by Bianca M. Strzalkowski
By now, you likely have a friend who has invited you to a party or enticed you to try the products they are passionate about.
Direct sales careers have become commonplace within the military community because it gives spouses more control of their careers. Plus, these women and men typically fall in love with the products as customers before launching their own venture.
From Scentsy to Longaberger, these direct sales companies are established brands. Yet, the innerworkings of these types of business models are often riddled with misconceptions, consultants say.
Kande Hein, who recently relocated to Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, has sold Scentsy for the last five years. The Air Force wife has a Master’s degree in marketing, and an undergraduate degree in journalism.
“I was that girl. The one who thought direct sales was likely a fun hobby, but never an actual career and anyone who said otherwise was just trying to sell more stuff,” Hein said. “I’m so thankful every day that an overseas PCS forced me to understand the model and to appreciate that — finally — the work I put into my business and mentoring my team, is directly reflected in my paycheck.”
She initially was introduced to Scentsy while visiting a friend. The fragrance reminded her of home. Still, it wasn’t until her career was forced on a detour that she seriously considered starting her own business. Hein’s husband received orders to Korea and life changed swiftly.
“Within 3 months we lived overseas, and I was no longer able to use my Master’s degree or work. I felt like my identity had been stripped overnight,” she explained. “I spent six months, quite honestly with a touch of depression and tried everything to fill my cup — I wrote for an Australian blog, I designed a cookbook, sat on the board and rebranded the Officer’s Spouses Club, and volunteered so many hours that I was up for volunteer of the year for the entire base.”
Today, Hein is an Independent Scentsy Star Director and manages a team across six countries and more than 30 states. The career has allowed her to earn incentives, such as trips to Greece and Cancun.
How to Start from Scratch
Like most military spouses, Hein has experienced several military relocations. One of her priorities is to teach her team how to establish a customer base after a PCS move. Her suggestions are:
- Create a neighborhood Facebook group,
- Host a ‘Get to Know Your Neighbors’ event featuring your product,
- Get involved in the community (chamber, toastmasters, PTO, social media groups),
- Create and plan an event where there is a void,
- Create and suggest advertising space that doesn’t yet exist,
- Trade displaying your product and a customer or employee giveaway with another small business,
- Donate product to local businesses in exchange for advertising of your business, and
- Find events that you can share your product and meet new people.
No Boundaries: A Career on Her Own Terms
Longtime Army wife Tina Shifflett has sold Longaberger — a company that offers handcrafted baskets and other lifestyle products made in the U.S. — for 17 years. She was drawn to the Ohio-based company after being frustrated that she couldn’t find quality employment opportunities, even with a graduate degree on her resume.
“I was told that my Master’s degree overqualified me and there was nothing available unless I wanted to sell insurance on commission,” she said. “At the time, our daughter was 2-3 years old and I didn’t want to pay daycare to work a commission-based job, especially in a very difficult market.
Longaberger helped Shifflett find a use for her education on flexible terms.
“It has helped me use my degree to market myself and my company,” she clarified. “I can take it on vacation, and my website is always open.”
Shifflett, who is stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama, advises spouses to get to know their audience by connecting with local groups, such as Bunco clubs. She adds that the Internet has changed the game.
“I used to travel to do on home parties, but as the popularity of social media grew, people moved to preferring the online party,” she said. “A host or hostess can invite their friends, family and neighbors to shop online from the convenience of their own home, in their pajamas at any time of the day or night.”
Engage – Engage – Engage
Meredith Eckard, a Marine wife, adds that online engagement offers direct sales entrepreneurs the chance to cultivate relationships and build loyalty. The Scentsy Director has managed her business for the last seven years, and uses social media as part of her party planning strategy.
“There are several types of ‘parties’ I like to do: LIVESTREAM on Facebook, in-home parties and on-the-go parties. All parties start with the same steps, coaching my hostess to teach them how to get the most products for the littlest out of pocket,” Eckard said. “Then, every party has the same basic elements — and with Scentsy — these elements are provided to you with your business starter kit.”
In addition to offering a career without limitations, Eckard emphasizes that the portability factor is a great value to fellow military spouses.
“Having young children with your military spouse deployed or training long hours with little to no family or friend support does not lend well to the ability to get a job out of the house, much less a stable, portable career. When you add in a special needs child the ability seems near impossible,” she said.
“I am not only a business owner — I am a trainer, motivational speaker, friend, and cheerleader. My business goes where I go,” adds Eckard.
Meredith’s tips for becoming a superstar in your direct sales business:
- Talk to everyone,
- Go to unit functions,
- Reach out the realtors in the area,
- Communicate with customers at your previous duty station,
- Always ask for the referral.
Connect with the spouse entrepreneurs featured in this article:
Kande Hein, Scentsy: https://kande.scentsy.us/
Favorite product: “One of my very favorite products is the Black Raspberry Vanilla Washer Whiffs. These laundry heroes beautifully fragrance your clothes and make that chore just a little less awful!”
Tina Shifflett, Longaberger: http://www.longaberger.com/tinashifflett
Favorite product: “I like the medium hanging basket to use as a catch-all to keep up with those things you are always misplacing. Sunglasses, keys, and chargers!”
Meredith Eckard, Scentsy: http://www.firefreescents.com/ Favorite product: “Buddy Clips, they can be used on backpacks, hanging in lockers and I love to use mine as a key ring