A friend of a friend added me on Facebook yesterday. Odd, but not unheard of. Then, as I explored her profile, I noticed a few odder things: It wasn’t a profile but a page set up to look like one, which she used primarily to re-share posts from her actual profile. The content—all shiny-happy-lifestyle-blogger stock photography—centred around her being a #girlboss, #entrepreneur, and a “coach” for a lifestyle fitness company that rhymes with Meach Mody. Rage started to boil up from the depths of my soul.
My business partner and I first encountered Arbonne a few years ago when were working a conference for a client. The products, while overpriced (and overhyped in terms of how natural their ingredients really are), weren’t awful. What really offended us was the way Arbonne Consultants style themselves as small business owners.
Soon thereafter I had the (mis)fortune of attending a party with a friend because her sister was drinking the MLM Kool-aid, and I sat there listening to talk of pink Mercedes and “owning your own business,” knowing what they were selling was nothing like starting a business.
I ran into this mindset again with customer at the tech company I used to work for. I helped her find the right technology for her small business that she excitedly told me was expanding overseas. As I bagged up her purchase, I asked what the name of her company was. “Arbonne,” she beamed. I kept my face as neutral as possible while trying not to explode inside.
I’ve received countless messages from long-lost acquaintances about “opportunities” with a quickly-expanding “health and wellness” small business that would be perfect for me. Spoiler alert: It’s always fucking Arbonne.
Another sketchy Facebook request (this time shockingly not Arbonne) came from a high school classmate’s wife—and you guessed it, we’ve never met. They have a joint Facebook account (another rant for another day), and she oh-so-kindly messaged me to personally extend an invitation to learn about this must-have skincare line. The problem? The party was in fucking Chatham and she didn’t even do the research to find out where people lived before she extended her heartfelt invitation.
I am of an age where overwhelming number of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances are joining these companies—in our mothers’ day it was the Avon Age, but our mothers didn’t have the
disadvantage of social media. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the side hustle. I do better personally and professionally when I have multiple projects on the go and fully endorse the side gig. What irritates me is the way these “opportunities” are marketed (incorrectly) as entrepreneurship or a chance to work for yourself. Very few people get the pink car. Most people end up spending a ton of their own money to stay at a certain level or qualify for discounts, exhausting relationships with pressure to buy in the process. This. Is. Not. Entrepreneurship. You are a salesperson. If you recruit people to work under you in the pyramid (yes, pyramid), you’re a sales manager. Full fucking stop.
If you enjoy the products and like the extra income it generates, great! I’m genuinely happy for you. Hell, if it’s a product I like/need/want I’ll reach out to you (you being friends and people I love, not strangers who opportunistically add me in hopes of adding to their sales army) to order it. But spare me the fucking be your own #bossbabe song and dance. You’re being lied to, you’re lying to yourself, and you’re lying to me.
And therein lies the biggest rub: the lie these companies are selling to vulnerable people (mostly women). Of course a time-strapped mother of three wants to make six figures in 10 hours of work (or less) a week. If it has the added incentive of helping her lose the baby weight and creates a community full of friends just like her, all the better! So while the constant parties and scripted invites are obnoxious, the companies peddling this crap are downright malicious.