Vanette “Vannie” Ryanes’ entry into the direct selling field as an Independent Watkins Associate 15 years ago was more than an opportunity to make extra money. It was a chance to immerse herself in what she loved—cooking.
“I grew up with Watkins. My mother used Watkins,” says Ryanes whose mother made cakes and pies using Watkins products. Her father also used a Watkins ointment for his back. While her parents never outwardly expressed their high regard for Watkins, the products were always in the home. So in 1995 when Ryanes saw an advertisement for becoming an Independent Watkins Associate, she signed up.
When she first started her business, she was working full-time as a senior contract assistant for the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. “As far back as I can remember, I’ve always done two things,” she says. Prior to joining Watkins, Ryanes had been frequenting workshops and researching ideas for making extra money. Since she was already familiar with Watkins products, she decided she’d give direct selling a try.
Today Ryanes coaches others who are interested in setting up home-based businesses.
Choose a company you like and respect.
Direct selling is an old business model that is making a comeback. The Wall Street Journal recently featured a 40-page supplement by Direct Selling News, which stated that direct selling might be the answer to the shrinking job market.
Ryanes, who is now retired from her day job, never intended to produce a full-time income from direct selling. Through her Watkins home business, she sells organic herbs and spices because “that is my area of interest—food and cooking,” she says. She owns over 70 cookbooks and writes a “Hot and Spicy” column for Bellaonline.
What also attracted Ryanes to Watkins was the low start-up cost. Currently, Independent Watkins Associates can get started for under $40. “Watkins is good for people who have very little money for a start-up and who don’t want to stockpile products,” Ryanes says.
Be willing to learn and then share your knowledge.
You don’t have to know everything when you’re getting started with your direct selling business. “Unfamiliarity is okay because you can learn,” she says.
Even if you don’t wear makeup, you can still sell Mary Kay. Ryanes explains that since the company sells a host of other products such as skin care, body lotions and fragrances, you can “let people know what is new and talk about the products you do use”. “If you’re asked about a product and you don’t know what to say, just say: ‘I’m not sure, but let me get you some information on it and I’ll get back to you.’ Get back to them within a couple of hours with info,” she advises.
Be prepared to work hard.
Ryanes admits that direct selling for her has not been terribly stressful, but still it is wrought with highs and lows. Also when she started, she put in long hours for years. She’d work all day at her job and then come home and work on her business into the wee hours of the morning.
That’s why it’s important to choose your business wisely. “I love the products,” Ryanes says. “I always have business cards with me even when I’m away.”
With the extra money she earned from her direct selling business, Ryanes was able to purchase a timeshare after five years and a second timeshare a few years later. “I’m comfortable; Watkins has been good to me. It’s allowed me to get those extras,” she shares. However, she warns people against thinking of direct selling as a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. “I don’t fill desperate people’s heads with unrealistic dreams,” she said. “I tell the people I coach not to quit their day jobs,” she notes.
Promote your business.
When Ryanes first became a Watkins Associate, she immediately called her mother who was living in a senior citizens home. Since her mother was a lifelong fan of Watkins, she told everyone she knew. The other seniors became Ryanes’ first customers. “They’d call me and say, ‘Hi honey. Your mother told me to call you,’” she remembers.
“They got me started,” says Ryanes who cautions that with direct selling, you have to branch out. “Family can only buy so much. Be realistic and retail to other people.”
Ryanes describes her marketing approach as subtle. “I’m not a blatant advertiser,” she notes. Initially, she attended a few general networking events per month. Then in 2000, she was able to start selling her products online which she continues to do today.
In addition to her webpage through Watkins, she has a personal website, abettercook.com and a Twitter page for abettercook. On Twitter, she shares information about food, cooking and recipes. Her bio on Bellaonline mentions her Twitter page. This kind of indirect marketing works. When Ryanes asks new customers how they found her, many of them mention Bellaonline.
Recently, without any prompting from her, someone from Canada signed up to be part of Ryanes’ group for Watkins. Ryanes says she doesn’t actively recruit people to sell under her because she wants to focus on what she’s good at—cooking, writing about food and selling the products.