Inside the toxic world of multi-level marketing schemes

Lured in by six-figure salaries and sisterhood, some distributors feel blindsided when they learn the realities of multi-level marketing.
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Inside the Toxic World of Women Selling You Everything From Supplements to Skincare on Social Media
By 2016, Josie Naikoi, then 29, had hit what she thought was the pinnacle of her career. She was pulling in a six-figure salary — more money than she'd ever imagined making during her seven years as a hair stylist. With it, she was able to put her little sister through college, pay off a pile of medical debt and feel a tremendous sense of financial security.

Josie was a distributor at a multi-level marketing company, or MLM, selling health and fitness supplements and aids to her friends, family members and social media followers, as well as actively recruiting new sellers for her team (called her downline in MLM parlance) and earning a percentage based on their sales. MLMs sell products through person-to-person sales. If you go all in, as Josie did when she quit her job as a hair stylist to work as a distributor full-time, the benefits can be intoxicating. Josie, who lives in Missouri, frequently traveled to conventions, team retreats and sought-after speaking engagements — all on her own dime.

By 2017, Josie claims that her annual income had dropped significantly, even though she believes she was working just as much — if not, more — than the year before. She felt under pressure to deliver, so she moved to another MLM in hopes to bring home a bigger paycheck. But from 2013 to 2019, as Josie worked at three different multi-level marketing companies, she got the impression that a toxic atmosphere — never-ending demands to meet sales goals, an around-the-clock workload and manipulative behaviors — was pervasive wherever she went.



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