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.
By Ada Slivinski (photo by Richard Leeming)
As late as the 1950s, many fathers were not present in the delivery room, but rather were waiting in the pub for their children to be born. Now, fathers are not only very involved during labour and birth, but are taking on a larger role in caring for their children during the first years of life; and a growing number of these dads are taking extended parental leave to do so.
Canadian Employment Insurance provides 15 weeks of maternity leave for mothers – and 35 weeks of parental leave that can be taken by either the mother or father, or shared between the two.
In 2000 – a year before the length of sharable benefits was increased – only three per cent of fathers claimed these benefits according to Statistics Canada. In 2006, 20 per cent did. Of course, most dads will take a few days to a couple weeks off to welcome a child, using vacation time, sick days, or unpaid leave.
The change is part of a cultural shift toward embracing involved fatherhood; there’s also been a jump in the number of men who are stay-at-home parents.
Fathers now also miss work days for personal or family responsibilities: they went from missing 1.8 days in 1997 to 6.3 in 2007 (for women those numbers were 4.1 and 4.8, respectively), according to Stats Can.
When a stay-at-home mom friend of mine gave birth to her second child, her husband took paternity leave. He was able to take care of the eldest to help her rest and bond with the new baby. The company top-up program was generous enough that this wasn’t too much of a financial burden, and both parents say it was the best thing they could have done for their family.
Convincing companies about this, though, can often be a struggle.
While bosses often expect moms to be off for a year, dads taking time off certainly isn’t the expected course of action, and many dads who choose this route experience pushback.
In 2013, CNN reporter Josh Levs wanted to take paternity leave when his wife gave birth to their third child. He learned Time Warner, the parent company, didn’t offer the benefit to biological fathers (even though women got paid time off, as did fathers who have children through adoption or surrogacy). He sued to challenge the policy, and a year later, he won. The company put new language into its benefit guide for 2015 so that any parent can get six paid weeks of leave.
Dads who go this route say it can be tough to be the first in your company, but once one man paves the way, other fathers often follow – and say there are huge benefits.
In addition to giving them a valuable opportunity to bond with their child and offering the new mom more help and time to rest, for moms who go back to work, there are more opportunities for promotions and raises.
A 2010 study by the Swedish Institute of Labor Market Policy Evaluation found that for every month of parental leave taken by the father, the mother’s future earnings increased by 7 per cent.
Taking on more at home
Since the birth of a new baby is a time when housework is renegotiated, many experts say that when fathers get involved early, it sets a pattern for the future and they continue to take on more household tasks even after going back to work.
A mom whose husband was off for most of the year with their first child while she finished her degree said now if her son is upset, he’ll ask for his dad first, which she calls a relief now that they have two kids to care for and the baby demands a lot of her attention.
Though there can be practical challenges for dads who take paternity leave – many men’s washrooms don’t have change tables for example – the culture is changing. And for men who may think their day job is too important? Even U.K. Prime Minister, David Cameron, took two weeks of paternity leave when his daughter was born.
By Ada Slivinski (photo by Marcio Ramalho)
Do an Internet search of “how having kids can benefit your career,” and the top results are all focused on men. Fathers are paid more than childless men – the break and stress-relief children provide seems to stimulate their brains into thinking about work problems in new ways, and thus often leads to promotions and new opportunities.
But for mothers, the popular narrative is quite the opposite. The bookstores and Internet discussion boards are full of cautious tales about why mothers who work outside the home can’t “have it all.” Pregnant women are often told their work will take a hit with all the responsibilities of being a parent. But what’s often overlooked is that parenthood can actually affect work life for mothers in the same positive ways it does for men if we know how to take advantage of the opportunity.
When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I was about to move across the country for a fantastic new job. I certainly remember people telling me that a baby would be a significant career roadblock. I can say that it certainly was a challenge to learn the ropes at a new place while struggling with morning sickness and running out for midwife appointments, but it also helped me connect with my new coworkers and interview subjects on a deeper level.
As a reporter, I have to ask tough questions that often put politicians and other decision-makers on the spot. I was surprised at how many times my growing belly provided the perfect ice-breaker, putting those I was grilling more at ease and thus leading to a better interview. Now that I have a two-year-old, sharing stories about potty training or hilariously misspoken words has the same effect.
Many other mothers who I’ve spoken with who work outside the home tell me they too were surprised at how their career benefited from the new role of parenthood.
Time management. One of the things mothers talk about is how they become better able to manage their time. A new mother, columnist, and lawyer friend of mine puts it this way, “I don’t have the luxury of saying to myself that I will finish something later. Who knows when later is!” Many parents also say they don’t want to bring work home with them, because that’s the time they have to spend with their children, so they learn to work smarter during the day and get things done at the office.
Patience and acceptance. Though being a parent can be extremely draining on your patience at times, it can teach you to be more patient and understanding at work, which can be a huge bonus when working with clients or a team. Having children also helps to put work into perspective. “No emergency at the office can compare to having a child with a life-threatening injury in the hospital,” a publisher with two boys recently told me.
Downtime better spent. It is also a great stress-reliever: a little kid running into your arms after a tough day at work immediately makes those office problems fade away. For many parents who choose to continue with a career after kids, having children motivates them at work – they want to provide for their kids so they may be more confident asking for a raise or a promotion, or further their education because they want to be a good role model. As gender roles shift and mothers are no longer the sole caregivers and homemakers, we can apply all we learn in our new role as parents to our work as well and see the benefits – just like men.