We know all too well that MLMs target women when recruiting and that women comprise an overwhelming majority of MLM victims, so we are delighted that our next Q&A is with the founder of The Motherload, (www.the-motherload.co.uk), a website/community that addresses parenthood frankly, honestly, non-judgmentally and occasionally irreverently.
Kate, thank you very much for being a Timeless Vie supporter and for taking the time to answer our questions. Firstly, perhaps you can tell us why you and The Motherload team decided to make your community an MLM-free space?
Ah, I’m a loud and proud supporter of Timeless Vie!
Initially, we limited MLM companies from posting on the group to ensure that our members were not bombarded with adverts and the like when we were initially building the community. Unfortunately, where you allow one MLM to advertise many, many others follow and so timelines in groups get increasingly overwhelmed. We want to know about our members, hear their funny stories, allow them to have a space to share advice and support and that is very difficult with a timeline of adverts running through the middle of the group, and eventually members would disengage.
However, we now operate a zero tolerance because the more I researched MLM businesses, the more alarmed I became at their exploitation of women, especially of new mothers and stay-at-home mums.
I feel very protective of our members, and I respect their loyalty to our group and brand. Many of them are vulnerable – whether as recently new mums, single mums, and we have many members with PND, anxiety and other maternal mental health conditions that make them easy fodder for exploitative companies.
We know that pregnant women/women on maternity leave/stay-at-home mothers are heavily targeted by MLMs and that spaces that attract mothers (both online and in the ‘real world’) are like magnets to network marketing recruiters. Do they attempt to flout your rules and how do you keep them out?
Oh goodness, YES. All the time. We are very careful about checking profiles for new member requests but we find that often MLM will restrict access to their profile as groups are less accommodating/ more aware than they once were. Our members list is like GOLD to a network marketer and they – and we – know it. So we operate a zero tolerance approach to MLM – if we know you are a MLM rep, then you won’t be allowed in, and we delete any posts alluding to the sale of MLM products, recruitment, networking or any other promotion that we find on the group.
It takes a lot of work to manage, from checking every new request to join, to running searches on the group on a regular basis. Despite warnings on our page description, and clear guidelines within the group, MLM often ignore this and increase their activity regardless.
Network marketers will use a variety of tactics and they change all the time. Aside from the obvious ‘advert’, we find that some play the long game, whilst others are more obvious with their networking and will start ‘introduction’ threads to ‘make friends’ on the group and the clincher is always when they ask people to add them as a friend. Regardless of the method, we always remove the member immediately and block; we find without blocking they come back!
We also work with admins on other groups that we know our members like, and pass information and new tactics over to help each other out. Finally, we rely on our members to help us keep on top of this policy as well.
You have over 10k members. Would you say that they are generally supportive of your MLM policy?
Very much so, and in fact, we have frequent feedback that they absolutely support it and are relieved we have such a hard line approach to it. I think many people are really tired of seeing MLM ‘adverts’ etc on groups and on their timelines, and their feedback definitely acknowledges that.
Why do you think that so many mothers are sucked into MLM schemes and what do you think that we as a wider community should do about it?
Loneliness, lack of income, an opportunity to try something new, or to use the products themselves; how many of us have bemoaned the fact that we can no longer afford all the lovely beauty and makeup products any longer once the baby comes along? But more than anything, I think a lot of mothers would give anything to stay at home that bit longer in the early days and so they look for something – anything – to allow them to do that.
Being an entrepreneur, developing an idea and bringing it to market is a minefield, so I can well understand why women see these adverts and think that’s for them. On the face of it, making new friends, low start up costs and these far fetched but often promised incomes sound like a very low risk way of ‘being your own boss’ and running your own business. If only it was genuinely that easy.
What advice would you give to a woman who is struggling with the eternal work/life balance question and who is considering joining an MLM?
Oh goodness, without a doubt, DON’T. But if you really think this looks good to you, then for goodness sake research as much as you can. MLM companies tell you in their ‘training’ to learn their business inside out – well, you know what, take them at their word and DO that. Look into everything, request information that isn’t in their cheesy front facing websites and emoji-filled ads; find out from the horse’s mouth what you can ACTUALLY expect to earn, what the real compensation plan is and importantly, what the REAL risk is as there is ALWAYS one. But be warned, it won’t be easy to find this information because they don’t want you to know it –knowledge is power, and in this case, the power to walk away.
Don’t be lazy, and for goodness sake, don’t trust Wendy who has just joined up and is posting pics of ‘her’ white Merc and telling you she’s about to move into a McMansion because I promise, she is faking it until she is making it. There are very, very few successful network marketers, and you are unlikely to be one of them. You will most likely be one of the thousands who try, and fail within MLM businesses every year. The odds are proven to be stacked against you – in fact, the business is designed to be stacked against you.
One of the things that keeps us motivated and active at TV are the personal stories people share with us. We have heard from a lot of women who have been financially and emotionally damaged by their participation in a scheme. Have you been affected personally – directly or indirectly – by an MLM?
It goes without saying that MLM has never, and would never be a business model that I could get on board with so I don’t have that particular tale of woe to share. What I have experienced, however, is the sheer vitriol of network marketers when we refuse to allow them access to our group, or we pull their posts, or query their motives. We have an ethos on The Motherload of being non-judgemental, honest and supportive (about motherhood!), and this is used against us all the time. My team and I regularly have our Facebook profiles ‘stalked’ and posts about feminism that I have put on my timeline have been used against me because I’m not ‘supportive of women’ and apparently, a ‘judgemental bitch’. I’ve been called names, had threats made against me and recently, was informed by one disgruntled network marketer that she was going to do anything she could to ruin my business – because I removed her post and asked her to refrain from contacting our membership. Eyeroll ahoy. We have around 150 member requests every day on The Motherload group and we block around 15 -20 of these, or member profiles from our group daily. I get at least 2-3 direct messages from MLM reps per week that range from mildly irritated to downright aggressive.
Despite all of this, I don’t blame the individuals. MLM companies are a modern cult phenomenon, with typical brainwashing and herd tactics used on reps. They make it personal, they encourage it to be reflective of the individual in many ways and so it’s understandable that those working within these businesses feel so defensive when your ‘why’ is your children. Leaders of these companies are revered as modern day heroes, and the ‘trips’ promised are nothing more than motivational rallies, designed to further instill the company rhetoric – and after all, if you, as many network marketers DO legitimately – have a little bit of success at the beginning, then of course you will start to believe it is a fantastic opportunity and that you have found your niche.
However, how many reps still believe that 1-2 years later, when their friends have distanced themselves, their income is lower than ever and their opportunity that was once so glittering now resembles a stagnant failure, with the blame squarely directed at them? I’ve read so many accounts where women leave network marketing disillusioned, with low self esteem, sometimes having lost all of the money they put into their ‘business’ and feeling like a failure.
Finally, our position here at TV is never to judge or to blame people who have been sucked into network marketing schemes – it can happen to anyone. We prefer to directly target the MLM companies themselves and to educate & inform people so that they can avoid being mislead. What do you think is the best way that we can help women to make more informed choices about MLMs?
We have to get information out there and we have to start talking about the reality of working for an MLM company. Their soaring popularity is based upon a lack of knowledge and fair representation and it’s incredible how quickly a new MLM can spread. I would like to see social platforms remove the ability for these companies to post on them, and to prohibit and fine the companies if they do so. I would like to see governments taking conducting more research into the reality of MLM companies, and ensuring that companies are prohibited from making false claims about income levels and the health and medical claims that these companies make about their products.
Thank you very much for talking to us. We love The Motherload and hope that we can continue working together to advise and support parents
We love Timeless Vie! What you are doing is so important in bringing about change and understanding of the MLM industry.