My foray in direct sales was born from a lack of fulfillment, boredom, and a smidge of desperation.
Wait. That sounds dramatic. Let me back up.
See, before I became a mom, I was a lawyer practicing commercial litigation for a very prestigious, international law firm. (I know—sounds very complicated and grown up, but it’s just a fancy way of saying I got paid to go to court on behalf of big companies and fight about money all day long).
Suffice it to say, I didn’t love my job, despite that I was compensated well, had a strong sense of independence and, admittedly, felt kind of important when I went to court and judges listened to me when I talked. At the end of the day, it was a grind and a half.
So when I became pregnant with my daughter, I hatched a diabolical plan with my husband whereby I would pay down as much of my law school debt as possible before giving birth, and once our daughter was born, I’d quit to be a stay-at-home mom.
Our plan went swimmingly. We paid down my student loans, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, took my full twelve weeks’ maternity leave and, when I returned to the office, promptly gave my notice. I bid farewell to Big Law like, “Peace out, homies!” and stepped into my new role as CEO of Casa Oden without looking back.
But fast forward two years, and I had gone from a high-powered lawyer in pencil skirts and heels to an exhausted mom of two under 2 who was fairly consistently covered in bodily fluids that were not her own. After a lot of denial, I finally admitted out loud one day that I wasn’t happy.
The truth was I had completely lost myself in motherhood. I had nothing that was mine outside of being “Mommy” and “wife.” I knew to find myself again, I needed something just for me.
The thought of going back to Big Law gave me hives, though, so I decided to start a direct sales business from home instead. I began my career with an organic food company and then moved on to one of the largest cosmetic and skin care companies in the world. At both places I saw tremendous success, earning all-expenses-paid vacations for me and my husband at the first company and a free car at the second.
Now, let me stop right here and acknowledge the elephant in the room.
I know direct sales gets a bad rap in the media. And as someone who's actually walked the walk as a direct seller, I can sort of understand where some of that negative press comes from. But I also know being in direct sales can add immense value to your life.
Here’s what I learned:
1) Always ask for what you want.
When your job is to sell products, book parties and recruit new team members, you have to do a lot of asking. Like, a lot a lot. Over the years I realized asking for what you want is a skill that applies to all areas of your life.
“Do you have any more sizes in the back?”
“Can I get that without cilantro and add tomatoes and cucumbers?”
“Will you please donate to my kids’ school fundraiser?”
“Will you pay me $100 per published article instead of $75?”
What’s the worst that can happen? They say no? OK, fine. Let’s indulge this terrifying what-if scenario. They say no. And . . . are you any worse off than if you hadn’t asked?
But what if they say yes?
To paraphrase the Bible, you have not because you ask not. Ask for what you want, girlfriend.
2) Be nice to strangers for no reason at all.
When I was a sales director for the cosmetics and skincare company, one of the ways I was told to find new hostesses and team members was to genuinely compliment random strangers wherever I went and then invite them to whatever event I currently had on the books. We called it “warm chatting,” and although it made me cringe, it also led to me meeting some amazing women with whom I’m still friends to this day.
After I stepped down from my leadership role with that company to start Your Ideal Mom Life, I found myself continuing to warm chat, without the pitch.
“Your eyelashes are amazing.”
“You have gorgeous skin.”
“I love your nail color.”
And you know what? I discovered that it feels good to hand out compliments. Try it. At worst, some rando you’ll never see again thinks you’re nuts. At best, you make another woman’s day.
3) Put yourself out there.
Direct sales ain’t nothin’ if not a repeated series of putting yourself out there. Is it possible people will make fun of you? Yep. Might they reject your offer? You betcha. Is it scary? Uh, yeah.
But the more you put yourself out there, the closer you get to your goal. And more importantly—the more you grow.
Listen, girlfriend. You think Oprah became Oprah by playing it small? Do you think Amazon would exist if Jeff Bezos hadn't put it all on the line and fought to make a dream born in his garage a reality—despite all his critics? Would you and I even be friends if I hadn’t decided to put my soul on the internet and start this blog?
Remember that your kids are watching you. When they see you do hard things, they learn that they can do hard things, too. They grow from watching you stretch yourself and play full out. They emulate how you deal with adversity and disappointment, and make the connection when they see you go after your goals and achieve big things.
And they notice when you don’t. They see all the times you choose to settle instead.
So get out there, mama.
Try out for the ladies doubles league at the tennis center.
Apply for the Executive Board of the PTA.
Ask for the promotion.
Start your own company.
Run for office.
Be the girl who puts herself out there and just goes for it.
4) Be very intentional with your time.
You and I both know being a mom involves a beastly time management struggle. Keeping the small humans in your house fed, bathed, educated, active and entertained on a daily basis is no joke. And of course, that’s on top of brushing your own teeth and hair, eating, sleeping, exercising and nurturing your relationship with your spouse. Add a home-based business to the mix and things can get ugly, fast.
Being your own boss requires a set of habits most of us simply didn’t pick up in our early years, like being intentional with the 24 hours we have each day. Having a direct sales business quickly exposed my deficiencies in this arena, and led to me living in survival mode for several years.
But eventually, through lots of trial and improvement, I figured it out.
Today, I’m like a time management ninja. And I can tell you with absolute certainty that doing a mental dump, prioritizing and time blocking are vital not only to running a business, but to creating a mom life you love.
No doubt, there is a very real relationship between feeling confident and powerful in your mom life and deliberately planning out your week in advance.
In fact, I’ve created an entire business around teaching working moms how to own their day, crush their goals and lose the mom guilt. (And it’s life changing, if I do say so myself).
Remember: you are the center of your household. When you become intentional with your time, you stop feeling overwhelmed and spread thin and start experiencing more patience and joy, and that will spill over into everything you do.
Everything. I’m telling you, friend, this stuff is legit.
5) Don’t make up stories in your head about why other people do the things they do.
During my direct sales career, I reached out to a lot of people, met a ton more, and planted a lot of seeds. And let me tell you: not all of those seeds sprouted. That means I sent like, a gazillion texts and emails that went unanswered and made plenty of phone calls that were never returned.
At first, the temptation to invent a story in my head about why I didn’t hear back was almost irresistible.
She doesn’t like me.
She thinks I’m pushy and annoying.
She wants to say no but doesn’t know how to tell me.
And while sure, some of those hunches were undoubtedly true, the reality was that it usually wasn’t any of those things. In fact, most of the time it had absolutely nothing to do with me or my business.
Eventually, I realized I needed to give people grace and stop making everything about me. Most people are completely absorbed in their own stuff. They’re not plotting all the ways they can be intentionally rude or unresponsive.
So when people don’t respond to your text messages or call you back; if they ignore your emails; when they unfriend or unfollow you—don’t think for one second that you actually know why.
In most cases, it ain’t got nothin’ to do with you. Maybe you reached out at the precise moment her kid barfed in the car, and therefore responding to you is (obviously) not a priority. Maybe her baby got a hold of her phone and unfriended all of her friends on social media. Maybe her email got hacked and she deleted her account.
Give people the benefit of the doubt and don’t make it about you.
I know direct sales isn’t for everyone, and that’s a beautiful thing. You’re shining in your unique gifts and talents, and the world needs that. In the end, direct sales wasn’t my forever career, but I’m glad I had the experience. Aren’t you? It led me to creating Your Ideal Mom Life—a calling I would never have otherwise discovered.
Wherever you are on your journey, keep shining, girlfriend. Don’t underestimate where your path is leading you. And don’t forget to share all the beautiful nuggets you pick up along the way.
I promise to keep doing the same for you.
Nikki Oden is a happy wife, mom of two, and lawyer-turned-writer who teaches busy moms how to get a grip on their time so they can go after their goals—without the mom guilt! Click HERE to grab her free Super Mom Starter Guide and learn the three things that all moms who are rocking it know.