Why do MLM reps recruit mothers?

Over the past three years we’ve been investigating MLMs in depth. And there’s one common thing pretty much every MLM shares: their reps frequently target mothers as recruits.

This could be why the biggest MLM sectors are healthcare, and beauty and weightless products – all favoured by women.

It makes sense for MLMs to target mothers

It’s not much of a surprise that so many MLM reps target mothers. We all know how difficult it is to earn money once you have children. Your hours are often restricted around nursery and school, and limited by school holidays.

And childcare is so expensive that it often eats into much, if not all, of your salary.

Some mums may not want to return to the workplace either, preferring to find a way to earn money part time from home while caring for their children. Or within school hours.

So the idea that they can join an existing business with a low startup cost (plus get the support and companionship of a ready made virtual team) is enticing.

An average of 99.6% of these mothers will LOSE money

No surprise then that so many fall for the lure of MLMs. But as we’ve discovered, very few of these mothers will actually make any money from their efforts.

Indeed, research shows that an average of 99.6% of people who join an MLM will probably lose money once their expenses are taken into account.

Here are some income investigations we’ve done into MLMs to demonstrate how little people appear to be earning:

Why MLMs can’t afford to recruit breadwinners

But we’ve realised that there’s another, more practical reason why MLMs seem to thrive among some women, and particularly mothers: they’re not usually the main breadwinner in their household.

It’s become clear from the many former MLM reps we’ve spoken to that there’s little money coming into the home from the efforts they put into their ‘business’.

But many don’t realise this. Indeed, it appears they’re not encouraged to keep books for their business, nor to register with HMRC (even though this is a legal requirement).

So they see any commission payment coming into their bank account not as income, but profit, however minuscule it may be.

They don’t realise they’re not making money

They don’t realise that they’ve spent out more on their business each month than they’ve earned. (Often this is on purchasing enough products themselves to remain active and receive their commission payments.)

Even many of the higher ranking MLM reps aren’t earning what you might think. They may have a fancy sounding title, like Black Status or Triple Diamond, but the reality is that they’re not necessarily qualifying at that level every month.

Which means they keep the title but don’t get paid at that level. The Black Status Younique Presenter we interviewed said she was only paid as a Black Presenter four times in nearly three years. The other months she didn’t qualify (or get paid) as Black, despite being allowed to retain the title.

And an IT Works former Ruby distributor told us that she only actually qualified as a Ruby once in two and a half years. The rest of the time she too kept the title, so appeared outwardly to be doing well, even if she was actually being paid at the lowest rank.

Brainwashing won’t put food on the table

So why is it less favourable for MLMs to recruit breadwinners? Simple: they would quickly realise the ‘opportunity’ wasn’t working for them.

They’d quickly run out of the money they needed to pay the household bills and put food on the table and, as a result, would quit sooner.

All the brainwashing, manipulation and emotional blackmail in the world (as we’ve been told can happen when someone considers leaving an MLM) couldn’t mask the very real need to actually earn money.

So as sold into the culture and concept of the business as they may be, or as focussed on their big why, they just can’t afford to continue. If they did, they’d just end up in debt or homeless.

MLM is sold as a side income

That said, we have seen some breadwinners sucked into MLMs. Sadly these are often single mothers, or women in debt, lured in with the false hope of boosting their income, if not replacing it and achieving real financial freedom.

As these (usually) women already have a job that pays the bare necessities, again they’re insulated from the financial reality of working for an MLM.

Able to pay their bills with their salary, they’ll see the money they’re losing in their MLM reframed as an investment in their business and future success.

But the cold, hard reality is that these women (and some men) aren’t running or building their own business; they’re just an unpaid sales rep for an MLM, with little hope of ever seeing a worthy return for their efforts.

MLM reps are customers, not business owners

And worse: from what we have learned from the former reps we have interviewed, we believe that these women are, in fact, the true customers of MLMs.

In addition to being encouraged to buy and use the expensive products themselves, every single former rep we’ve spoken to from several different MLMs has told us that it was tough, if not impossible, to sell them to people.

So they were forced to buy products themselves every month in order to remain active and get any commission. (To make this seem like a wise business tactic, they’re told they’re buying in stock, and will ‘definitely’ be able to sell it later. Or they’re hooked in with a special offer or promotion.)

Even the ex-Younique Black Presenter told us that there were months when she had to purchase her full quota of products ($500) to stay active. The former It Works distributor, meanwhile, revealed that her upline bought $600 of products herself (using her brother as a fake customer) to get a promotion. And she too kept active by buying products herself every month.

A number of top reps in another MLM have even boasted online that they only have between five and seven regular customers each – nowhere near enough to make their monthly requirements without topping up themselves. (These reps can usually afford to top up, as they’re receiving commission payments based on their large downline’s purchases.)

So the poor women who are hoping to supplement or replace their employment income are getting, in most cases, nowhere near the financial freedom they’re sold. Instead they’re probably just making everyone at the top of their company richer from their own purchases.

The rare success stories sell hope

Of course there are some success stories in MLMs. Someone has to reach that 0.something% of reps who profit off the people under them in the pyramid-shaped earnings table.

And it’s these handful of stories (as well as quite a few lies – we know of one rep who was recently paraded as a success who is actually insolvent) that keep the non-breadwinners, and the desperate women hoping to boost or replace their basic income, hooked to the hope that they’ll too earn the lottery-sized payments one day.

But the household breadwinners with no time or inclination to launch a ‘side hustle’? Until hope pays the bills, they can’t afford to keep throwing good money after bad.

Read more about MLMs

We’ve published a large number of articles on the MLM industry. Here’s just a few. You can read income investigations here:

And here:

And learn more about how the industry works here:

Photo by Humphrey Muleba