By Ada Slivinski (photo by Ann Larie Valentine)
They’re the new Tupperware parties: women selling jewelry, makeup and skincare products from their homes. And business is good.
The concept of “social selling” became popular with a woman named Brownie Wise – she received a set of hardware store Tupperware bowls and hosted a party to sell the product to her friends. Her parties were so successful that she was asked to grow her empire as Vice President of Tupperware.
Though much has changed since the 1950s, women are still drawn to the opportunity to run a business from home around their own schedules.
Stella & Dot is one of the most successful examples of a jewelry business that profits from social selling. Valued at $25 billion with over 18,000 active stylists, that kind of achievement is hard for the business world to ignore.
How it works
Why is the social selling model so successful? Research from the University of British Columbia has shown that even incidental similarities between the buyer and the seller (a shared birthday, for example) influence consumer decision-making.
According to Jiang, Lan et al. in an article on the sales context, “matching salespeople with consumers to enhance shared similarity is an obvious recommendation for marketing practice.” A business that operates on the premise of multiple people selling to friends and acquaintances capitalizes on these shared similarities.
By now, the business model is a familiar one – from Avon to Arbonne, most people know someone who sells products from home. Recently though, social media and the Internet have given the model a big boost. In addition to parties, trunk shows or pop-ups, women who sell socially can now do so online as well.
Companies will create a personalized webpage for each seller so customers can buy from her directly online. Sellers, or “stylists” as they’re often known, can share their pages on Facebook or Twitter – attracting many more buyers and giving them the ability to grow their businesses far beyond their physical neighbourhoods.
A cousin of mine sells jewelry through the company Color by Amber. She says she was first attracted by the company’s mentality of giving back. As part of the “Full Circle” program, women in developing countries make the jewelry and are paid fair-trade wages and receive healthcare benefits. As a mother of three, she says the job “fits seamlessly into my life.”
Fitting it into your lifestyle
Mothers especially are drawn to this type of work. Many don’t want to be away from their kids and in the office all day. And for most women – especially those with more than one young kid – their salary would primarily go toward childcare. Working from home on their own schedule gives them the financial benefits and the personal fulfilment of a job without costs.
Another innovation the Internet has brought to social selling is ongoing training through online seminars. Women in more remote locations just have to log in to a computer to watch videos on how to increase their client base and social media presence, and are walked through how to demonstrate new products.
Just like Brownie Wise said when she was starting the Tupperware party trend, these opportunities don’t just help women make money, they teach them valuable skills and help build their confidence. They also, of course, make for a healthy bottom line for those at the top.