I mentioned in last week's Maven post that my conversation with Lori from Premier Designs warranted at least two weeks, and so we are continuing with Part II today. (note: in case you missed Part I, click here to catch up!)
I was inspired by Lori's personal story of fortitude, and we spent a great deal of time talking about overcoming obstacles, working for yourself, and building confidence. Beyond that, though, there is another element to Lori's work that I wanted to highlight because I think it is an important part of female entrepreneurialism: the home-party business model.
Most of us are familiar with this type of work. You host a party and invite your friends and coworkers. Then a representative from the company (be it Party Lite or Mary Kay or Avon or Pampered Chef) comes and makes a presentation about the products. Samples are tried, perhaps games are played, and--if the party is good--wine is served. The representative has two goals at the parties: one is to sell products, and two is to possibly recruit other women to join the company as well.
Now--let's be honest: these business models often get a bad rap. Because the products, and the selling venue, are very...well..."girly," they tend to not garner the kind of respect that more "formal" business get. They are chided for being "hobbies" rather than "jobs," and therefore aren't taken seriously by some. And because so many women dip their feet into selling but then quickly fizzle out, they have a reputation for over-promising success.
Because these are common perceptions, I wanted to give Lori a chance to address them, and make a case for why this type of business model has been so good for her. Here were the points she made:
1. Home-party businesses allow women/mothers to work from home, which was critically important for a single mom like Lori. They offer the kind of flexibility that moms need in a way that most jobs do not.
2. There are great opportunities for coaching and mentorship. I envied Lori as she talked about some of the women in her company who were there to encourage and motivate her as she built her business. And I know she provides the same encouragement to the women selling under her. I know firsthand how lonely entrepreneurship can be, and this type of built-in support can be priceless.
3. Contrary to most start-up businesses, these models often require little overhead (like rent, supplies, inventory, staff, etc.), usually offer financing (at lower rates and for lower amounts than most banks would ever offer), and even provide tax help. In other words, the companies often remove the biggest barriers that might discourage women from running their own businesses, and that is commendable.
4. In Lori's words, you get out of them what you put into them. She acknowledged that many women drop out early, but that the persistent ones are successful. It is a matter of motivation, confidence and endurance, she explained. Lori is a testimony to all three, and supports three children from her "girly" job selling jewelry, so obviously she speaks to success from personal experience.
So, in a nutshell, Lori reminded me that there are many virtues to a home-party business, like support and coaching, financial help, and flexibility. She wanted to encourage women out there to be open minded and even enthusiastic about this type of business and the opportunities it provides for women to work for themselves (so keep that in mind when someone asks you to host a party!). After listening to the benefits, I can see why. Of course not every woman is interested in selling products in the homes of friends and family, but if you are toying with the idea of making some money, and looking for a low-risk opportunity, take it from Lori: consider Premier Designs or another home-party company as a good place to start your home-based career.
On a general note, I have to say that these interviews and stories are by far my most favorite thing to write on this blog. And while this will be the last Maven post for the year, I am really looking forward to hearing more great stories in 2009! And I'm always looking for great Maven candidates, so don't hesitate to email me your story or nomination today at firstname.lastname@example.org!