BUSINESS

Lips (and numbers) Don’t Lie: Olive Branch entrepreneurs sell lipstick, earning money from multi-level marketing

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LipSense lipstick and gloss products. Photo by Chloe Baker.

Chloe Baker
Oxford Stories
cbbaker@go.olemiss.edu

When Leigh Harville was teaching second graders two years ago, she never imagined she would one day work from home and control her own career. Today, she is her own boss. This is a result of her passion for helping others fueled by the freedom multi-level marketing provides.

The term “multi-level marketing” has become increasingly popular. Several companies utilize this method to sell products by acquiring distributors, who can purchase products at a discounted rate. Distributors then sell products at retail prices, making a profit.

Another avenue for profit through multi-level marketing is “downline.” This is achieved when a distributor’s customers believe in the product and want a discount, or are eager to sell it. The distributor registers the person with the company, and the distributor becomes the recruit’s sponsor. The sponsor makes a profit or percentage of the new distributor’s sales.

Initially, Harville only thought about the extra income selling LipSense, the flagship product of SeneGence, would mean to her family when she signed up in July of 2016. The mother of two began sharing products with her family and friends out of genuine admiration for them. Sales brought in extra money. Others registered under Harville and also become distributors, creating a downline.

Harville had been an elementary school teacher for eight years before deciding to sell LipSense full time. She said the commission checks she received “were at least two times what I made as a teacher.” Additionally, Harville needed the flexibility of her own business to help with things at home. Her elderly grandmother had moved in with her mother, who was already nursing her husband after surgery and caring for her infant granddaughter.

“Mom was totally overwhelmed and needed my help,” said Harville, whose daughter was also entering her senior year after a tough battle with depression. “I wanted to be there for her as much as I could.”

Anna Olmi, one Harville’s closest friends, joined as a distributor under Harville in September 2016. She said her husband signed her up.

“He knew I would enjoy doing this with my friend,” said Olmi, a dental hygienist who works her SeneGence business on the side in addition to her regular day job.

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From left, Leigh Harville and Anna Olmi at their LipSense booth in the Olive Branch Park. Photo by Chloe Baker.

When pitching the business plan, Harville said she typically leads with the product. She then explains how to share it with others once they “fall in love with the products.” Olmi said she takes the same approach, but said some solely sign up for the personal discount.

“If they want to become a distributor, I’ll teach them about the business model,” Olmi said.

Harville said the evolution of the business has been dramatic.

“I just started out for a discount, and now I’m running it as a full time business,” she said, adding that the toughest part for her has been the transition from teaching. “I feel I can run a classroom fairly well. Running a business is totally different, but I’m learning as I go.”

On a larger scale, Olmi said the company has grown significantly.

“When I first started, there were about 30,000 distributors,” she said. “Now there are about 200,000.”

She said SeneGence has begun expanding into other countries, leading to changes in computer and ordering systems, apps, and an increase in facilities and staff.

With multi-level marketing companies becoming a trend, each company must be unique. For Harville and Olmi, the legitimacy of SeneGence products sets them apart. The founder of SeneGence is a single mother who started the company 20 years ago after being involved in another multi-level marketing company. Harville said “the culture” sets the company apart.

“It’s not often you see an atmosphere like this where everyone tries to help each other,” Harville said.

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SeneGence moisturizer and anti-aging products. Photo by Chloe Baker.

The company emphasizes women’s empowerment, “with a career that fits their lifestyle,” said Olmi. As part of the distributorship, SeneGence holds rallies where distributors are taught selling techniques and new products are introduced.

Harville and Olmi have attended rallies all over the country, meeting like-minded women in an encouraging setting to discuss personal challenges and means of overcoming them. The two have even met the founder of the company, and Olmi will be attending a small group training in the founder’s home in November.  

Both Harville and Olmi agree that SeneGence has given them the opportunity to make money and build relationships. Multi-level marketing can be beneficial, but this type of business venture takes dedication, patience and perseverance.

The financial freedom SeneGence provided for Leigh allowed her to leave her teaching job. This quality of multi-level marketing alone explains why it has grown as an employment opportunity for so many.

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