Students are effective leaders, and perhaps, we have become even more effective with our increased ability to network and connect at the touch of a fingertip. We have more power in numbers because of our access to technology and social media sites to communicate with thousands of our peers and engage them in our actions. This is a skill modern businesses have learned to utilize, and utilize well.
Despite the skepticism around multi-level marketing brands such Mary Kay or Pampered Chef, the powerful ability to network around the world instantly has allowed this business method to withstand the test of time and evolve into a successful tactic. A fairly new multi-level marketing brand that has spread like wildfire, increasingly so in our own community, is Vemma, a nutrition company that sells a line of energy drinks and nutritional beverages, known as Verve. Vemma recruits students as “brand partners,” or independent distributors, rather than customers.
The “get rich quick” nature of their advertising prompts many to question the legality of Vemma, referring to it as a “pyramid scheme.” The line separating multi-level marketing and a pyramid scheme is thin and technical. However, the Federal Trade Commission defines pyramid schemes as illegal business plans where people are paid “based on the number of people you recruit and your sales to them.” Whereas multi-level marketing is legal if distributors actually sell a product and are paid based on sales commission. A major difference between the two methods of business is that pyramid scheme companies are third party-sellers of a product. However, I feel the trickle down effect involved with both types is dangerous because of the potential for the so-called “worker bees” to make minimal profit while the leaders soak up wealth.
I have several friends who have become brand partners and I have even been asked to join the movement myself. I was skeptical anyone would be able to turn this into an actual job. However, the Bozeman team of brand members has grown to nearly 75 people. Jake Jones, one of the founding members of the team in our community, explained he and his fellow colleagues believe they are able to reach so many because of their networking strategy.
[pullquote align=”right”]“This is not all we want to do with our lives, we are using Vemma to take us to our dreams.”[/pullquote]
“We are focused more on the individual themselves, rather than the profit.” He stated their primary focus is to tailor individual strategies which include long term goals, how to effectively manage time and how to use Vemma as a means of chasing their dreams.” When I was first introduced to the movement, perhaps the most significant reason I believed joining would inevitably lead to failure, was because I was unaware the Bozeman brand members were not trying to use Vemma as their sole career, but rather as a means of achieving one. Jones says he has a dream of owning his own clothing company and would like to go to college, so for him, the money he earns from his networking is put toward making his ambitions a reality, “this is not all we want to do with our lives, we are using Vemma to take us to our dreams.”
Since the start of Vemma in 2004, it has operated using a unique style of multi-level marketing that rewards team members for expanding their network. Their chief goal is to sign on other brand partners to do the same thing, and keep expanding the network, making the company seem to align much more with the pyramid scheme method. However, brand partners pay for monthly shipments of Vemma products to distribute as a part of their marketing system. They earn points when people in their network sign up for products, which in turn, brings in the paychecks. Jones revealed in his first month he earned $800-$1,000 and continues to receive around the same amount for his monthly referral checks.
The success of the team here is obvious, with members like Jones maintaining a network of around 300 people. Leland Doliente, also a leading member of the Bozeman team who also earns around $800-$1,000 a month, explains if you treat it like a real job, you will be rewarded with the returns of a real business. Haven Schaeffer, a current senior at Bozeman High was reluctant to join the movement. Her business is just beginning and she earns around $100 per month. However, she has no doubt she can make a positive impact on others and accomplish her goals.
While Bozeman brand members are invested in the companies success, a PDF from the company’s own website outlining a breakdown of the average percentage brand members earn in a month, reveals 99 percent of team members earn under the poverty line. While Jones, Doliente and Schaeffer each have other sources of income alongside Vemma, they see themselves selling Vemma products as long as the company continues to be successful. The revenue generated is an outcome of the effort each member is willing to put into networking and as of now, these young adults remain determined to continue putting maximum energy into networking and chasing their dreams. I am still hesitant about the long term success of Vemma, however I have truly come to understand and appreciate the hard work Bozeman brand members are putting forth to pursue bigger and brighter goals.