Selling success

Staff ~ The The Gulf News
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Debbie Parsons likes her new pink Cadillac.

Of course, it isn't simply her Cadillac. Ask her about it and she'll talk about her unit, the 61 other businesswomen she mentors who helped her reach her goal.

Debbie Parsons stands by her Mary Kay pink Cadillac. She has been selling Mary Kay products for three years and received the Cadillac as a reward for her teams performance.

Debbie Parsons likes her new pink Cadillac.

Of course, it isn't simply her Cadillac. Ask her about it and she'll talk about her unit, the 61 other businesswomen she mentors who helped her reach her goal.

"When I'm driving the Cadillac, it feels like a dream come true. It's a symbol - it shows women this is an obtainable goal," she said.

Mrs. Parsons has been selling Mary Kay products for five and a half years. She's just one of thousands of Newfoundlanders who sell products by catalogue in their spare time.

Known as direct selling, it is an industry worth $1.96 billion in Canada as of last year according to the Direct Sellers Association of Canada.

Although Mary Kay Cosmetics was one of the pioneers in the business model, there are now dozens of Canadian businesses that ask average citizens - many retired or with day jobs - to market products to friends, family and neighbors in their spare time.

For Mrs. Parsons, selling Mary Kay cosmetics is not simply a job. She believes in the philosophy of the company, which aims at empowering woman as much as making a profit.

The company was founded in 1963 by its namesake, the late Mary Kay Ash. Ms. Ash bought herself a pink Cadillac after her business became successful, and she incorporated it into her business model.
Mrs. Parsons said that the bottom line of selling Mary Kay isn't profits.

"The bottom line is people - her philosophy was, if you help women get ahead, the rest of it will come in place," said Mrs. Parsons.

Although Mary Kay has teams of women, there are no bosses. Rather, independent businesswomen work together to help each other with their sales.

Many of the direct selling businesses, including Mary Kay, offer rewards beyond cash, such as tropical vacations and discounts on products.

Many sellers take time out of their work schedules to attend regional meetings for their companies. Mrs. Parsons has been to conferences in St. John's and Mississauga, Ont. where awards are handed out and lessons from business professionals are provided.

The flexibility of work hours is what draws many people to direct selling. Donna Greeley of Port aux Basques began selling PartyLite candles six years ago before moving into Avon products. She said the flexible hours may be one of the reasons why so many women take on direct selling.

"I think a lot of it is the home based hours. If your husband is working or you don't have childcare, well you can work around these hours and be your own boss," she said.

For Ms. Greeley, socialization is a big part of what she enjoys about selling the products.

"I do it for the pleasure of it. I enjoy what I'm doing," she said. "I've met a lot of great people by selling Avon and selling PartyLite."

She said the vacations and other bonuses don't really interest her much, although she has gone to provincial meetings for Avon. She was blown away by people from small towns who do six-figure sales in the run of a year.

Codroy Valley resident Candace Farrell found herself selling Pampered Chef products after getting a catalogue from a friend two years ago. She decided to try selling a few things so she could get a discount on the products she wanted. Two years later, she still places regular orders.

Pampered Chef sells high-end cookware and kitchen products. As someone who enjoys cooking as a hobby, Mrs. Farrell decided to start selling Victorian Epicure spices as well.

"I said hey, I'm into Pampered Chef, I'll do the food side of it as well," she said.

As a student with two young children, the flexible hours of direct selling are a bonus. Like Ms. Greeley and Mrs. Parsons, she also enjoys the social aspect of it.

"I love it. Just getting out some nights and getting away from the kids is a nice break," she said.

The extra cash doesn't hurt either, and as someone running a small business out of her home, she gets tax breaks on many of her household expenses.

Most direct selling businesses ask their sellers to either meet with customers or clients one-on-one, or host parties. Mrs. Farrell holds Pampered Chef parties at her friends' homes to show off the cookware.

Lately she has been turning to Facebook to advertise her products.

And while many companies promote selling strategies, and the art of sales, Mrs. Farrell said she finds her product sells itself. As soon as people hear she has catalogues, they want to have a look and place an order.

She does a bit of advertising by using reusable shopping bags with the Pampered Chef logo. She said strangers will occasionally approach her for a catalogue when they see her shopping with the bags.

"I got a show from one of the cashiers," she said with a laugh.

Organizations: Cadillac, Pampered Chef, Direct Sellers Association of Canada Mary Kay Cosmetics

Geographic location: Canada, St. John's, Mississauga Port aux Basques Codroy Valley

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  • Elizabeth
    June 28, 2010 - 14:29

    As a 25 year member of the Mary Kay sales force, I was delighted to read the article featuring Mrs. Parsons. Sincere congratulations to she and her unit! My son, bless him, sent me this article from southern CA, I was proud to see it!