Women look to direct sales to build their own empires
In 2010, there were 15.8 million direct sales representatives.
8.9 percent devote at least 30 hours per week
81.8 percent of the representatives are female
Margaret Baros joined Mary Kay 29 years ago to earn extra income. All she had was a small starter kit and big dreams.
"In order to win, you must begin," she told herself.
The former insurance employee quit her job to sell beauty products full time because it was more lucrative.
The 55-year-old Yoakum resident also had the flexibility to raise her children.
Baros has been promoted from a sales consultant to an independent senior sales director with the Dallas-based cosmetics company. She's willing to travel 100 miles to make a sale. During her career, she has earned 11 cars, including the coveted pink Cadillac, jewelry and a host of other accolades.
Selling beauty products has become Baros' passion and life's work.
"I get to have fun and be my own boss," she said.
Baros is part of a 15.8 million sales force of independent representatives, according to the Direct Selling Association's website. This business model yielded $28.6 billion in 2010.
Vanessa DeDear joined lia sophia three years ago because of the financial potential and flexible schedule. The mother of two appreciates the continuous training and support she receives.
"You're in business for yourself, but not by yourself," said the independent unit manager.
The 40-year-old Victoria resident hung up her nurse scrubs to sell jewelry full time.
DeDear had no sales background but the self-proclaimed jewelry lover took a chance.
"I never sold anything a day in my life, but I'll give it a try," she said.
During her three-year career, DeDear has been promoted once because of the number of her recruits.
Facebook has helped her keep customers updated about monthly specials. She also sends email blasts. She said that she books two to three parties a week.
Krystin Ortiz has reaped the benefits of hosting. She paid $236 for $1,800 worth of jewelry and appreciates the company's lifetime guarantee.
"Once I got started, I fell in love," Ortiz said. Now the surgical technician has gifts for Mother's Day, Christmas and every holiday in between.
DeDear said that only 6 percent of women earn six-figure incomes and 80 percent of those women earn those figures through direct sales. Although she hasn't reached that landmark yet, she's working to reach it through more parties.
"You can work part time, full time, or big time," she said.
Jennifer Lowder sells lia sophia and Thirty-One gift bags. She said the two businesses complement one another.
"I got into the bags to boost my jewelry sales; it's taken a life of its own," she said.
The 28-year-old Victoria native maintains her position as an accountant. Lowder's favorite part of the business is building relationships with customers.
Although the St. Joseph High School graduate slows down events during tax season, she tries to book four to five parties a month.
The mother of two said that her supportive family helps her to balance a hectic schedule.
"It's a work in progress," she said. "But my husband and I have been able to make it work."
Baros' husband, Bennie Baros, lends his support by entering sales orders and attending conferences. The married couple of 36 years have more time to spend with the grandchildren because of the lucrative business.
Instead of seeing a dip in sales with the recession, the tenured sales representative has seen an increase in business.
"The things that survived after World War II were cigarettes, alcohol and lipstick," she said.
Baros added that women may not be able to afford a new wardrobe but can pinch pennies to save for their favorite lip color.
The grandmother of two said she books two or three parties a week. Baros doesn't encounter a stranger.
She met Mary Herron in a checkout line.
Herron had to reschedule her parties twice before to take care of an ill friend.
"I think the third time was a charm," she said.
As the party began, Baros made the guests start with a clean slate: no makeup.
Carmen Martinez put up a little resistance.
"So you're making me take off my lipstick," she asked.
Baros replied, "I am."
After a hand massage and mini facial, Martinez said she felt younger. But Baros wasn't finished making magic happen.
She found a foundation and lipstick to suit the breast cancer survivor. With the stroke of a brush, Martinez transformed. She took down her hair and moved her tresses from side-to-side.
"I feel gorgeous," she said as she gazed in the mirror.
The fairy godmother of cosmetics said she lives for those "aha moments."
Baros has been a star consultant and received company recognition for 115 sales quarters. She's even earned a Go-Give award for best exemplifying the company by helping others. In one month, she earned an $8,000 commission check.
Her Mary Kay career is one most sales representatives see only in their dreams.
"I just can't believe it myself," she said.