Tag Archives: social selling

5 Things I wish I had known when I started in Direct Sales

tupperware circa 1950, old direct sales, tupperware partiesWhen I started selling jewelry through ‘direct-sales’ (definition: the marketing and selling of products directly to consumers away from a fixed retail location) almost 6 years ago, I went into it completely blind with no prior experience. I had worked retail as a young woman, but I think I had been to one candle party, one Pampered Chef party and one Mary Kay party back when I was a little girl with my mom. I had been courted before by some Amway reps (back in the day when they gave you cassette tapes of conferences speeches!) and also by a Mary Kay rep when I was a young mother in my 20’s, but that was really my only dance with any kind of direct sales. Both of these experiences were a little creepy, and I knew in my gut that I didn’t want to be involved in anything like that. Not to disrespect the companies in any way of course, but there was sort of a no-hold-barred-cultish-ness to the way I was approached and I just knew that it felt icky. Fast forward 15-ish years when I discovered Stella & Dot via a friend, it just didn’t give me that same ‘ick’ feeling. The product was cool and the girls selling it were just like me. Normal. Interested in fashion. And just wanted to make a little extra money.

Stella & Dot, scarlett musings, pretty interesting, scarlett director, director stella & Dot

But hindsight is 20/20 or so the saying goes! I learned some valuable things along the way that I wish I would have known – about direct sales, leadership and business in general. Sharing them is the best thing I can do to pay it forward – and perhaps dispel some myths about starting your own direct sales business.

There will ALWAYS be people who think your business is a Pyramid Scheme.

What is a Pyramid Scheme anyway? I have heard that so many times, especially from older people that doubt the business model. They obviously have had that ‘ick’  feeling somewhere along the way also.

By definition on WikipediaA pyramid scheme is an unsustainable business model that involves promising participants payment or services, primarily for enrolling other people into the scheme, rather than supplying any real investment or sale of products or services to the public.

Well that does sound a little icky! But most businesses like mine and other competitors out there these days are far from a pyramid scheme. They are sustainable, above-board businesses that cut out the middle-man (retailer) and sell direct to customer. Especially if they offer multiple products like we have. However MLM’s or multi-level marketing can be a different animal:

Again on Wikipedia: The network marketing or multi-level marketing (MLM) business has become associated with pyramid schemes. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, many MLM schemes “simply use the product to hide their pyramid structure”. While some people call MLMs in general “pyramid selling,” others use the term to denote an illegal pyramid scheme masquerading as an MLM.

Okay so both the terms Pyramid Scheme and MLM’s give direct marketing and sales businesses a bad rap. So be prepared to answer these questions from nay-sayers early on the game. Because you will be running across them frequently from doubters and or maybe people who just don’t want to buy from you anyway. The sooner you know the difference and the sooner you know more about your company’s mission that you can recite verbatim, the easier it is to put these questions to bed! Nothing is worse than fumbling for answers! Or wondering yourself: Is it a pyramid scheme? #badrap

tupperware party 1950s, home parties of yesterday, vintage images, scarlett stella & dot

Not everyone that is in your inner circle will support your business. And that is okay.

The sooner you accept this, the better off you will be. Because it is actually easier to sell and deal with people that ARE NOT in your circle. Business is business and in a direct sales business, starting off with friends and family is common practice and quite accepted. However, the sooner that you get out of the friends and family circle, the better things will be for you. When I had my retail store, I blindly went into it thinking that ‘if everyone I know buys all of their makeup, body products and gifts from me, I will have a rocking business‘. And then when they didn’t, I was disappointed! It is much easier to sell product to people that really want to buy it because they love it and they don’t feel guilted into it. Because if they do, and then they don’t love what they bought, you will have to deal with that later anyhow! If you are selling a good product that YOU love and YOU believe in, get out there and find other people that do too. It’s as simple as that. #workhard

stella dot hoopla, stella&dot success

Some of my SD teamies at Hoopla Orlando 2014

You have to be willing to work hard.

We get paid a great commission for selling – most direct sales companies pay between 15-30% on product sales, and even more with team commissions. But you have to work to get those sales. They almost NEVER fall in your lap. If I have heard it once, I have heard it 25 times: “I am just going to give it a try and see if it takes off.” Just know that it will NEVER take off without any gas in the engine!! Or another favourite: “I am just going to play it low-key and see where I end up.” That will be no where. Because it doesn’t just happen. Unless you are coming from another very successful direct sales business where you had a massive customer base or a team of 10,000 people underneath you that want to join you on your new venture. I certainly knew that I had to work hard to get my business off the ground, but building a team and getting other people into the business so that I could earn more commissions, I learned that not everyone wants to work that hard. It’s a frustration that drove me crazy for a long while. And I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t know this?! There are multiple legs in this type of business and the sooner you realize that all you can control is your own actions, the better off you will be. #hopeisnotastrategy

Stella & Dot Fall 2014, stella fun, Stella dot, scarlett director

A volunteer army are not necessarily the soldiers you would choose.

This is a volunteer army. People choose to do this, and basically buy themselves a job for the cost of startup. Which is why these businesses do so well in a recession – you can be employed in a day! But with this comes some difficulties sometimes….these are not people that you would hire perhaps. But you are required to mentor them, lead them and/coach them. Our head trainer at Stella & Dot spoke at one of our conferences a few years ago about how we all feel like we all have our little team of ‘weirdos’ – everyone has their team of stylists that they mentor that may be people with eccentricities or quirks – people that we would NEVER hire if we were in the corporate world.  The sooner that you realize that there is not a lot you can do about ‘betty-basement-who-thinks-she-will-become-rich-in-6-months’ and just gently guide her along the way the best you can, the better you will be for it! Accept these people for who they are and what they can teach you. There really is a silver lining in every dark cloud. #truestory

marykay cadillac

The coveted Mary Kay cadillac…

Success is whatever YOU want it to be.

In a business like this it is very easy to get caught up in comparisons. Because really, everyone is doing the same Lather-Rinse-Repeat steps, just maybe at different speeds or with different techniques. But you don’t go to university and learn the ‘trade’ of direct-sales, like you would learn drafting or engineering or micro-biology. So it is very easy to look at others and wonder why they are more successful than you. I knew when I started back in 2008 that I wanted to make at least $2500 a month. That was my benchmark of success. And it still is actually! However 11/12 months of the year I make much more than this. But for awhile I got caught up in our inner-world of titles and comparison. And I became unhappy with myself! And I doubted my abilities and got cynical and snarky about others that were more successful (she lives in a better area, the American girls have more population to draw from, etc.). It took me a VE-RY long time to get to the place of being happy with my own measure of success. But that also means not achieving every company goal, or not earning the plaques and incentives that they challenge us with each season. Learning not to compare yourself with others and sticking to your own barometer will help you be successful in the long run. #hardlesson

After all, we are all entrepreneurs, and we do this business so that we can work for ourselves.

Because we are our own weirdos!

perfect, you are perfect

What did you learn when you started in your own direct sales business?

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Judit gueth, buddha bar, scarlett musings, pretty interesting

Mompreneur Monday – Toronto Designer, Judit Gueth

I have always loved great graphic design and have often thought it may be a career for me at some point in the future (I never want to stop learning!). I met Judit Gueth online while searching for a graphic designer back in 2007. I wanted someone that had a distinct style and I fell in love with some of Judit’s illustrations. I happened to be working in Toronto around that time and we were able to meet and connect over our love of design.

judit gueth, graphic design, pretty pinteresting

One of Judit’s designs that I feel in love with…

These are some of designs that Judit did for my former business, and I still love them!


judit gueth design, graphic design, Scarlett Ballantyne, pretty pinteresting

My Beautilicious Logo by Judit Gueth

Beautilicious logo, judit gueth, good graphics, pretty interesting, scarlett musings

Another variation of my logo – I still love it!

This is one of Judit’s wallpaper designs….again, something I fell in love with!

judit gueth design, scarlett musings, graphic design,

I always loved this wallpaper…

Judit is based out of Toronto and has grown her business from graphic design to wallpaper and rug design. I am so happy that she agreed to be featured on my Mompreneur Monday series. 

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Judit Gueth

Scarlett: In your bio you talk about coming to Canada. What is your background?

Judit: I was born in Hungary by Lake Balaton, the biggest freshwater lake in Europe. It’s a fun place where a lot of people make their money in the summer when the town turns into a busy beehive, and sort of hibernate for the winter. I came here after high school for one year as a nanny to practice my English, and I guess I just kept practicing and practicing.

Scarlett: How did you make a decision to get into graphic design?

Judit: I’ve always loved to draw, and I was always especially drawn to surface design and decorative design. When I got my landed immigrant status, I applied for the Ontario College of Art and Design and studied illustration. After graduating in 1999 with an Associate Diploma I pursued further studies and received a Bachelor of Design degree in 2004. Fresh out of school, I got my portfolio together, started to look for jobs and managed to land one at a children’s clothing company where I was responsible for creating computer graphics and putting repeating patterns and board presentations together. When I started I had no idea how repeats worked, and it turned out nobody else knew how to do them on the computer either, so I had to figure it out from scratch. Before long I was addicted to making them, because they kind of seemed like puzzles, and I like puzzles.:-) After about a year and a half I quit my job for a different one, which turned out to be a disaster, and I found myself on unemployment benefits. At the end it all turned out well, because it enabled me to apply and to participate in a government supported program called Self Employment Benefits Program at the Toronto Business Development Centre. It was a truly amazing one year. I learned a lot and made many friends.

Scarlett: On your About page on your website, you mention that fabric printing was very expensive but not that has changed. Explain the process that you started when you started your business and how it has changed today.

Judit: I got into the SEB Program with a business plan that was about printing fabric. When I started researching printing options, I realized that it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I thought, I’d just take it to the printer and get it done. I went to several places and bumped into a lot of different obstacles. Printing was either really expensive, they couln’t print my designs, because they were too complex, they didn’t print on the right fabric or I had to print large quantities, which of course I wasn’t able to afford. Since I really wanted to print my designs I bought a bunch of different kinds of white fabric to experiment with, and ironed them on freezer paper. This allowed me to put the sheets through my inkjet printer and print straight on the fabric. I made greeting cards out of the fabric I printed at home and sold them to stores and at the One of a Kind Show. It was a great way to practice working for myself and dealing with different stores and customers. Since my greeting card days, digital printing has evolved so much, that now I can print fabric any time and make decorative pillows or sell it by the yard.

Designs by Judit Gueth, pretty pinteresting, mompreneur monday

Designs by Judit Gueth

Scarlett: You have a line of hand tufted rugs and also wallpaper. What made you go into such exciting media?

Judit: When I was making greeting cards I soon realized, that my production capabilities were very limited. It was like working in my own little sweat shop, so I started thinking bigger and bigger, trying to come up with other possibilities for my designs. I came up with rugs and wallpaper which was a huge step from greeting cards. I created a bunch of designs and made appointments with different interior designers to get their opinion on them. Researching manufacturers was very difficult and it still is! I managed to find someone who didn’t use child labour in India to make my rugs, and a wallpaper printer in Toronto to print my wallpaper. Since then, I changed wallpaper printers twice. Working with manufacturers is very tricky and I learned, that you always have to have a plan B. Since my first hand-tufted rugs, I introduced high quality hand-knotted rugs as well. All my rugs are made of pure New Zealand wool, because it’s high quality, soft and luxurious to the touch, and keeps the colours bright. Being environmentally friendly and socially responsible has always been important for my business. My original wallpapers were printed on PVC free nonwovens that don’t emit VOCs. My new wallpaper collection is printed with HP Latex technology, which was developed to reduce the environmental impact of printing by using water based inks instead of solvent based inks. The results look amazing too!

Judit's son Benjamin!

Judit’s son Benjamin!

Scarlett: Your son was born in 2010. How did this change the way you do business?
Judit: I was just getting into my business when Benjamin was born. I applied to exhibit at the Interior Design Show while I was pregnant in 2010, hoping that my baby will arrive after the show. Naturally, he wasn’t going to wait for me to do my show and he was born on setup day. Ed, my husband went from the hospital to set everything up, and I had 5 friends helping in the booth for the duration of the show. I was so grateful to Ed and to my friends for helping me out on such a short notice. While Benjamin was very small I was able to jump on my computer at nap times, or in the evenings and work till 11-12 every day. Besides keeping my business I took on a few graphic design jobs to get extra money. That worked out ok for a couple of years, but since Ben was never the sleeping kind of baby I was getting really exhausted. Last year after I had the flu and pneumonia within 4 months I gave up all the graphic design jobs and put my business into maintenance mode. Sometime you just have to let things go and focus on yourself and your family. I was really glad I did it. It was such a relief! I felt less stressed and spent most evenings relaxing. I was still filling orders and anwering emails, but didn’t do any marketing or create new designs. This September Benjamin started a full time Montessori program, and I was able to get back into business. It’s like starting from scratch again, but my time away from it allowed me to gain new insights into how I do things.

Scarlett: What is your favourite project that you have worked on this far?
Judit: I have sold some of my products to interesting customers. One of the most exciting was the Buddha Bar in Dubai. The interior design firm working on the Spa used my Koi Chinoiserie wallpaper for the walls in the lobby. I tried to get photos from them for a while, but I ended up finding one on the Internet myself . I’ve had some other interesting customers, like the former CEO of Halston, a Hollywood producer, Paul and Joe creator Sophie Albou, and different designers and writers. Apparently, one of my rugs was in the High School Musical movie, but I haven’t seen it yet. I always enjoy creating custom rugs for different rooms. I work with interior designers, we choose colours together and I come up with a few drawings based on the client’s ideas. It’s very rewarding to see how my rug ties the room together. Last month I started working with a new wallpaper printer who can print on pearlized paper and metallics, as well as on matt paper. When I received my first test prints I was stunned by how gorgeous the papers looked. With this new printer I’ll be able to create custom wallpapers as well, which makes me feel like a kid in a candy store.

Judit gueth, buddha bar, scarlett musings, pretty interesting

Judit’s wallpaper designs

Scarlett: What has been your biggest hurdle in the business to date and what lesson did you learn from it?

Judit: The biggest one is money of course! The other big one is manufacturing. Manufacturing can be stressful, because if something is not right, you might end up paying the bill. You’re completely at the mercy of your suppliers. It has happened to me with both rug and wallpaper manufacturing. You definitely learn a lot and you always pay for your lesson. Shipping, and the whole importing process can also surprise you with extra expenses.

judit gueth, pretty interesting, mompreneur monday, scarlett musings

More amazing rug designs

Scarlett: What is your long term goal for your business? Is this something that you always dreamed of doing?

Judit: My long term goal is to build my brand further and maybe some day have a brick store. I’d never thought I would have a design business, I sort of stumbled into it. When I studied illustration I thought I’d be illustrating books. Except for one interest course at OCAD, I never studied textile design, but ended up being a textile designer. Sometimes it’s funny how things work out. I think it’s important to learn and research constantly, and let your business evolve.


Scarlett: If you could give a word of advice to other women out there regarding woman starting a business and building a brand, what would it be?

Judit: Having someone to stand by you and encourage you is very very important. My husband Ed has been wonderful and supportive. He doesn’t work with me as a business partner, he works as a technical writer for Cisco, but he’s always ready to help. When you try to build a brand you need someone to pay the bills and to let you chase your dreams around. He has been helping me with manufacturing expenses and lots of advice. He’s one of the smartest people I know, and I’m grateful to have him by my side. We’re always joking about me spending a lot of money on manufacturing. When I said to him once “see Hon, you’re lucky I don’t ask for expensive jewellery” he said, “no Hon, you do better than that! Expensive jewellery would be cheaper” !

Judit gueth, graphic designer, rug designer

Judit and Ed at the Interior Design Show in Toronto

Wallpaper, Textile Design
Hand-Knotted/Tufted Rugs
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Don’t let how you are perceived to be, hinder who you dream to be!

Recently I attended a funeral of an aquaintance in our community.  He was a very well-respected person and there were many people in attendance. Because I am often caught up in my daily life, I saw many women that I usually don’t have an opportunity to see.  I had what I thought was a nice conversation with a fellow mom – a professional whom I admire very much. She works very hard and is very well-known in our community. Having had spent many years working in the corporate world, I certainly don’t feel intimidated or lesser-than when I am talking to a professional – I think I can hold my own! When I see her, she tells me that she has a master’s degree every. single. time., but that’s okay too. Perhaps that is her way of justifying the fact that she works a lot….hey, I work a lot too. But she made a comment to me, something to the effect of  ‘that little jewelry sale you had‘, which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It was that moment of, I can’t be sure, but I think you are being condescending!. And then, as I cheerfully answered her, I saw that glazed, I-am-not-really-listening-because-I-am-totally-not-interested-and-could-care-less look on her face. Wow! Did that ever tick me off! I know that I was feeling the energy of the environment, and of course a little sad, which is probably why I took it that way. But what I realized was that she didn’t view me as a peer – but rather as someone who just did a little ‘hobby-job’, which is what many people think of social selling and direct sales. When I thought about it more, I thought of all of those comeback things that I could have said but never would have (Did you know that I work with a lot of women who make 6-figures, and do it from home, being their own boss and making their own schedules?!). That is not my style. And I am usually pretty confident. So I shrugged it off. I wanted to scream from my car on the way home You know I was quoted in the Globe & Mail! I was in BC Business Magazine! I am home with my kids every night!

But I didn’t.

And then I read this quote online that perfectly summed it up:

Don’t let how you are perceived to be, hinder who you dream to be!

Remember that!