Home parties pop the lid off
By Amy E. Tucker
Home parties have taken on a new twist in the last decade. Long gone are the stereotypical images of housewives clustered around Tupperware® containers, gossiping about the drudgery of their existence while their husbands are out bowling. Today’s home parties offer everything from scrapbooking, jewelry and candles to wine tasting, lingerie and exotic body lotions!
The growth of home-based, direct-marketing businesses was spawned by the economic downturn of the 90s. But, its evolution occurred simultaneously with society’s shift from an industrial society to a technologically-advanced information and service-based economy.
Families struggling to balance work-life priorities with the need for a double income found respite through the convenience of selling established products with a corporate support structure. The added flexibility and convenience of working from home and creating their own schedule closed the deal and new companies burst onto the scene to absorb the multibillion dollar industry.
For some, the direct-marketing business is a full-time job. For others, it’s a way to bring in additional income.
“I’m a single mom,” explained Paula Genovesi, 37, who sells Silpada designs® jewelry. “I already have two full-time jobs between my kids and my work as a hairdresser. I’m adding this as a third job for extra income.”
Father and daughter team Rick Hardy and Stephanie Messercola turned to The Traveling Vineyard as an easy way to earn extra cash while maintaining their full time jobs.
In a little over six months in business the duo boasts the 25th highest sales in the company for May 2007 and were number one in sales for the Capital District territory.
“It’s been so much fun working with my daughter, learning a lot and meeting so many great people,” said Hardy, 54, who works in retail. Not to mention the amount of things they’re learning about the wine business, the different grapes and the countries they come from.
Messercola, a 27-year-old physician’s assistant, said the extra income comes in handy for projects she and her husband want to do around the house, but says “tasting the wines” is where it’s at.
Her favorite? “A 2002 Stone Briar Old Vine Zinfandel, which is a red wine from California. It has fruity qualities, but not in the sweetness per se.”
Her father recommends the 2005 Moscato d’asti, a champagne-colored dessert wine.
“It leaves a nice, refreshing taste in your mouth after you’ve tasted some white and red wines.”
The Traveling Vineyard makes wine-tasting easy and affordable by selling direct to consumers and providing online support systems for training and product knowledge. The wine list boasts 67 varieties with another 50-60 available online. Costs range from $11.99 to $17.99 plus $8 shipping per bottle.
“They offer many varieties and flavors including sparkling, reds, whites, after dinner and dessert wines,” said Hardy. “We work two hours a night and can bring in $500 a show by enjoying ourselves and having a great time!”
The initial investment of time and money varies depending on the company, but nearly all direct-sales businesses offer a starting kit containing product, sales forms, catalogues and other information.
Creative Memories scrapbooking offers a kit valued at $350 for a $200 investment and they don’t require consultants to complete a minimum number of shows or reach a specific sales target to keep it.
“The low investment was a no-brainer for me,” said Tammy James, 37, who started her business as a hobby to support her habit of scrapbooking.
The mother of five children, who also runs a heating and cooling business with her husband, found the flexibility of the company worked nicely with her lifestyle.
“You can run your business any way you want as long as you don’t promote competing scrapbooking product [which she dubbed ‘contraban’] at your workshops.”
Genovesi didn’t have the full start-up costs for Silpada kit, so she paid $225 for the paperwork and catalogues and is borrowing jewelry from her team leader, the individual who introduced her to Silpada and who gets commission based upon Genovesi’s sales. The company offers incentive tiers for new consultants with sales challenges built in to help them earn free product for their kit.
Silpada jewelry is .925 sterling silver with natural gem stones and a lifetime guarantee. Individual pieces cost between $30 and $80 and consultants can earn a 30 percent cash bonus from the sales of the show.
“You can make $200-$300 per show which is great for two hours of work,” said Genovesi. “People who are familiar with this brand of jewelry are like groupies; they want to keep going to parties to see new product and buy more!”
The Traveling Vineyard charges $300 for their start-up kit which includes 18 glasses, paperwork and catalogues, accessories such as corkscrews and wine charms and a five bottles of demo wine.
“It took about six hours of prep time to prepare for our first show,” said Hardy. “The online resources are fabulous, including product demos and individual websites for each consultant to recruit and track orders. We even have a local group of consultants who created a forum for asking questions and sharing ideas.”
Genovesi agrees that the online resources for direct-marketing companies save her time and facilitate her business.
“Silpada makes it very easy to submit your orders online,” she explained. “People can pay for their orders at the party and consultants have the option of using debit and credit cards or even PayPal® to reconcile orders with the company.”
Both Hardy and James cited the social aspect of the businesses as a reason they enjoy the work.
“The large wine-drinking audience includes 21 to 60-year-olds and keeps growing,” explained Hardy. “Wine sales have begun to surpass the beer industry which is great for business!”
At James’ weekend workshops or “crops” that she holds a few times a year in a hotel, she gets to bond with her friends and share stories about their families, while scrapbooking around the clock.
“We get together and share stories about our families, while we’re putting together pages about our lives,” said James. “It’s a lot more fun than sitting around for two hours and having a cookie.”
Another growing trend includes gender-neutral parties. In an industry formerly dominated by women, men have jumped on the direct-sales bandwagon and are working as consultants, hosting parties and attending Jack and Jill get-togethers with other couples and friends.
“Two of my male clients are among my best customers,” said James. “They have traveled to Egypt and all over the world and are creating elaborate scrapbooks of their trips.”
Regardless of the business, prospective consultants need to do their homework and be prepared for bumpy roads.
“You’ll need to plan to invest a little bit of money to get started,” said Genovesi. “And, you have to keep a positive attitude and expect to succeed or that self-doubt will show at your parties and be reflected in your sales.”
Messercola agreed. “You need to come into it with an open mind. There will be some weeks that you don’t have parties scheduled. But, if you work a little bit at your business, you can make it be fun and successful.”
James tells people it’s hard to make money in this business unless you already have a large circle of friends who scrapbook. “I show them my financials for my first two years in business and show them my losses in black and white.”
Last year she turned a $1,000 profit, yet she admits that even with the extra product, she’s not current on her children’s scrapbooks.
“I’m as lax as most of my customers,” she laughed. “I finally finished my 17-year-old’s baby book, but I still have the other four to do!”
For more information on The Traveling Vineyard visit www.myttv.com/0, Creative Memories visit www.creativememories.com/ and Silpada visit www.silpada.com/public/.
Amy E. Tucker is a freelancer writer who lives in Clifton Park.