In December 2017, I stood in a room full of social entrepreneurs from around the midwest. They had come for Madison’s annual Fair Trade Holiday Festival, and we got to enjoy a social mixer the night before the big event. It was so special to chat with like-minded people there.
As I answered one woman’s question about what my business was, she lit up. Although Noonday’s isn’t (yet!) a household name in my community, it is the world’s largest and fastest-growing fair trade accessories brand, so is well-known in the fair trade space. She was familiar with what a huge impact Noonday has been able to make through partnership with Artisan businesses, and wanted to know how we did it. What was our business model? she asked. Do we do brick-and-mortar stores, or online only, or what?
“No,” I replied. “We’re a direct sales company.”
A few years earlier, I might have been timid about that answer. After all, “direct sales,” “MLM” (Multi-Level Marketing), and “network marketing” are loaded terms that sometimes carry baggage, stigma, and misunderstanding. But there was no timidity in my voice, because I could boldly tell her how our business model has created sustained and sustainable growth, to the benefit of the Artisans as well as the Ambassadors who earn a flexible income with impact.
What it comes down to is this: the way to grow a socially conscious brand is through casting vision to others, and I believe that our direct sales model has been uniquely suited to making that happen. This, partnered with a focus on great designs through a collaborative process that marries U.S. trends with our Artisans’ traditions and vision, has created a powerhouse brand poised to grow even more.
How Direct Sales can grow a company
When a company has something great to share, it can certainly expand by investing in brick-and-mortar stores, frequent vendor events, or online marketing. But there is power in focusing instead on investing in driven entrepreneurs who can build relationships with customers. Entrepreneurs who cast vision out in the field on the company’s behalf. And there is power in giving those entrepreneurs the option to grow as leaders too, who invite in others and support them in their businesses to sustain healthy growth - as we see with a well-executed multi-level marketing structure (*see note below).
Within Noonday, our direct sales business model means that when our Artisan business partners create a product, they know that samples of it (or at least beautiful photos of it in a well-produced catalog) will reach women all over America through a network of 2,000+ Ambassadors. Through Ambassadors, Noonday - and in turn our Artisan business partners - gets direct and deep access to customers. We create a shopping experience. We sell through connection and story, with our Ambassadors and Hostesses at the heart of it.
How Direct Sales can benefit entrepreneurs
When I had a growing interest in promoting fair trade, I could have created a new company from scratch. I could have sought out capital, established partnerships, worked out product design and pricing and inventory and marketing and an e-commerce website and catalog production and legal requirements and fair trade and B Corp certification and staffing…yikes. Maybe not so much. An endeavor like that would not have been possible when I was still wanting to be at home full-time with my kids. But you know what? Someone else has gone before me to do those steps - Noonday’s founder, Jessica Honegger - and she’s invited you and me to join in, and even choose how much we want to work our businesses!
When people like you and me discover a company that aligns with how we want to make a difference in the lives of others, direct sales is a huge gift. It’s an opportunity to grow a business with nothing but a small start-up kit - currently starting at just $99 - and a computer. This small investment enables us to represent a well-established brand, with its amazing products and infrastructure already in place, by working our own hours and making customer connections our focus. We don’t carry inventory, we don’t have to design the products…we just purchase the discounted samples that feel right for us, and introduce them to customers while sharing our hearts. At Noonday, we call it “income with impact” or “a paycheck with a purpose.” Knowing that my success is intertwined with the Artisans’ success drives me forward every day, and makes me unashamed to share the style help and the inspiration toward impact that I can offer to potential customers, hostesses, or teammates.
How direct sales can grow a movement
Noonday is active in the fair trade space, with promoting fair trade through its Ambassadors as well as through work with the Fair Trade Federation. Last week, Noonday was the primary sponsor of the conference for the FTF, which is a trade association of Fair Trade enterprises in the U.S. and Canada. Jessica Honegger was also a keynote speaker. (Click here to learn from the FTF about the principles of Fair Trade.)
Chris Solt, the Executive Director of the FTF, shared at our annual Shine conference as well - and I was thrilled to hear him echo what I’d shared a year earlier at the social mixer. He told us, “I really consider Noonday Collection to be one of our leaders. You should be very proud of the role that you serve not just in the FTF, but in the global movement. What you do matters so much. And, what’s really unique about you is direct sales. To have the Noonday team…create the opportunity for you all to be individual entrepreneurs for yourselves, is really not a small thing.” In other words: when you apply the powerful growth model of direct sales to the powerful impact model of fair trade, beautiful things happen. Beautiful things to the tune of 4,500 artisans and 20,000+ family members in 15 countries, stepping out of vulnerability and into flourishing. Beautiful things like Ambassadors around the country stepping into their own stories of impact and sisterhood, while earning an income for their families.
And, Noonday is the first and only direct sales company that is both an FTF member, and a certified B Corp. B Corps are businesses committed to using business as a force for social and environmental good. So, Noonday is uniquely positioned to get into homes around the country, to bring handmade style and inspiration toward impact to thousands upon thousands of women.
In Noonday’s words
The Join page of Noonday’s website has an FAQ section, with the question, “Why do you use a direct sales business model?” It says,
“We use a direct sales business model because it allows us to make a bigger impact for women in the United States and our Artisan Partners around the world. By selling Noonday Collection products through a community of Ambassadors, we are creating a fast growing market for Artisan products. In just five years, Noonday Collection has become the largest and fastest growing fair trade jewelry business in the world – and this is because of our Ambassadors! In addition, we are passionate about empowering women. The direct sales model enables us to provide income to women in the United States through a flexible business model that empowers them to become social entrepreneurs.”
What this means for you
If you’ve thought of starting a business with Noonday but are nervous, you’re in good company; I’m a previous direct sales failure and was skeptical it could work for me. Talk to me (or your Ambassador if you have one!). Understand how it actually works and how you will earn an income, with our competitive commission structure, alongside the Artisans. They want to welcome you to the movement, as do I. And, ICYMI, you can even earn a trip to visit our Artisan partners; my time in Vietnam last year, and coming up in Ecuador this year, helps ground me in my purpose and connect me more fully to this movement.
And, hot of the presses, TODAY is the launch of a limited-time $99 starter collection available through 6/30/19. Noonday wants to make it easier than ever for you to say yes and hit the ground running as a social entrepreneur. For just $99, you will get $212 worth of product, business tools such as catalogs, your Noonday website, and instant access to training, personal coaching, and sisterhood. And, if you join in April and have your first qualifying trunk show by 5/31, you’ll get additional free product - bringing your total to $346 worth of sample product (which you can also wear!) for just $99 + shipping/tax.
Is this your path to impact? Or, do you have a friend who would make an awesome Ambassador? Reach out to her by sharing this post, and tell her you’ll be her first hostess! Together, we can change the world - and look great while doing it.
*Side note: if the idea of an MLM carries a stigma for you, it’s important to note a few things. First, every organization I’ve ever been a part of has some kind of multi-level structure! I have women on my team who I coach, and they can coach others. But unlike a corporate structure, I’m not their boss; it’s more like a franchise. They run their own independent business and I encourage them in it by providing 100% free coaching, resources, and community. Does Noonday pay me for the time I pour into my team? Of course. Our contribution to growing the pool of Ambassadors, and hence the company, enables Noonday to compensate us more - and as a company that wants to empower women both near and far, this is a good thing. I hope that three things are clear: one, I am not required to coach in order to work my business. Two, I am paid by Noonday, not my teammates, and Noonday does not diminish my teammates’ income in order to pay me. And three, I cannot earn a penny of coaching income if I am not actively running my own business, nor do I earn anything just for signing people up. It is only when we are both active in our businesses that I am paid any coaching commission. Noonday is not a pyramid scheme - far, far from it - nor is it a recruiting machine where we are just trying to enroll people to get paid (as I said, there’s no such thing here as payment just for recruiting). Instead, we want to build opportunity for others by pouring into their businesses. Our structure where women can coach others contributes to our growth, our teammates’ success, and our opportunity to earn an income.