From one MLM to another, to another

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Elle-small[Elle:] Today, we share the experience of USA serial multi-level marketeer, Portia. In an attempt to relieve herself of her money woes, she put her faith in several MLMs over time. In her own words, she’ll tell you how that worked out for her. Over to you, Portia.


[Portia:] Thanks Elle and everyone at the Coalition. Here is my tale.

Once upon a time, there was broke girl named Portia who didn’t want to be broke, so she decided to join a few different MLM companies over a period of time… And then…

She was still broke.

The first one was Amway when she was about 16-17. She didn’t even have the money to pay their silly start up fee, but she really wanted to join. They told her she could host beauty parties and sell product to pay it and join in no time. She was told to invite her friends, who also didn’t have money. Of course they never bought anything because everything was way too expensive. After maybe 2 parties and a few meetings, she decided this wasn’t for her.


Then she tried Avon for a little while. Her family loved Avon products, so she thought this would be easy. It was a free signup too and she didn’t have to travel anywhere. It was all online. It was perfect, or so she thought. She made her first sale to a family member, but she wasn’t going to be paid a brass cent for it. Her upline gave her a weird reason that she never understood. Something about “not making money until you sell a certain amount.” So, she quit. Her upline then frantically emails her one day, claiming she was robbed and “needed $1000 to cover her expenses until she could get back on her feet.” Portia refused to help, and she never heard from that rep again.


She joined Vector Marketing Corporation (the domestic sales arm of Cutco Corporation) for one summer after quitting another job. She had no idea this one was an MLM. She even went in for an “interview.” She was so excited when she got hired, thinking it was really only a ‘select few’ that made it in.

Portia loved working for them. They made it so fun. They had Nerf gun wars and real live Fruit Ninja games in the office with the Cutco knives. The “boss” was young and cool. He had pool parties at his house. They had weekly team meetings, with a get-together at Applebee’s after that, which was always paid for by him. She even had a summer fling with someone she met through the company.

Cutco homemaker-plus-8-set

But, she wasn’t making any money. She couldn’t sell the products, no matter ‘how great they were’ and no matter how many demos she did. She was so motivated though. She even got promoted to what they called “Key Staff,” which helped lead other members. She eventually had to quit when she ran out of people to give demos to, and couldn’t pay her bills.

During college, she decided to rejoin Amway under another team. An old friend told her that a family friend was “looking for motivated people to hire for their company.” Her friend drove her to a meeting, and she vaguely recognized the pictures on the walls. She couldn’t figure it out though, because they wouldn’t actually say the name of the company until they started their presentation, all written on an easel. They compared their business model to how Ray Crock started McDonald’s.

They went over all the different levels of achievement; Platinum, Diamond, etc. They said you would be an “independent business owner“, or ‘IBO’ as they called it. They said that Amway has been given such a bad name and “that’s why they don’t tell people what it is
right away,” but they ensured that “they have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).” They talked about all the different products they sell, while showing slideshows of people who owned mansions and way too many sports cars.

cars hans-m-64070-unsplash
Photo by Hans M on Unsplash

She was intrigued. She thought “this time is going to be way better than the last” and “this team is the right one.” Everyone seemed so happy and successful, and she was going to be too! She was, again, so motivated. Her friend covered her membership fee, and she slowly payed her back each month.

She wanted to make money, so she started by selling cans and boxes of their XS® Energy Drink, which of course were “the most amazing thing in existence.” Organic, all natural, made with b vitamins for energy, etc etc! She told everyone about them. She posted them for sale on Instagram and Facebook. Some of the boxes were what her upline had bought for her (and she would pay him back), but she also bought her own to sell.

amway xs-energy

Portia was told “you have to spend money to make money,” so she invested a lot of money in this ‘business.’ She had opened her first credit card only for emergencies, but then they started telling her she had to go to all these conventions they had. She would meet “some of the highest people in the company” and hear them speak about how they got their success. She was also told she had to replace all of her other household products with Amway products, to “represent the ‘business’ and sell the products better.”

She put at least $500–$600 on that emergency credit card for the conventions (that were pretty much monthly), and buying the products. She swore by the products. She again told everyone about them. They also had weekly team meetings like Vector did, but these
you had to pay for to “help cover the rent fee for the building.” So, more money spent.

She didn’t drive either, so she had to get a ride to these meetings with her “business partner” who she was signed up under. Despite all of the extra money she was spending and not getting back, she told everyone how amazing the “business” was and how much it changed her life. She was a changed person. More positive, more focused, more professional. She convinced some of her friends to see what it was all about but none of them joined despite persistent communication about it. She didn’t sign a single person up under her team.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Eventually, her ‘business partner’ just stopped helping her. She would ask for rides to meetings, for help getting products and signing people up, but he would just tell her she “had to figure it out and stop complaining.” He started acting like a real jerk.

During her time with Amway, she was also balancing a summer telemarketing job that gave her a ton of anxiety. She was trying to get help from her ‘business partner’ while she was at work, but he couldn’t be bothered. He told Portia she “really needed to figure it out if she wanted to be a business owner,” and that she basically “wasn’t doing good enough, and should know this by now.”

She was already having a stressful day at work, so she locked herself in the bathroom, cried silently, and told him that she quit. She quit her telemarketing job shortly after that, swearing off doing any direct sales ever again.

Years later, Portia got really into makeup, meeting someone who worked for Younique through a mutual friend.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

She thought it sounded all so amazing. All online, so no need to worry about going to meetings or picking up products. Everyone was so nice and welcoming. She could “do it all from home,” and “be whoever she wanted to be,” unlike Amway where they said you had to dress and act professional all the time. Her new friend really wanted her to join, and she sat on the idea for months until finally deciding she wanted it really bad, and signing up in the middle of the night.

Then she learned there was one condition: you have to “keep positive vibes on your social media at all times.” That would be easy; Portia considered herself a positive person, after all.

She got her presenter kit and started doing live videos with the makeup, showing how amazing she thought all of it was. People loved her videos. She was actually selling product too and she did end up making back her money from the membership fee. No one had pushed her to buy more than she had money for. She even signed someone up under her! But after about a month, people stopped commenting on her 3-5 daily Younique posts. They got tired of her spam messages.

Younique Presenter Kit – Pinterest

Portia started to fall out of love with the products; the foundation was flakey on her already dry skin, the concealer was cakey, the so-called ‘epic’ mascara had dried out after less than a month, and the eyeshadow from the Anniversary Palette had no color and no glitter. No one was buying anymore. She had stayed at White Status even though she was trying so hard. She was getting stressed out because of it, and messaged her upline one night to quit. Her upline was surprisingly understanding, and didn’t push her to stay. 

After leaving Younique, she realized that all of the MLM companies are the same.

They prey on people who are broke and tired of their jobs. People who don’t know any better. They tell them that “they’ll be rich, successful, and never have to worry about money again.” They’ll be able to “enjoy their lives, debt free.” But in reality, it’s actually pretty rare for anyone to make money through an MLM.

Portia stumbled upon @youniquefail on Instagram during her time in Younique, and thought it was just the meanest thing, but after she left, she met Elle Beau, and learned a lot about the scams behind MLM companies. She decided she wanted to share her story: this story, of a broke girl who joined a few different MLMs to get herself out of debt, but ended up even more broke …

Elle-small[Elle:] Thank you, Portia, for kindly sharing your MLM experience. If you have any questions for her, please add them below and we

Would you like to share your MLM story or opinion with the Anti-MLM movement? Be our guest, check our submission guidelines and get in touch.


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  1. I got sucked in to Poonique. The Anniversary palette was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Then did a pre release (presenters could buy before the public) on a face mask that ended up burning some of the presenter’s faces. That was the end for me. It just showed to me how little care they put into their product safety. I never wore the foundation long enough (I rarely ever wear makeup) that I didn’t realize it separated after being on your face a while. I also realized that it caked up really badly on my drier winter skin (my skin stays pretty smooth in summer time). Then I realized that I was so much happier after I left. No more having to listen to the cultlike faux positivity, and those blindly loving crap products because the company and their upline said it was awesome.

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