Katie Jones sells Avon. Believe it or not, she does so without wearing a skirt suit, without dinging strangers' doorbells, and without ever uttering the words "Avon calling."
Jones, 20, studies English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She holds a part-time data entry job, but relies on her Avon income to finance her books and cover her car payment. On a recent Sunday afternoon she logged onto her Facebook account, not to check in on friends' status updates, but to track her Avon orders.
Your mother wouldn't recognize this Avon lady, or representative as she's now referred to, if she was staring directly at her Avon-decorated face.
"It's not about the nice older lady with the pillbox hat anymore," Jones says. "The face of Avon is changing. You can see it, not just with who sells Avon, but with the product lines, too."
Sure, the brand that celebrates its 125th anniversary this year still sells four lipsticks a second, but its offerings have extended far beyond just beauty products. Skin care, hair care, accessories, fashion, intimates, jewelry, kids' clothes and toys, and bakeware can all be purchased from an Avon catalog.
Furthering its adaptation to the modern woman -- and, sometimes the modern man -- Avon has cuddled up close to a marketing force known as the celebrity. "Twilight" star Ashley Greene represents the mark. line. Fragrances such as Bloom by Reese Witherspoon, Outspoken by Fergie, Patrick Dempsey Unscripted and Derek Jeter Driven help the brand's hip factor. They also get a younger demographic to pay attention.
Jones, for instance, registered to sell Avon just five days after she turned 18. She researched a slew of other direct sales companies, including Arbonne, Scentsy and Mary Kaye Cosmetics. In the end, Avon's $10 startup fee and nonrequirement to purchase and keep an inventory spoke to the then high school student's modest financial status.
Laura Robinson, Avon divisional sales manager for Las Vegas, has noticed a hand-me-down trend that she credits for keeping the brand young. "A number of representatives in Las Vegas have had the business passed down from mother to daughter," she says. "You used to hear, 'Oh yeah, my grandma sold Avon.' Now you hear, 'Oh yeah, my grandmother sold Avon, but so did my mom and now I do, too.' "
According to Robinson, it's not unusual to see committed and determined representatives grow their businesses into six-figure incomes.
The commission works on a sliding scale based on sales made every two weeks. If representatives sell $25 of product, they receive 20 percent of their sales. If they sell $135, they receive 30 percent. They can earn up to 50 percent of sales, which kicks in once they've sold $1,550 worth of product.
Young women who can use extra income find the work-at-your-own-pace system an attractive option.
Yesenia Ward, a 28-year-old wife and mother of two, signed up for Avon under a representative who earns $40,000 a year. Right now Ward's earnings take care of her kids' school expenses, but with every Avon book she drops at the bank, Starbucks and Walmart, she has $40,000 on her mind.
Representatives can also earn long-term money based on the number of people they recruit. Ward has 13 women under her. She started selling three years ago, when she came across a brochure and remembered her mom's loyalty to the brand while she was growing up.
"I remember her folding the (catalog) pages and scribbling all over them," she says. "Now, my mom still scribbles in the book. She's basically my number one customer."
She's also her number one informant. When Ward's mom came across other Avon representatives selling product in her daughter's neighborhood she quickly alerted Ward and asked if she planned to "report" them. Back when her mother originally started buying Avon, representatives were designated "territories." Without the reach of the Internet (reps are given personal websites from which to sell product and many use Facebook), competition was cutthroat.
Today, Ward has customers in California and makes deliveries all over town. She's one of 6.5 million sales representatives in more than 100 markets around the globe. Competition these days doesn't depend exclusively on one's neighbors. It's more about networking, something that's liberated Ward of her shyness.
The way she tells it, "Avon sells itself." Women over 50 are quick to jump aboard. The younger women are a little harder, but the budget-conscious prices can usually make converts out of nonbelievers. For example, a recent brochure advertises Avon Perfect Wear Extralasting Lip Gloss, which actress Zoe Saldana is the face of, for $3.99. A Butler Basics Essential handbag sells for $39.99. And, a Modern Art statement necklace in the mark. brochure costs just $16.
Ward is used to telling friends who are her age about Avon and getting the same response. "They're just like, 'Avon? Isn't that for older ladies?' " she says. "Then I show them the book and they see the accessories and clothes. ... They buy from me with every campaign."
Log onto avon.com to find a representative, start selling Avon or to purchase products.