Why look for just another job, when you can embark upon a whole new career? Learn about the latest developments in careers for military spouses. With your mobile lifestyle, there are certain portable careers that can offer you and your family stability and future growth. If you have any topics that you would like to see us write about, feel free to email the editor:
Is Direct Selling for You?

Ever drop off your kid at school only to emerge from the hallways with a handful of postcards inviting you to a party for Pampered Chef, My ThirtyOne or Tastefully Simple?

Does every new neighbor you meet end the conversation with, “If you’re ever in the market for Avon products ...”

If so, then you’ve been exposed to the $28.56 billion industry of direct selling, sometimes called “home parties.”

Direct-selling companies differ from other companies because the products can only be purchased from a sales representative. Information about the products is online, but an order must be placed through a local rep. This way, the company cuts marketing costs and passes savings to the consumer — as well as puts money in the pocket of the local rep.

Military spouses have long loved the direct-sales industry because of its huge advantage over any other career: It is completely portable. Moving from Anchorage to Tampa? No worries. Ship your catalogs and supplies in your household goods, and you will have a job as soon as you finish unpacking.

Another perk, especially for multitasking military spouses: flexibility. In 2010, according to the Direct Selling Association, 91 percent of direct sellers worked part-time, or less than 30 hours per week.

Army spouse Meghan Simmons of San Antonio, Texas, has been a field representative for Rodan + Fields, a direct-selling skin-care product line, for about two years. She launched her career with the company in hopes of having more time with her children and less time in the office. 

“I got into this when I was pregnant with my second baby, and I knew that I wanted something that could work more around my family’s schedule,” said Simmons, a former full-time pharmaceutical sales rep. “With the new baby and my husband’s crazy hours, I knew I couldn’t keep up my hectic work schedule, but I wanted to somehow continue working.”

Simmons said now, after the birth of her third child, she doesn’t spend much time building her business but plans to move forward once her kids are older.

“That’s the beauty of doing this,” she said. “But it is also frustrating because I feel like my business is building slower than I want it to.”

Air Force spouse Suzanne Operstany has been in the direct-selling field for more than 10 years, first with Southern Living and now with a recently launched home and food product company, Biltmore Inspirations. At one point, Operstany was earning six figures and had a team of more than 300 representatives under her direction. 

Although Operstany has been successful with her direct selling, she warns that it is not for everyone. Building a sustainable and profitable home business takes more work than handing out postcards.

“Many people think that you can decide to sell and the business just builds on its own. But that’s not the case,” she said. “We have a motto in direct selling — it is simple, because the products sell themselves, but you have to work at it.”

As with any business, there are startup costs to consider, and that includes purchasing a product starter kit, which can cost about $99 for many companies. Most kits include products, catalogs and order forms.

The costs don’t end with the startup kit. Representatives purchase their own samples, more order forms and often, more catalogs.

The median annual income for a direct seller, according to the Direct Selling Association, is about $2,400 a year. Despite the low return, a majority of sales reps continue their businesses after the first year.

“Our research shows that nearly 78 percent, or four out of five direct sellers, report that they are very or extremely likely to continue as a direct seller in the future,” said Amy M. Robinson, a spokesperson for the Direct Selling Association.

In addition, Robinson said that in a survey of former direct sellers, only 34 percent of them had sold for only one year at the time they decided to discontinue their business.

Direct-sales reps also reap benefits at tax time. Because they own their own businesses, they receive a tax break — a major plus for military families who move too often to own a home and lose out on the homeownership tax credit.

Operstany, a mother of three in San Antonio, averages about 20-25 hours per week with her business and hosts about one party per week. She says of her team of 120 representatives, about a third are military spouses.

She said many of her representatives use their businesses not just to make money, but to make new friends as they move to each new duty station.

“Direct selling is a great way to meet new people, and it can be started in a new location immediately,” Robinson said.  

For more information:

Direct Selling Association

Direct Selling 411

For Military Spouses
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