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Part 1: My Tumultuous Break Up with Traditional MLMs

Updated: Apr 4, 2023


You may have no idea what this is about. This blog may not be what you’re interested in, and that’s ok.


To catch you up to date, though... in case you're curious… last week, I announced that it has been almost two years since I resigned from my first business in direct sales. I am finally able to share what that journey looked like. I can answer the questions I’m constantly asked and, most importantly, address my major issue with what is traditional network marketing and MLMs.


I recently shared in my Instagram Stories that one of the threats sent to me was to “cease and desist.” On June 1, 2021 (5 months after I left my first company)... I received a packet from a law office stating that I was in “breach of contract, tortious interference with contract, and misappropriation of trade secrets.”

FYI (since I had to look it up) -- a “tortious” behavior is any behavior (other than a breach of contract) that may be sued upon as a civil wrong.


So, like, EVERYTHING.

You may be asking, “WHOA, Katie! WHAT DID YOU DO!?!?!”

I’ll tell you. And not to try and recruit you; I’m not into that.


Not to try and make you leave a company; that is wholly your decision.


Not to try and hurt anyone, there has been enough hurt in this industry and there doesn’t need to be anymore.

I am, however, on a mission.


The easy answer is that I took a hard look at my business, my income, the truth about how much work it took to earn what I was earning, and the likelihood of anyone else on my team reaching their big goals. I looked at the business, the hardships, the struggles, and the time required. I considered the future of selling the way we had to, the hustle to sign up customers for a business they didn't want. I thought about whether I felt good encouraging others to put time in to a business I was struggling in at a high level (although I was a 6 figure earner and my business was at it's peak). I realized I wasn't happy, I wasn't hopeful, and I didn't like the practices, I knew I wasn't being compensated fairly. So I left. That's what I did.


Direct sales can change lives, but it’s time the industry becomes more honest and professional. It’s time to stop taking advantage (maybe unknowingly) of women and then hashtagging #womensupportingwomen or #workfromanywhere or, even worse, #passiveincome, which couldn't be further from the truth in most cases.


I’ll be chronicling more details on my YouTube channel and this week on my Podcast, but for now, here's the start of my journey and my inevitable and tumultuous break up with traditional network marketing:

In June 2017, I asked my friend about the newest product she was sharing. It was a cleaning supply that claimed to let you clean with nothing but water. This caught my attention because my youngest son had RSV as a newborn. It was terrifying. This compromised his lung function, and continues to. He had two ambulance rides to the hospital before he turned one. The first time I had to call 911, his eyes rolled back in his head. He passed out while I cradled him, and his blood oxygen levels measured 84 percent. I knew something was wrong, but watching this happen was beyond my maternal comprehension. All I knew was that I needed to limit the toxic chemicals in my home to protect him, and these products worked beautifully and made sense to me.

I decided to throw an online party with my friend. My friends and family couldn’t believe how incredible the products were. We ended up selling around $3,000 of products during that party. There was a significant discount off the top of your order as a consultant, and if you signed up, you could also earn a free mop. I wanted that mop and I wanted the discounts.


But I didn’t want a business. I didn’t think I would be any good at it. I didn’t want to ask people to “join a team.”


Signing up for this was scary and overwhelming. If I didn’t sell the required amount, I would owe the company $200. And I didn’t have $200 to spare. It was stressful. I remember tellin my mom it felt like a huge deal, she said, "Well, Katie, it is a huge deal." Which caused the rebellious 14-year-old to kick in and decide, "no it's not." Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for that; I'd never be where I am today without that. I didn't think it was a big deal, though. That was my goal: sell $2,000 as fast as possible so my husband wouldn’t spaz out. But I had just sold it to all my family and friends at my party.


So I told a few friends that I needed them to host parties (because this is what is recommended). And because they are incredible humans, they did that for me. I was able to hit my goal and earn money. At the time, “life-changing money” for us was any dollar amount. We DREAMED about how incredible it would be if I could pay the electric bill every month with this “side hustle.” $200-400 a month seemed ridiculous to expect, but I would try.


I did that and then surpassed it. I couldn’t believe that people wanted to do what I was doing. I believed that everyone should do this business… every single person. I had recruited five people on my street alone. Everyone in my family signed up. I had a team growing across the country in no time due to my online events. There was a huge discount on the products, so even if they just bought for themselves, it seemed like a great deal. Before I knew it; every school event, every birthday party, every bunco night, every sporting event, and every place I went including, but not limited to, the grocery checkout line and the airport... I was thinking of introducing the products and the business to anyone who would listen. I felt I was doing good because I was helping people get great products and sharing a way to earn an income. I was earning money; it felt effortless because I loved the products and telling people about them. Since I signed with no intention of becoming successful, it felt to me that this could be the case for anyone.

I’ve not once encountered a consultant from my previous company who has said, “I started selling this product because I loved the compensation plan... I wanted a substantial business... I wanted to diversify my income....and I wanted to retire myself and my partner.”

The story always starts with, “I wanted a discount and then realized I could earn more.”

So what’s wrong with that? Isn’t that great? That’s the beauty of this industry, isn’t it?

No. This is what is wrong. I feel this perception causes all the vitriol and distrust within it. This is why people aren’t taken seriously.

The first thing to note is that by signing up for the discount I had no concerns about what the contract said. It didn’t matter to me; I didn’t want to sell anything. I didn’t expect this to change the trajectory of our lives, and I never wanted to build a team. It never crossed my mind that I could be a top recruiter, top leadership developer, top whatever else, and soar to the top ranks and earnings.


So, I never read that thing. I just wanted a discount. How dangerous can that be?

Well, it turns out it's pretty dangerous... especially if you find much success and find yourself with a team of 1,300 people who respect you. It's dangerous if you find purpose in helping anyone in the field be successful... if you start to train them on your own time and become a well-known leader. None of this was the plan. I had no expectations, nor did I desire to do this business when I started; then, as an educator and leader, I wanted to help everyone succeed, regardless of whose team they were on or if they benefitted my business.

When you’re a teacher, you don’t get to earn money off the students impacted by you (that could really up the level of education, though). I approached training and leadership in the same way; unfortunately, that was not the norm. The truth is that even if I had read the contract, I wouldn’t have cared much because if it didn’t work out, I’d have a discount. I wasn’t ever going to sell anything else.

THIS IS WHAT IS WRONG.

An internal consumption company means that most people who sign up as consultants are doing it for the discount. We were trained to sell this discount and encourage people to become consultants to get it and the hope was always that they would discover they could be successful "like us"; there was "nothing to lose." Even when I signed a non-disclosure agreement in 2020 based on my senior leadership ranking, I didn’t read it because I would never do anything else. I’m ‘just a mom.’ I was earning an income we never expected was possible. And it wasn’t easy, and “I never wanted to build all that again.”

These contracts I signed before I had any belief in myself or clarity in what I was doing. I didn't know what I wanted to do personally in business, I didn't realize a company could have me agree that I would not ever do anything in any sales, ever again. I was in violation of if I were to leave and be in connection with anyone: customer or consultant. I would be "in violation" by finding another business that suited me. I was in violation by leaving and choosing anything else. I wasn’t sued. These were fear tactics, and they worked because I was overwhelmed by my personal life. There was no chance I could put my family through more than they were already going through.


It’s a lot like this:

When I was 17, I had my dream college picked out. I was intent on going there. I had to choose a major. But I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life.

I hadn’t done a strengths assessment. I didn’t see my own abilities, and I thought most of what is actually great about who I am was indeed a downfall. I was 17, and my prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that is critical to reasoning, problem-solving, comprehension, impulse control, creativity, and perseverance) wouldn’t fully develop for another seven years.

Yet I had to choose a major and take multiple classes for it every quarter. So, you know, I went premed. I failed out of college in my second year.

Luckily, by the time I was 24, I realized I was a born leader. I loved to learn and was a fantastic educator. So, my well-thought-out decision to get a Master’s in education after my teaching credential program went quite differently.

Blindly signing a contract to get a discount on products is like deciding your future when you’re 17.

The problem is that this is standard practice, telling people they should sign a serious contract with potentially severe consequences, simply to get a discount.


(If your team isn't thriving after the 2020 thing that happened, this is why. It's not easy anymore. It wasn't effortless then, but everyone was home and everyone had extra money, so it seemed easy for a minute.)


Having them sign this contract. Telling them there’s nothing to lose. All while hoping they will see the business’s potential and become successful after signing up. This is the case with any company we sign a contract for. You give them your social security number to get a discount, but you're starting a business. I had NO IDEA I could owe taxes on the money I was earning. You guys, I am not stupid, but I was clueless.


So...


God forbid you become successful and realize you are not in alignment with the practices of the business as a whole.


God forbid you see your worth and know you are being severely under-compensated for the massive amount of time and effort you are putting in.


God forbid you see that “leadership” has somehow become asking people to place orders so that you can hold onto a title and earn more money.


God forbid you want more for yourself.


God forbid you realize that you’ve been selling an impossible dream, encouraging people to keep going when you know the reward is not worth the work.

God forbid you want to do better for yourself and others.


My story isn’t for pity. It isn’t for shock value. It isn’t to try to recruit you or anyone.


I want to see the industry change and be a part of it. I made the very cognitive decision to sign my next contract with a company that is doing just that.

The questions will all be answered. The stories will all be told, but only because they are essential.

Things need to change.

People need to be honored and protected.

But, more than anything, we must do better.

Stay tuned-

Katie B.


This podcast gives the most heroic breakdown of what to consider when deciding what business is right for you. Take notes, she talks fast: Brewing Success with Andrea Gebhardt


This video had me taking inventory of my business and what I wanted in leadership. It stopped me in my tracks and changed my life, because I started asking the real questions and forming my future.


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