Becoming own boss

Becoming own boss

Chattanooga: Recession creates boom in home-based business

April 8th, 2009 by Amy Williams in Business

Ding-dong, Avon calling.

The unemployed are answering.

Home-based businesses such as Mary Kay, Avon and Pampered Chef are experiencing a surge in popularity as the nation's unemployment rate rises.

Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell Cassandra Rhodes, center, helps Imy Clay, left, with lip gloss colors while Cindy Roberts, rights tries on a different color during a Mary Kay party in Hixson. Ms. Rhodes has been full-time in the Mary Business for 24 years.

Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell Cassandra Rhodes, center, helps...

"Women are flocking to us because they are being thrown out of jobs they were loyal to and they were working hard," said Cassandra Rhodes, a sales director for cosmetics company Mary Kay. "They are looking for something that we're able to give them, which is the fact they are in control; they are their own boss."

And who wouldn't want to do these businesses? They throw parties, bake cookies and try out new shades of lipstick all while earning cash bonuses, vacations and cars.

Women such as Ms. Rhodes, 52, who lives in Hixson, say people - mostly women - of all ages and education levels are suddenly interested in selling products through direct-sales businesses. These days, those businesses can mean selling everything from jewelry and make-up to cookware and candles.


The industry has a sales force of 15 million people, 88 percent of whom are women, according to the Direct Selling Association.

"The women who come into this and work it like they work another job are probably going to get rewarded two, three, four times what they are making at another job," said Ms. Rhodes, who started selling Mary Kay cosmetics from her home 24 years ago.

In that time, she has earned the use of 15 company-owned cars and a monthly commission check that once topped $10,000. With the economy in a recession and dismal sales figures for most retail outlets, these direct sales businesses are growing as more people look for control over their careers.

In 2007, direct sales was a $30.8 billion industry, according to the Direct Selling Association based in Washington, D.C. The industry has a sales force of 15 million people, 88 percent of whom are women, the group reported.

East Brainerd resident Miki Ingram, 37, started selling Pampered Chef products five years ago. She became interested in selling the products after wanting to buy everything in the catalog but couldn't afford it. She started a Pampered Chef business and had earned the entire catalog in her first five months.

People such as Ms. Rhodes and Ms. Ingram were initially drawn to the businesses because of the products, which are relatively inexpensive purchases. More than half of the cookware in the Pampered Chef catalog is less than $25.

"(We've seen) a huge increase in sales, in attendance and in people who want to give this a try," said Ms. Ingram.

Cosmetics sales also are faring well, Ms. Rhodes said, because makeup is "highly consumable" and her customers often see the purchases as a treat. She also said sales have been steady within her customer base, which consists of about 350 clients in the area. She has more than 100 people in her sales unit.

"Our attitude about the recession is, we're recession proof; cosmetics is a feel-good product that women will always buy - it's a small ticket item," she said. "They may not be able to afford new bedroom furniture or a new car, but they can always buy new lipstick."