Multi-Level Marketing (MLM). A Blessing or a Curse?

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I have been introduced to a number of MLM companies over the years. The last one I joined about 3 years ago, was one introduced to me by my sister in law. I held her in high esteem and knew she would not have tried to interest me if the business was not profitable. I later recruited my colleague at work and two of my family members who also had to recruit two others. I would not see this golden opportunity slip by us this time. We valiantly attended all the visioning meetings where we spent a good part of the day singing and dancing and learning about the networking business.

Meetings were characterised by larger than life young heroes,  about my age; who were earning millions of dollars in passive income because of the timely decision that they had made to quit their jobs and join MLM business. They worked hard and travelled all over the world checking on their network. They were aggressive and confident. They put aside everything to pursue their dream for success. They also showed us photographs of meetings in different places over the world, luxury hotels and other holiday destinations. This appealed to me at the time; since most of my holidays have been spent travelling to the countryside to visit family. We were told how lucky we were to be in that room.  I actually felt lucky during those meetings. Those sessions were like energy drinks. They left me animated. I was ready to hit the streets the next week to recruit potential millionaires.

I got a small supply of customers who were interested in the feminine products which promised curative properties and tried to attend weekly meetings on a regular basis to sharpen my networking skills. Something happened to the company, along the way. We ended up in another with similar products. As time went on; the mandatory costs of maintenance kept on increasing while my customer base remained static. I began to realise that the return on investment would only be visible if our team kept recruiting and paying the monthly fee in order to receive bonuses. To add insult to injury, this particular product could only be purchased following a demonstration of efficacy or research online to show its potency. Clients were not willing to believe without seeing.

I have read so many books recommending MLM businesses in more developed economies. Research needs to be done on MLM business in East Africa. The companies promise bonuses that are difficult to access if the network is not big enough. A friend I was trying to recruit once calculated the number of referrals I would need to have to make a huge profit. It came to 500 connections. I was so aggressive when I was looking for clients. Now, I wish I could apologise to some of the ones I recruited. If you are reading this; please know that I only wanted to take you along on my journey of success. Today, I am not tolerant of anyone who attempts to recruit me promising massive profit with minimum input. All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23.

The thing I really hated about MLM was that it made every relationship seem like a potential referral. I felt like a hunter. Everyone I saw was my prey! I was equipped with a 3 step programme that I could use to lure the potential victim. Phone calls, meetings or emails were usually made with an agenda in mind. Furthermore, The MLM business promised clients great rewards without highlighting the potential costs from the onset. Nevertheless, it was not all bad; I received financial literacy training, learnt about the art of negotiation and persuasion. For this and the opportunity to connect with others,  I am grateful.

I would encourage those interested in joining this business to look beyond financial gain. There are other great benefits like training, networking within a team setting and experience. The seminars are also a good opportunity for you to let off steam as you shout and prance around the room, full of joy because you are a billionaire; listening to loud music from the latest motivational hits in Africa. The promise to live the life of my dreams through MLM was not my portion. It may be yours.

I would love to hear from you. What are your experiences?



6 thoughts on “Multi-Level Marketing (MLM). A Blessing or a Curse?”

  1. Hììii Angie, this piece is a good reflection. While what you reveal is the truth. Money and becoming rich through passive income from MLM marketing as always fronted and truely the single main motivation for recruiting (for both the hunter and the hunted), I found solace in the quality of the products and the health benefits associated with the products. But this is because I could afford and appreciate that value. I believe this business taken as is I.e. working with products that are not easily marketable in our settings ( largely non ‘essentials’) makes it very hard to get the numbers that can make business sense. But for those that invest a lot of energy and longer time, do get some little money that can sustain them but I believe because there are not so many job opportunities. I have a sister that solely leaves on this as her work but I must also add that she does not seem to make a lot but can just survive. If she had another better job opportunity, I bet she would have left.
    That aside, men are always swift, a male friend of mine who at one time was luring me into this kind of business when I asked him about the big money he was introducing me to, revealed the same experience you share of the valuable skills and attributes from this business. He said ” truth is thete is no big money, but I applied the same principles and attributes in my business and it is never the same”. He further said that if he were to talk to the owners, he would encourage them to include on the product lists some of the essential products required in our settings, but hastened to add but their quality is wanting!
    Therefore, I guess this business as a big money venture does not seem to work in our settings. But for those who invest their whole in it, they seem to get just enough for them to leave and support the same business in terms of phone calls they make to recruit people, transport to market it and some bare minimum for themselves. What I can term the “Indian model” of you work and earn just enough for you to live so that you continue offering labour but not to turn around your life.

    I have for one remained to buy the products for personal use but not as a get rich venture.


    1. This is helpful. I think we should start one MLM for ugali or millet powder. That is an essential. Whoever joins and recruits can either eat it all or give some away to those in need.
      Also using products is helpful if you can afford them. As always; most of these products are non-essentials.


  2. Much as the learning experience about networking and financial literacy is very useful, this still remains a ponzi scheme. We have had many of those in Uganda over the years. Gift circles, Telefax, Cyrpto currencies, forever living etc.
    My only advise is for one to work tirelessly for a better living. Nothing good comes that easy


  3. Nice article. Almost got sucked into one of these in my freshman year. Fortunately had a next door neighbor who was a finance major, he broke it down for us in a way that turned me off any kind of pyramid scheme for ever.


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