Carl Rehnborg is credited as having started the multi-level marketing industry back in the 1930s. After learning about the benefits of dietary supplements in China, Rehnborg came back to the United States and started a company called The California Vitamin Company, which was later rebranded to Nutrilite. Six years after that rebranding, Rehnborg reorganized the company’s structure and the way it sold products into what we know as MLM today.
“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)
First, Elliot, thank you for this article. Your sense of truly wanting to help comes through and it’s refreshing. Like MommyFinance, I too have suffered PTSD from previous runs at MLM but I have been looking for legitimate ways of making extra income and seems I’m being directed toward trying MLM again. Your article gave me hope that there are some good ones out there. What you said about finding the one that fits me and leaving a legacy for family really turned on a light for me and I greatly appreciate that. A wine business is not quite up my alley but I will certainly direct those who might be interested your way.
A few noteworthy points on this list… The only companies considered for this list are U.S.A. based; and if you click on each and every company linked above, what you will not find should be as interesting to you (and as revealing) as what you will find. There are no travel companies, only two technology companies (ACN and 5LINX), just one service company (Legal Shield), and 22 health and wellness companies. Even Amway, whose core product line still includes soap, really got started by way of the wellness revolution! Read this book by Paul Zane Pilzer and you’ll understand why nutrition, weight management, and skincare products continue to drive the trends in the network marketing industry to this day.
It is almost impossible to stop the industry because of the amount of investors and lobbyists who are profiting from them. “During the Obama administration, the Federal Trade Commission made its biggest-ever effort to curb this industry when last summer it slapped nutritional supplement–seller Herbalife with a $200 million fine and, as part of a settlement with Herbalife, demanded it restructure its business so that it would “start operating legitimately,” as FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez put it.” (Slate) The current administration under President Donald Trump will be a completely different story and may very well be a boon for the MLM industry. Let’s start with Trump himself. In 2009, he licensed his name to an MLM, which eventually went bankrupt, along with many of his participants. Many in Trump’s cabinet have strong ties to MLMs as well: Betsey DeVos (whose husband is the president of Amway — by the way, DeVos family has donated $200 million to the Republican party over the years), Ben Carson, Carl Icahn (a billionaire who is also a major investor in Herbalife and holds five board seats at the company), and Charles Herbster.
Multi-level marketing (MLM), also called pyramid selling, network marketing, and referral marketing, is a marketing strategy for the sale of products or services where the revenue of the MLM company is derived from a non-salaried workforce selling the company's products/services, while the earnings of the participants are derived from a pyramid-shaped or binary compensation commission system.