless to succeed. A lot of money can be made, if you get in early, like I did, but it comes with huge sacrifices. I don’t believe you can achieve time freedom, because the higher you move up the ladder, the greater your responsibility and the risk. You might have greater financial freedom, but you are always on. This is what I have seen and experienced.
As you’ve probably heard a thousand times, it’s not for everybody, but is it for anybody—however, I’d never encourage someone to join an MLM business to earn money, as they’ll most likely just end up another one of the ‘failures’, in a lot of debt, with damaged relationships. It seems so appealing to earn money from your couch, in your PJs while sipping wine but, like most things, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
The Anti-MLM Coalition: We at the Coalition really appreciate Trish sharing her story, however we don’t think MLM represents the best vehicle to help others. As Trish mentions, there is a need to be utterly ruthless in the way you sell the products and in order to recruit others. To be successful in MLM, you cannot also be truly benevolent to your downline or totally honest with your customers. If you really want to empower and help others, then being part of an MLM will start to sit heavily on your conscience as you watch your recruits begin to struggle, unable to sell overpriced products, paying for expensive training, and passing on the earnings and lifestyle fiction necessary to recruit yet more people.
MLMs also like to use the ‘get in early and get rich’ line to their advantage and say that their MLM is at the beginning and has momentum and now is the time to join and be a ‘founder’ and so on. But the reality is that people only make money if they have a large downline, irrespective of when they join.
Featured image by averie woodard on Unsplash