66°F
weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Las Vegas workers buy into direct selling

Updated August 6, 2017 - 6:57 pm

Amelia Cooper, 33, showed up to her friend’s house on a Thursday night prepared to eat, drink, socialize and spend up to $50 that she budgeted to support her new friend’s side gig: Plunder Design.

Plunder, founded in 2014, is one of several in a crop of multilevel-marketing companies that are making the rounds on social media and making their way into Nevada.

The Direct Selling Association estimates that there are around 173,180 people involved in direct selling in the state. You might have seen some of them on Facebook, selling Plunder jewelry, leggings from LuLaRoe, or lipstick from SeneGence.

The recession attracted Nevadans into the direct-selling industry, according to data from the U.S. Current Population Survey. And though the local economy is out of the woods, the industry continues to draw locals in.

“The bigger question is, of course, do they really make any money at this?” posed William Keep, dean of The College of New Jersey School of Business and one of few independent academics who study multilevel-marketing companies.

It depends.

Three local direct sellers for different multilevel-marketing companies say that they are in the industry because they like the products they sell and they are either making money, hoping to make money or enjoying the work and not expecting any regular income.

direct sellers graphic breakdown

Las Vegas Review-Journal

Earners

“I had a cocktail job in Vegas that made money, and I make more money doing this,” said Teresa Isgriggs, who became a SeneGence distributor in July 2016 and quit her job at the Rio in April.

As a SeneGence distributor, Isgriggs sells skin-care products, which range from anti-aging foundation to facial moisturizer, and makeup products, which range from eye shadow to lipstick.

She has slowly built up a stock of inventory for potential buyers to try and buy on the spot. Isgriggs estimates she has close to 100 new lipsticks on hand, with about 35 additional tester lipsticks and glosses on hand for people to try. She also has a handful of tester skin-care products and several dozen other makeup items. Much of this stock is stored in her home on her work desk and in a briefcase she takes with her to vendor parties.

SeneGence does not have an income disclosure statement available on its website, and the company did not respond to a request for comment.

Isgriggs said company policy prevents her from disclosing exactly how much she earns, but she said it’s enough to feel good about contributing to her household income.

SeneGence became the “key to staying home” with her son, she said.

What makes a direct seller financially successful is largely determined by how many people already have been recruited in a given market, Keep said.

SeneGence reports having around 200,000 total distributors nationwide, with about 2,400 of those in Nevada.

In most cases, Keep said, the earlier a direct seller penetrates a market, the more opportunity for that person to make money than the next because direct sellers can make more money from recruiting additional sellers than from their own product sales.

Isgriggs confirmed that is the case for her and estimated that she reinvests about a quarter of what she earns back into SeneGence products.

Hopefuls

For Courtney Everard, who became a Plunder stylist in May, being a direct seller is “a side hustle I can have fun with.”

Everard still works full time as a sales and event coordinator at MEET Las Vegas. She became a stylist because she already bought a few pieces of jewelry that she really liked, and she said people were asking her where she bought them.

“At that point, it kind of just turned into a, ‘Well, this is silly. Why don’t I just get it for them?’” she said. At the same time, she was already spending money on the product.

“I like jewelry, I like big jewelry, I like lots of jewelry,” she said. “For me, it was kind of a no-brainer. There was no harm, no foul in getting involved. … If it’s just something I could put towards a credit card bill, or putting away money for the baby we (Everard and her husband) plan to have, I’m OK with that.”

Everard said she has about a dozen pieces ready to sell and about 20 personal pieces for anyone to try.

A month and a half in, Everard said she has made back the $99 it costs to become a Plunder stylist.

According to Plunder’s 2016 income disclosure statement, which Everard read, “Less than 12 percent of all Stylists earned more than $1,000 in 2016.” Meanwhile, the company reported that the average annual expenses a Stylist incurs are $1,074.40.

“It basically told me that I would have to make sure that I am selling enough to cover the cost of any personal purchases I make on the products I like — purchases that I probably would be making regardless — and potentially still make extra on top,” Everard said.

Everard might be positioned to do better than average because Plunder reports having fewer than 11,000 total distributors nationwide, with about 45 of those in Nevada, which means there is significant opportunity to recruit additional sellers.

Everard hosted a combined vendor party with Isgriggs on July 20, at which Everard sold Plunder products and Isgriggs sold SeneGence products.

Hobbyists

For Deana Didier, an independent fashion retailer for LuLaRoe, selling “buttery soft leggings” since February 2016 has been a creative outlet.

Between working the graveyard shift full time as an X-ray technician and juggling her family life, she said she wanted something of her own that she was passionate about.

Though she said that she became a retailer so she didn’t have to work two jobs, she is not yet as financially successful as she would like to be.

LuLaRoe’s 2016 income disclosure statement accounts only for income that retailers made based on the sales production of their teams. According to consumer advocacy group Truth in Advertising, the statement shows more than 85 percent of retailers received no bonuses in 2015 and the average annual bonus paid to a LuLaRoe retailer at all ranks was $92.

“Either way, I’m in this for the experience,” Didier said. “I’m happy to do this like I am for the fun, in order to meet new people, to help others feel confident — whether it’s as another retailer or as a customer in the clothes.”

On average, she estimated she reinvests half of what she makes back into the product. Didier has created what she calls a “mobile boutique,” a trailer with more than 700 items of clothing.

Sometimes she will reinvest all of what she makes depending on the financial needs of her household, she said.

A LuLaRoe spokesman said there are 527 LuLaRoe retailers in Nevada and more than 80,000 across the country.

Skeptics

The direct selling industry has battled a negative perception about how the industry operates. In the past 40 years the Federal Trade Commission has filed 26 cases against multilevel-marketing companies alleging that they were operating like pyramid schemes, according to Truth in Advertising. In nearly all of the cases, the companies in question went out of business or had to restructure their business models, per terms of the settlement.

Cooper said she believes millennials are changing the negative perception as 20- and 30-somethings are using multilevel-marketing companies to make money doing something they’re passionate about. She added that anything can be a scam, depending on the people involved.

“The only reason why MLMs get attached to that label is because they cast a wider net than say, a journalist or a makeup artist. More people are involved in that game, or the game doesn’t work,” Cooper said.

Isgriggs, Everard and Didier said they did not have a negative perception about multilevel-marketing companies and haven’t come across many people who do, as many of their friends are also in the industry.

“I have eight to 10 friends who do this,” said Lydia Pierce, 30, who attended Everard’s July 20 vendor party. “I’m happy to go buy from people I know, as opposed to people I don’t know, and support her, as opposed to a large company. It feels more personal.”

Pierce is not involved in the industry herself but was happy to browse Plunder jewelry and buy some SeneGence lipstick, marketed as a lipstick that stays on for up to 18 hours.

“I’ve wanted to buy it for a while,” she said, after hearing good reviews from a friend who has it but doesn’t sell it.

“I’m in the event industry, and running around and not having to reapply sounds amazing.”

Isgriggs, Everard and Didier agreed that being a direct seller isn’t for everybody, and it’s all about having the right expectations.

Contact Nicole Raz at nraz@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512. Follow @JournalistNikki on Twitter.

Direct selling chart

Las Vegas Review-Journal

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
How much do Las Vegas casino CEOs make?
Las Vegas gaming CEOs made anywhere between $1 million and $24 million last year, according to company filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. ((Las Vegas Review-Journal)
30-year-old Rio needs a little TLC
Nearly 30 years after the Rio opened, the red and blue jewel that helped catapult Las Vegas to a new level with its buffet and nightclub has lost its status along with its shine.
The latest on the Drew Las Vegas - VIDEO
Eli Segall recounts his tour of the Drew Las Vegas, formerly the Fontainebleau, on the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pinball Hall of Fame to move near south Strip
Operators of the Pinball Hall of Fame have been approved to build a new, larger arcade near the south edge of the Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard near Russel Road. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
National Hardware Show underway Las Vegas
The National Hardware Show kicked off Tuesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Caesars for sale?
Caesars Entertainment Corp. has been swept up in takeover speculation since the company’s share price tumbled last year amid disappointing earnings and concerns over a recession. Amid the decline, hedge funds scooped up shares. Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn began buying shares of Caesars as early as January. Icahn acquired nearly 18 percent by mid-March. In February Icahn called on the Caesars board to study a sale as a way to boost shareholder value.
Las Vegas home prices
Las Vegas home prices grew fastest among major markets in February for the ninth straight month. But amid affordability concerns, the growth rate has slowed down. Southern Nevada prices in February were up 9.7% from a year earlier, according to the latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index. The last time Las Vegas' price growth fell below 10% was in September 2017, S&P Dow Jones Indices reported.
Free Parking Coming To Wynn
Free parking will come to the Wynn and Encore resorts on May 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Founding Venetian employees talk about 20 years at the Strip resort
The Venetian, which opened May 3, 1999, is celebrating 20 years on the Las Vegas Strip. Seven original employees talk about opening the luxury resort and working there for two decades. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Circa aiming for December 2020 opening
The 1.25-million-square-foot property will have 44-stories and 777-rooms. It will also have a separate nine-story, 1,201-space parking garage.
Boxabl official explains the building concept
Boxabl business development manager Galiano Tiramani shows off a room built by his company. (Blake Apgar/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TI/Mirage Tram reopens
The tram that shuttles guests between TI and Mirage reopened this week after being closed for much of 2018.
Las Vegas Convention Center expansion taking shape
Renderings and actual footage show how the Las Vegas Convention Center is evolving.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at Las Vegas convention
Former Starbucks CEO and potential presidential candidate Howard Schultz spoke at the Epicor Insights user conference at Mandalay Bay Convention Center Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Drew Las Vegas to open in the second quarter of 2022
The 67-story Drew Las Vegas is slated to open in the second quarter of 2022 at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NAB Day 1 (Time Lapse)
NAB kicked off at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, April 8, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
National Association of Broadcasters Show shows 1mm thick 8K TV with 22.2 channel digital sound
Japan’s NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories booth featured a 1mm thick 8K TV system used in conjunction with a 22.2 channel digital sound system at the National Association of Broadcasters Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Nevada shoppers react to Smith’s no longer accepting Visa credit cards
On March 1, Smith’s announced that it would no longer be accepting Visa credit cards at any of its 142 supermarkets, including the 45 in Nevada.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission asks how long Wynn executives knew about misconduct
Business reporter Rick Velotta gives an update on the adjudicatory hearing on the suitability of Wynn Resorts to retain its gaming license in Massachusetts.
Henderson app developer part of Startup in Residence
Henderson based developers of the app On Point Barricade are taking part in Startup in Residence, a North America program dedicated to pairing tech companies with governments. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sam's Town employees and customers talk of their love for the iconic casino
Longtime Sam's Town employees and customers love each other and love their casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas apartments rents
Las Vegas’ apartment market has accelerated in recent years. Developers are packing the suburbs with projects, landlords are on a buying spree, and tenants have filled buildings.
William Boyd talks about the birth of Sam's Town
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of Sam's Town, William Boyd, executive chairman of Boyd Gaming and son of hotel namesake Sam Boyd, talks about how the casino became one of the first local properties in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
High Roller observation wheel turns five
The world’s tallest observation wheel celebrates it’s fifth year on Sunday, March 31, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Escape Room Industry Growing In Las Vegas
Escapology employees discuss the growing escape room industry in the U.S. and Las Vegas. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Impact of parking fees on visiting the Las Vegas Strip
There are no data showing a relationship between Strip resort and parking fees and the number of out-of-state visitors to Las Vegas. But there are data showing a relationship between Strip parking fees and the number of local visitors to the the Strip. ‘’As a local, I find myself picking hotels I visit for dinner or entertainment, based on whether they charge for parking or not,”’ said David Perisset, the owner of Exotics Racing. ‘’It is not a matter of money, more of principle.’’ A 2018 survey by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance found 36.9 percent of Clark County residents reported avoiding parking at Strip casinos that charge for parking. 29.1 percent reported avoiding using any services from a Strip casino that charges for parking.
MGM's sports betting deals
MGM Resorts International signed a sports betting sponsorship agreement with the NBA in July It was the first professional sports league to have official ties with a legal sports betting house. The deal came just two months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law prohibiting sports betting in most states. In October, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the NHL. In November, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the MLB. Financial terms of Tuesday’s deal and earlier partnerships have not been announced.
Faraday puts Las Vegas land on the market
Nearly two years after Faraday Future bailed on its North Las Vegas auto factory, the company has put its land up for sale. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
El Cortez owner Kenny Epstein on running the iconic property
Kenny Epstein, owner of the El Cortez Hotel in downtown Las Vegas, talks about Jackie Gaughan mentorship and answers rumors about bodies in the basement at the mob-era casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
LVCVA recommends construction of underground people mover
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced the recommendation for an underground people mover for the convention center. The system would have the potential to expand and connect Downtown and the resort corridor all the way to McCarran. (Michael Quine/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST