Live 5 Investigates: Risks and rewards of social sales

VIDEO: Risks and rewards of social sales

More people are quitting their full-time, corporate jobs for direct


It's a growing niche in the sales industry, especially for women. For a few hundred dollars, women are buying into companies that sell anything from weight loss, to makeup to jewelry.

These days, it's less of your mom's living room Tupperware party and more of an interactive party via social media.

Facebook users are being invited to parties, at home and online, all intended to sell products.

"Women love to shop together, that's not a secret," Lola McDonald, Senior Consultant for 31 Gifts, said.

McDonald, like many others, didn't start selling her product with an intention to make it a career.

"I went into it solely to get a discount on the product," McDonald said.

Depending on how much the new sales representative puts down to get involved, they can get get up to 75 percent off the products. McDonald said she's been shocked with her own success.

"I'm a former teacher and choreographer, so not having a business background was a little bit of a concern of me when I first started," McDonald said.

Most companies provide starter kits with products, a business plan and mentors on call.

"I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur, I always wanted to own my own business but the thought is kind of daunting," Winnie Timmons, a sales consultant for Advocare, said. "One thing that i liked about this is its kind of a business in a box."

Timmons was in publishing for seven years and decided last year to take a pay cut, and follow her instinct.

According to the direct sales association, a record number of people, 16.8 million, were direct selling in the U.S. in 2013. A majority of those sales representatives are married women, and about half have children under 18 years old.

Nicole Johnson Shealy, a former reporter at Live 5 News, left the industry to raise her young family. She now also sells her favorite jewelry line on the side.

"Interacting with other adults is something that you end up missing out on a lot when you stay home with your children full time," Shealy said.

It's not just about the socializing or making some extra money for the family, some people do it because they really believe in the product they're selling and use it themselves to promote wellness.

"I was already telling everyone about the oils because I loved them," Jessica Martin, Wellness Advocate for Doterra, said.

They are also using social media to attract customers.

"Its a great way to communicate with people during the day," Timmons said.

They all say they try to find customers, without bombarding their friends and family's Facebook feeds.

"It comes off as desperate and weird," Timmons said.

According to the Direct Sales Association, for the last six years, more people are accepting this kind of sales approach. However, that still leaves nearly 70 percent of consumers surveyed who aren't big fans.

"Good sales people don't even have to sell, they just present the product," said Shealy. "If people like it, they buy it. If they don't want it, they don't buy it."

Whether it's hundreds or thousands of dollars, bringing in extra income for their families is something these women say they are proud of.

"My paycheck is purely based on how hard I work," said Timmons.

There are other risks involved. If sales doesn't turn out to be as successful as one would imagine, the money put down is not refunded.

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