A program with no or a low-quality product, or with a focus on getting paid per recruit, could be an illegal pyramid scheme. However, don't let the term pyramid throw you off. It's not the shape of the organization that makes it illegal. In fact, most companies have a pyramid structure with a CEO at the top, VPs next, mid-level managers etc. What makes an illegal pyramid scheme is the lack of a quality product, or that income is earned on recruiting, not commissions from sales. 
“MLMs very rarely emphasize the extreme likelihood of failure, or the extreme likelihood of financial loss, from participation in MLM. MLMs are also seldom forthcoming about the fact that any significant success of the few individuals at the top of the MLM participant pyramid is in fact dependent on the continued financial loss and failure of all other participants below them in the MLM pyramid.” (Wikipedia)

Although emphasis is always made on the potential of success and the positive life change that "might" or "could" (not "will" or "can") result, it is only in otherwise difficult to find disclosure statements (or at the very least, difficult to read and interpret disclosure statements), that MLM participants are given fine print disclaimers that they as participants should not rely on the earning results of other participants in the highest levels of the MLM participant pyramid as an indication of what they should expect to earn. MLMs very rarely emphasize the extreme likelihood of failure, or the extreme likelihood of financial loss, from participation in MLM. MLMs are also seldom forthcoming about the fact that any significant success of the few individuals at the top of the MLM participant pyramid is in fact dependant on the continued financial loss and failure of all other participants below them in the MLM pyramid.


Hey Erica, I’m a doterra gal also. Just over 3 years ago I just wanted to see if these hippie oils really worked from there I couldn’t keep my mouth shut and I share with whomever will listen. I recently read this in the leadership magazine and I love it. “An oil for every household, a drop to change a life”. That is my goal. I never plan to get rich off my sharing but if I can change a life, help someone along the way it will be worth my time.
Hi JP. Good stuff all the way around, my man. Hey, I’ve been approached by Ariix, & didn’t know if have heard of them, and if so, a simple 👍 or 👎 will suffice, unless you’d like to elaborate, of course. One obvious concern I have is that (& can disclose this, since it’s of public record/knowledge per the list above), the current leadership in place at Ariix all came from USANA, and given the FBI/SEC became involved with USANA in ‘07, & Ariix opened in ‘11, well….I think you know from where I’m coming as it relates to anything you may be able to convey. Thx again, JP, for all of your efforts, & if you’d feel more comfortable in emailing me, obviously that would be perfectly fine! And apologies on this extremely verbose message!😳
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“Joining an MLM is appealing to women who find hope in their promises of a better life: freedom, economic independence, and an endless supply of cheery trinkets. Despite professing quick-income prospects though, it’s difficult for MLM consultants to earn more than pocket change. When glitzy recruitment videos yield to the reality of suburban cul-de-sacs, people selling for MLMs can be plunged into debt and psychological crisis.” (Quartz)
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Thank you for your article. I am also with doterra and I never in my life thought I would do something like this. The reason I started was because of health issues that led me to the oils. I have been an RN for 23 years and I feel more free and excited to share about health than ever. If you are going into something to get rich quick, I think that is the wrong attitude. I think most of my fellow doterra wellness advocates, have come to the same realization as me. I believe most of us started out trying to help ourselves and our families. I left my nursing job of 17 years in Feb, not because I am making enough money to replace my past income, but because I truly love helping others and I love the company and what it stands for. I can’t argue about MLM’s because I truly don’t care about that side of it. Maybe I am wrong to think that way. I hope that this ride doesn’t end anytime soon because the difference that doterra is making in my life, and the lives of those around me, is amazing. Thank you again for your information and your viewpoint.
They have the stay-at-home-mother meets women entrepreneur mixture working for them. What does that even mean? Means they have the practicality side of the company that is off the product and they have the sales, entrepreneur people them promoting it, too. Anyone who follows MLM knows its usually too “product practical” (see: Tupperware, Cutco) or too “opportunity-centric” (see: Herbalife).

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MLM itself is a legitimate business strategy. However the subject of ethics can be rather vulnerable. The pyramid scheme, unlike MLM, is clearly a scam. In a pyramid structure, a member pays a fee to join. A portion of the money will then be remitted back to them when they bring a new member into the scheme. No products are involved in this scheme, simply get more people to dump in money for your chance to make more money.
To put these statistics into context, John compared them with the failure rates for traditional small businesses using the Small Business Administration’s statistics for 2008. And he discovered that 44% of small businesses survive at least four years, 31% at least seven years, and 39% are profitable over the life of their business. In 10 years only 64% of small businesses fail.
I was at “Sweetness Bakery and Cafe” the other day to order a hot chocolate with a friend. The barista asked me if I wanted half & half, whole milk, soy, rice, or hemp milk. I had never tasted hemp milk before. And I remembered the transition soy went through when manufacturers started sweetening soy up. So, I decided to try hemp since I figured it was sweet enough or the cafe wouldn’t suggest it. And Oh My God! It was the best cup of hot chocolate EVER! And I was amazed at what can be done with hemp.

MLM restructures the traditional business model — manufacturer to retail shop to customer — such that sales agents working for the manufacturer sell directly to customers, bypassing the retail shop altogether. MLM companies can then convert customers into advocates for their products and possibly even sales agents. Because there is no retail store for the products they sell, MLM agents typically work from their homes, interacting with customers in the community or, more often, over the internet.


Jason – I think you have to be more than careful in evaluating an MLM. I’ve researched around 50 and 60 and each and every one of them have turned out to be bad. Maybe one like Pampered Chef might be good, but I haven’t looked into enough. A more accurate statement would be that MLMs are like prisoners, there are some guilty people and some innocent ones. Also, there are some winning lottery tickets and some losing ones. I think you get the point.
Other than that, great info, but I’d have to respectfully disagree with the logic behind not being a part of an MLM. It’s one business model. And whether you want to make it your full time job or just dabble, so long as you find a product and company you love, it can be a great way to diversify your income streams. $5000 a year (or $5) is more than most people make on their 401K, savings or any other conventional ways of investing. It’s an investment, and for those that chose to continue through the plateau, it results in residual income. Don’t like sales? Some of the companies are moving away from the door to door type sales models and putting a lot more emphasis on team building and adding value. And many companies are also discouraging distributors from spamming on social media- again- it comes down to the individual and their own business acumen. We can spend our lives blaming they systems or we can just own ourselves and be grateful for whatever we’ve learned from, and created out of each opportunity presented to us. It’s the choice of the individual at the end of the day but one thing I can say with certainty is that someone who blames MLM for their lack of success is lacking responsibility for themselves in other areas of their life too.

In order to be successful at any business, you need strong support and solid training. The law requires MLM companies give you a slew of information, including financial details about average income. Study this and ask questions. If the rep is hesitant to answer or glosses over your concerns, he's not someone to work with. A legitimate MLM company wants you to be informed 
Because of the encouraging of recruits to further recruit their competitors, some people have even gone so far as to say at best modern MLMs are nothing more than legalized pyramid schemes[4][19][20] with one stating "Multi-level marketing companies have become an accepted and legally sanctioned form of pyramid scheme in the United States"[19] while another states "Multi-Level Marketing, a form of Pyramid Scheme, is not necessarily fraudulent."[20] In October 2010 it was reported that multilevel marketing companies were being investigated by a number of state attorneys general amid allegations that salespeople were primarily paid for recruiting and that more recent recruits cannot earn anything near what early entrants do.[60] Industry critic Robert L. FitzPatrick has called multi-level marketing "the Main Street bubble" that will eventually burst.[61]
Anyone handling a network marketing business needs effective MLM leads to reap big on the same.  There are two ways that one can use to obtain these leads; through lead generation or buying them. Although the two methods may be effective, you need to choose the best suited plan for you depending on urgency and their availability of you will be purchasing the same.
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Considering their products are botanically based with an ingredient policy that prohibits many of the chemicals and fillers Mary Kay and Avon still use in their own products, I’d say they’ve established a business for men and woman who are truly serious about the health of their skin, not just the evenness of their complexion. A little research goes a long way.
With the perennial boom and bust cycle of the American job market, there are always going to be people who have decided that they’ve had enough and they want to strike out on their own, trying to be their own boss. These people, known as business opportunity buyers or simply opportunity leads are hungry for ideas and turn key businesses that they can buy into in order to create their own success.

Pay Per Click or PPC can be very effective in the right hands. If you do it the wrong way it can be a fast track to financial ruin. Unlike Facebook Ads where you can see how effective your ads are within minutes, Google AdWords are much less responsive and you can use up a lot of cash before you hit the winning combination. Concentrate on being very focused and specific. If you are not, you will get lots of clicks on an ad which sounds right, but results in low conversion rates when people find that it’s not exactly what they are looking for.


According to software giant SAS, multi-channel marketing is critical. Reaching potential clients at every touch point can make or break a well crafted marketing campaign. Bizopps data leads may be the perfect supplement to a social media campaign hitting Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and all. If you want to be on their mind then it is best to include their email, phone AND mail box…right?
Market America is just as known for their massive discounted products portal as they are for their crazy rich CEOs. I’m talking Forbes list, mansion in Biscayne Bay and penthouse in Manhattan, celeb bffs, and giant yachts rich…all thanks to MLM. They’ve hit their fair share of SEC-shaped road blocks, but Market America is still going strong at #29 on the DSN Global 100.
Each company will have a different startup cost, which is a fee that new distributors must pay to begin distributing. Companies with high startup costs are more likely to be recruitment-centric MLMs. MLMs that focus on recruitment are generally called pyramid schemes, or schemes designed only to tie down new recruits instead of selling quality products to interested customers.
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Amway stresses that the main difference between a legitimate MLM business model and a pyramid scheme is that a legitimate MLM is focused on selling products, not recruiting more salespeople. In a legitimate MLM, it should be possible to make money by simply selling products directly to customers. With that main criterion in mind, here are some other ways to identify product-based pyramid schemes:
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A: This is a challenge for most MLM distributors. When it come to products, it sounds like you've made a wise choice in your company selection. This will provide a good foundation for sponsoring satisfied customers and is the "back door" approach to a building downline. A satisfied customer will tell others, and the retailing and sponsoring cycle starts again.

It was not until August 23, 2005 that the State Council promulgated rules that dealt specifically with direct sale operation- Administration of Direct Sales (entered into effect on 1 December 2005) and the Regulations for the Prohibition of chuanxiao (entered into effect on 1 November 2005). When direct selling is allowed, it will only be permitted under the most stringent requirements, in order to ensure the operations are not pyramid schemes, MLM, or fly-by-night operations.
They’re sliding, though. Revenue is falling in North America and their sales force is shrinking. Revenue slid 19% in 2013 and 7% in Mexico. Skip ahead to July 2015 and revenue is still spiraling downward, with a 17% drop (5). Analysts blame Avon’s failure to maintain a strong identity for its products as well as the strong dollar. Lesson: Always re-create yourself.
Multi-level market (MLM) or network marketing is an American institution. Companies like Amway, Tupperware, Herbalife, Avon, Mary Kay and The Pampered Chef support huge networks of distributors and recruits who sell every type of product from dietary supplements to kitchenware to beauty products. Salespeople are called independent business owners (IBO) and generally work from their homes.
(May 2017 update: did this go under?) The sign up cost will make you do a triple take (almost four figures), but you get to set your own retail price on every product you sell. If you’ve got the skills to make people cough up the cash for their products (which, btw, are pretty legit), you could definitely make that money back. They’ve also been winning plenty of awards (even a growth award from the Direct Selling Association themselves).
The following is a list of organizations that according to their website descriptions provide MLM lead lists. Database Systems Corp. is not affiliated with any of these organizations nor does it promote or endorse the products and services of these companies. These websites provide various types of leads including business marketing leads, business opportunity leads, opt in MLM leads, network marketing leads, home business leads etc.
On a side note, I started using doTERRA about five years ago and love the oils! I didn’t join them to sell, or make money. I just wanted to raise awareness in what they could do and help with for individuals and families, as they did me and mine. In fact, many of my friends are now distributors (not under me). Lost opportunities? Not at all, in my book. More power to them! Back to R + F, and a little more insight from you would certainly scratch an itch.
How MLM companies are NOT considered Pyramid organizations is beyond me! They are all scams by the very nature of their organization structure. Those who start or get in early benefit directly from the efforts of those beneath them, forever. Not to mention the fact that most product sold through any of these MLM organization’s is to the dealer network itself. The top dogs are making money regardless as long as there is new blood coming in. And the best way to keep new blood coming in is to incentivize those at the lower middle and below to continue recruiting to build “a network of their own”. And those on the verge of “breaking through” who have already invested a small fortune in products along the way that are sitting on their pantry shelves NEED to keep recruiting. The very thing that differentiates a Pyramid scheme from an MLM is that an MLM sells an actual product. That is it. It doesn’t determine who that product is sold to as it should since we know that most product is sold to the worker bees and not to the general public for long.
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* Why 10 years? Because that amount of time really seems to matter. For example, according to research, since 1956 thousands of different MLM, Multi Level, or Network Marketing companies have opened their doors; and to date only +/- 50 MLM companies have found a way to celebrate their 10th anniversary and still remain in business today. Now, to be completely fair, we should also point out that each and every company on our list was at one time a start-up company too.
First of all, Avon “has” been. Second, Avon really needs to work on their appeal to a younger generation. Third, Avon makes it difficult for representatives to make any money unless you are purchasing a ton of catalogs and knocking on doors. The company really needs to allow representatives to advertise online, and I don’t mean spamming friends on a Facebook or Twitter feed.
Many MLM companies recommend starting with a list of 100 people you know, called your warm market. Although it's not a bad place to start when looking for customers and business builders, the technique could also backfire and get to the point where you're annoying friends and family. You're better off spending your time finding people who are interested in what you've got rather than trying to convince your commuting buddy to sign up when he doesn't want to.
The prospect of working from home is becoming increasingly popular. According to The New York Times, a recent Gallup poll reports 43 percent of employees work remotely some of the time. Of those, the number working from home four to five days per week has jumped to 31 percent. Modern workers seem to be embracing the flexibility of working remotely, so it’s not surprising that multi-level marketing companies (MLMs) are “poised for explosive growth,” Forbes predicts.
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If 18,000,000 Americans consider MLM their careers, yet only 0.3% actually succeed beyond average corporate America wages, do people realize that means there are barely more than 50,000 Americans “living the MLM dream” and almost 17,950,000 who just help the 50,000? Sad. I was part of team Tupperware decades ago because I wanted to buy Tupperware for my home for less. It took me about 14 months as a stay at home mother (never recruited, never pressured, my distributor didn’t like my attitude) to accomplish that task and then walked away. I live in rural America where so many fall to MLMs attempting to climb out of paycheck to paycheck living (very few good jobs) like the saved into a baptismal pool. “Disciples” is the perfect word. MLMs are just not thriving here. How many Americans can one recruit/sell to for building a business in a rural county with less than 20,000 other Americans of which 75% live below the poverty line? I see MLM victims everywhere.
Great article and thanks for taking the time to write this.. however I can see why your business didn’t fly as you had hoped. Mlm is a people’s business and that means that it IS the interaction with each other that strengthens working together. Yes you need to be self motivated but you also need to be a supporter too. Networking also eliminates the need to do constant appraisals. You don’t work you don’t get paid. That’s music to a corporate managers ears. Networking is not for everyone… but where else can you invest for such a small amount and have all the other aspects of business done for you and all you have to do is go get customers and recruit more customer finders and have no ceiling on being paid for that. As for the product you promote.. you choose something you like. My original passion as a woman was make up so I joined that type of business. Got so passionate I qualified as a beautician and onto other certificates then I discovered essential oils.. I needed supplies but minimum trade orders were over £3000 each time. Mlm on the other hand was order as my demands and finances could afford. So my interest in mlm grew. Now I would not go back to traditional office work. When I know when I apply myself I can exceed what ANY employer thinks I’m worth
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