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Published April 12, 2017

Feminism and Pyramid Schemes: Is LuLaRoe Sexist?

With a strip of kaleidoscopic scrap cloth, LuLaRoe has drawn a “buttery-soft” line between the women of our nation. Are you pro-legging or against?

“Lularoe doesn’t just sell leggings. It sells empowerment,” claims one author on the Daily Dot. Many stay-at-home moms believe LuLaRoe is magical investment opportunity, allowing them to own their own business and have a lucrative career while still spending quality time with their kids.

However, many savvy business women have found that, like many multi-level marketing schemes, LuLaRoe is nothing but a flashy lure to trick vulnerable women into buying into the idea that they, like their husbands, are experienced professionals, entrepreneurs, or even business owners. But living the fantasy of being a “business owner” through LuLaRoe comes at a high price.

And it’s a price directly targeting women and moms. While masquerading as a women’s empowerment organization, a closer look at LuLaRoe’s marketing tactics reveals a strategy that’s anything but empowering; rather, it takes advantage of women in a straight up sexist manner.

 

LuLaRoe Targets Stay-At-Home Moms

There’s a very specific demographic that invests in LuLaRoe: Stay-At-Home moms. Every LuLaRoe consultant I’ve met is a stay-at-home mom who has very little experience in the actual business world. There’s a reason for this: Stay-At-Home Moms often do not know much about business.

First of all, let me preface this by saying that, yes, I am generalizing. I am speaking to demographics and trends, not specifics. Obviously, some stay-at-home moms got a Masters in Business, spearheaded the marketing department of a successful tech company, and then chose to leave a booming career to stay home with their firstborn child. And you know what? Those SAHMs will never buy into LuLaRoe, so this article isn’t for them.

Every LuLaRoe consultant I’ve ever met is a woman, a stay-at-home mom who does not have a business degree or an extensive background in marketing, accounting, or business development. That’s why they are an easy target for LuLaRoe. Meanwhile, many professionals in accounting and marketing have written about why LuLaRoe’s investment packages are a horrible deal for the women who become consultants.

I come from a high level digital marketing background, and I’ve tried to talk to my lady friends about why LuLaRoe is a bad business decision. I’ve shown them the numbers–but without a deep-level understanding of business development, it can be difficult for anyone to fully understand how they lose money in the long-run with LuLaRoe. They just see the success stories and the raving fans and think: I want a piece of that, too! It’s understandable.

LuLaRoe has built a magical brand that makes women feel like they can become successful business owners while staying home with their kids. It feels empowering. That’s what makes it all the more exploitative.

The truth is, a real business-owner needs years of experience in all kinds of skills. Accounting. Marketing. Sales. Networking. Web design. Social media. Content development. Do you have all those skills? If you do, you’d be better off using them in a corporation or company that will pay you what your experienced is worth. If you don’t, then LuLaRoe would like to convince you that you do–which feels incredible, but isn’t honest. And that lack of honesty is costing women money.

According to a fantastic article by PinkTruth, “A LuLaRoe consultant pays roughly $6,784 for 463 pieces to get started on their inventory.” And guess what? You don’t get to choose your patterns or sizes. So you will always be left over with inventory that no one will purchase due to size restrictions or undesirable patterns. That’s money lost right there. Then, in order to qualify for bonuses for sales each month, you have to invest more money to re-stock your inventory. That’s right. You have to spend more money in order to get the bonuses you already earned.

 

LuLaRoe Preys on the “Mother Instinct”

So many SAHMs dream of having a viable career while also being able to stay home with their children. It’s a difficult sacrifice for any woman to make–choose your child or choose your career. LuLaRoe’s business developers have recognized this painful part of motherhood and, like any cunning sales team, attempted to provide a solution that their marketing demographic will buy into. And it’s working.

While LuLaRoe consultants sell leggings, the higher-ups at LuLaRoe are selling something completely different: The promise that women and mothers can “have it all.”

It’s pretty disgusting actually.

Think about it for a minute: Why do you think you seldom see any male LuLaRoe consultants? Why are there very few consultants who have real-world business experience? It’s because LuLaRoe specifically targets vulnerable stay-at-home mothers and women who do not have any real-world business experience. Then, these stay-at-home moms and women shell out thousands of dollars, provided by their working husbands, to buy inventory. Then, most of these women simply sell the inventory to their friends and family. In fact, many LuLaRoe consultants never even buy a second batch of inventory. LuLaRoe gets thousands of dollars, and the consultants never even get their bonus because, to qualify for their bonus, they’d need to re-stock by spending a certain amount of money buying more stuff from LuLaRoe. Who really benefits here? Who is “empowered” by the end of this transaction?

To give you a rough example of a sales breakdown, let’s look at this article by BottleSoup.

It says:

  • Let’s say you want to pay off your LuLaRoe investment in 1 month. According to the chart, you need to sell an average of 70 items per week, or an average of 10 pieces per day. If you meet this sales goal, 70 * 4 weeks in a month = 280 pieces sold. Your kit contained 381 pieces. You’ll have 101 pieces left to sell, and you’ll still be in the hole -$460 for the first month. IF you’re scratching your head, let’s back up: you invested $5,500 in your starter kit/inventory. You earned $5,040 from selling 280 pieces of LuLaRoe clothing. $5,500 – $5,040 = $460 shy of your initial investment.

There’s a reason experienced business women–myself included–don’t become LuLaRoe consultants. We recognize that our business skills are given far more value when working 9-5 for real companies or by starting our own business. But because LuLaRoe preys on the “mother instinct,” their sales executives realize that stay-at-home moms want to be home with their kids, but still have the validation that comes with employment. So LuLaRoe’s marketing team tells their consultants what they want to hear: You’re a real business woman. You have financial freedom. You’re an expert!

No. The real business women stay far away from LuLaRoe.

 

LuLaRoe Exploits Women’s Natural Social Groups

In general, women and stay-at-home moms form groups. There are dozens of large “Mommy Groups” with very active and engaged members. In marketing, this is a gold mine. If we can find a large group of people flocking together who follow each other’s trends and engage with each other, we strive to break into that group.

It’s brilliant, really. LuLaRoe saw that mothers tend to create large, socially active groups. If one woman in that group begins to sell a trendy product, she is likely to be able to generate leads based on her established network. So the first Mom in the “Mommy Group” to start selling LuLaRoe may get a great deal of sales. That’s why you do hear about LuLaRoe success stories.

Of course, seeing the success, another mom in that group will want to sell LuLaRoe as well. She will also, likely, do well. She will throw a LuLaRoe party and everyone in the group will get excited. Three more moms sign up to sell LuLaRoe as consultants, with the initial consultant being their “manager.”

However, eventually this Mom Group will get saturated. With lots more competition for sales and too many LuLaRoe events to attend, success is harder to come by. The first few consultants probably made some profit, and they will continue to profit off the sales of the consultants beneath them, but here’s the key: The market is not large enough for everyone to be successful. And most consultants are not success stories.

Instead, LuLaRoe preys on the sacred friendship and bond between mothers. When your friend asks you to come to her LuLaRoe event and buy her products, it begins to feel like you’re being used. LuLaRoe executives saw women and mothers as a perfect target because we’re social by nature, and many stay-at-home moms don’t have the business acumen to realize they’re not getting their fair share.

 

Pyramid Schemes and Multi-Level Marketing Are All Scams

A few years ago I was between jobs and hunting for a new opportunity when a friend of mine from high school contacted me out of the blue. She said her company was hiring, and there was an information session and networking event that night. She would introduce me to her boss.

As soon as I walked through the door, I knew I’d been tricked. There was a room full of people in power ties and fresh-pressed blazers. After a few minutes, we all took our seats and a man in front of a projector began to speak. He used buzzwords like “building your own destiny” and “owning your own business.” These are the incredible promises people want to hear–men and women alike.

The speaker made insane promises. “Even if you have no business experience, it’s okay, because we will host training events to teach you. We’ll even mentor you! And because you sell our products, we’ll give you huge discounts (but you still have to pay) for these business training seminars that usually cost thousands. We’ll teach you things college won’t teach you.”

I watched as all of these people, completely inexperienced in business, listened with excitement on their faces. Many of them were wearing three-piece suits and pantsuits, as if playing dress-up as CEOs.

I was horrified. “For only $500 you can get on board,” the speaker said, and people lined up to pay him. Many of them will never get that money back. They just want to believe they’ll be business owners. They’d be better off spending that $500 on textbooks for college. Or, keep that money and start attending local Business Development MeetUps, SEO and Web Design MeetUps, Marketing MeetUps–all FREE.

I walked out in the middle of his presentation. I’m sure my friend was hoping I’d pay $500 to sign up, and then she’d get a cut of that money.

 

LuLaRoe Is Worst of All Pyramid Schemes

To me, LuLaRoe is the worst because it doesn’t just target dreamers or people who hope to get rich quick. No. It targets women–in a specifically anti-feminist way. It seeks out our “Mother Instinct” and preys on it to get our money. It preys on the fact that many women do not have business experience. And it preys on our bonds and social groups. Make no mistake, LuLaRoe’s executives know exactly what they’re doing, and they build the LuLaRoe promises around exactly what women and mothers want to hear. That’s why they are a multi-billion dollar company.
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  • Linda McMahan

    Linda

  • This stay at home mom reflects on her fascination with all things apiary, gleaning plentiful professional and personal lessons in the process. Even those without any real connection to or interest in the natural world, cosmetics, food, or other topics typically associated with a SAHM. All my articles.

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