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MomsWIN Explained

By Marci Stafford
Posted Thursday, December 23, 2004

MomsWIN, Melaleuca? What's it all about anyway? Is this really a good thing for moms? I checked it out!

Visit any message board community catering to parents, and you'll probably see moms advertising a company called MomsWIN (or something similar) in their signature line. What is this all about? I figured it was probably a work-at-home scheme that would be about as lucrative as stuffing envelopes (in other words: not at all). A friend of mine said she'd heard that MomsWIN is affiliated with a company called Melaleuca and if that was the case, she considered it to be on the up and up. (She'd been a customer herself in the early 1990s).

While I believed my friend, I wanted to get more information than she was able to offer. She knew of Melaleuca, but she knew no more than I did about the MomsWIN connection. I decided to head over to the site, request more information and get the whole story.

I participated in one of the informational conference call presentations and also addressed quite a few questions to Ariana Reed-Hager, the founder of MomsWIN and an executive director for Melaleuca. Here is what I learned...

What exactly do the moms at MomsWIN do?

As my friend said, MomsWIN markets for a company called Melaleuca. The "WIN" in MomsWIN stands for Women In Net marketing. This group of home-based women leverage the power of the Internet to market Melaleuca's products by word of mouth and advertising campaigns to targeted sites.

Why don't they mention Melaleuca on their sites?

This is one of the first questions I had... What's the big secret, anyway? Apparently, it's not a secret, but Melaleuca has strict Internet marketing rules (as do most direct marketing companies). Ariana explained to the people on our informational call that Melaleuca is protective of their brand name and how it is used in commerce. Until they find a way to carefully monitor how the brand is represented on the Internet, they are very conservative about how they let marketing executives promote it online.

She also said that Melaleuca prides itself on making sure that each individual gets accurate information about the products and opportunity with one-on-one personal contact. In particular, they do not want their brand name used in unsolicited mailings (spam) or other impersonal, bulk advertisements. As a result, they have implemented very strict Internet rules to protect themselves. The bottom line, according to Ariana: Melaleuca wants each customer and marketing executive to feel fully informed first-hand, instead of promoting their product and opportunity in an impersonal, automated fashion.

What is Melaleuca?

The name Melaleuca comes from an Australian tree commonly called the tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia). Melaleuca refers to themselves as "The Wellness Company," citing numerous health benefits to using their products, as well as a corporate focus on physical, financial, family, inner, social and intellectual wellness.

According to the information I received, Melaleuca is an earth-friendly company headquartered in Idaho and was founded over 17 years ago. Their stated mission is to create natural products safe for families to use, while also making life easier for these families. Melaleuca produces 300 items including, but not limited to, household cleaners and candles, hygiene and personal care items, pharmaceuticals and nutritional products. They also launched a cosmetics line in partnership with fashion designer Nicole Miller in January 2003. In addition, Melaleuca offers travel, phone and credit card services.

Products can be purchased on a retail basis, directly from the company via mail-ordering from either their catalog or Web site. Most customers elect to enroll with a wholesale account, which offers what appear to be significant savings. Those who enroll on a wholesale basis are called "Preferred Customers," and are obligated to purchase a minimum number of products each month (usually 8-12 products with a dollar amount in the $45-50 range, plus shipping and handling), but are not required to maintain an inventory of products. A family of four is likely to find themselves easily spending more than this depending on just how clean (or not!) you keep your home (and whether or not you have pets). Melaleuca states that it offers a "Satisfaction or Money Back Guarantee."

Is there really anything all that special about their products?

Many Melaleuca products include essential oil from the Australian tea tree. This oil has known antibacterial properties and has long been in use by herbalists and aromatherapists for its therapeutic properties. Tea tree oil is considered to be non-toxic and safe for the environment.

Many, though not all, of Melaleuca's products are certified organic. Most of the household products are concentrated, so a little goes a long way. Assuming these products are as effective as advertised, I think there is a good value for the money here. Several customers I talked to were very pleased with the quality and performance of the products; those who had allergies or were sensitive to supermarket brands were especially satisfied.

Credentials?

Melaleuca has been in business since September 1995. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Reliability Report, they are participants in the BBB online program. According to the BBB site, "BBB Online members must meet and maintain BBB standards, which includes having no unresolved complaints on file, at least one year history of ethical business practices, have a physical address location, and sign an agreement with the BBB to participate in the Bureau complaint resolution program."

Melaleuca is also a member in good standing of the Direct Selling Association (DSA) and uphold the DSA's standard of ethics. They have been listed in the Inc 500 as one of the top companies five times between 1990 and 1994. In 2001, they were inducted into the Inc 500 Hall of Fame

In 1991, Melaleuca was presented with the Blue Chip Award by the American Chamber of Commerce. In 1991, Melaleuca's President and CEO, Frank Vandersloot, was also appointed to the Board of Directors for the American Chamber of Commerce.

Isn't this a pyramid scheme?

Neither MomsWIN nor Melaleuca are pyramid schemes (pyramids are illegal; click here for an explanation of a pyramid scheme). In researching MomsWIN and Melaleuca, I found several scam "reporting" types of sites purporting that Melaleuca is MLM, pyramid and/or a scam. My radar went up, but I was not able to find any actual journalism credentials, or hard facts, to back up these claims.

Successful Melaleuca representatives do have a "downline," as do the representatives for Tupperware, Avon, Creative Memories and other well-known companies. I'm not sure why there's a stigma there, but from my experience over the years, downlines are not necessarily equivalent to scams or schemes. Every vice president of sales has a downline, after all. That's just the way all companies do business. There's only so much room at the top, and a hierarchy is normal.

With pyramid schemes, the downline is endless. With MLMs there are breakaways. A Melaleuca rep's downline is limited to seven generations and there are no breakaways. With a pyramid scheme, the products -- if any -- are incidental to the scheme. With Melaleuca, however, the products are their focus.

Melaleuca calls what they do "consumer direct marketing." Ariana explained to me that essentially their customers buy a membership into a wholesale club and in exchange for that, this "club" -- which does not advertise in a traditional way -- pays its marketing executives for their word of mouth referrals.

What exactly is the work with MomsWIN like?

I talked to several MomsWIN reps to get the skinny on what a day in the life is really like. This really seems to be a "set your own pace" type of opportunity. A lot of people are customers who enroll for the products only. Some of them might enroll friends and family and make $30-$50 per month for the referral, but they're still mainly customers only - not intent on making a living promoting the products. Depending on how much you want to earn and how much time you want to spend doing it, you might work anywhere from 3 to 7 hours per day 5 to 6 days per week on your business. If you want this to be a true work-at-home opportunity, be prepared to be on the phone a lot. (MomsWIN recommends several flat rate long distance plans, and Melaleuca has a four cents per minute plan available. You'll need it, otherwise your phone bill might be your single biggest investment.)

If you like to talk on the phone, I think you'd love this job. One thing I noticed on the conference call I participated in: Everyone has noisy kids and rattling dishes in the background. This might be one of the few business opportunities I've seen where this isn't a serious liability.

Once you are enrolled with Melaleuca and have placed your first order, MomsWIN creates a Web site for you. When people request more information through your site, their information is directed to your personal database where you can keep track of their status as a prospect.

Depending on how many prospects you've acquired through your advertising efforts (MomsWIN has an ad co-op its members can participate in), you will spend a varying amount of time each day calling your prospects to set up a good time for you to three-way them into a presentation call within the next day or two.

The presentation call is a conference call led by another member of the MomsWIN team who earns a little extra to present information about Melaleuca and MomsWIN. You introduce your guest and then the presenter takes over. This presentation call lasts approximately half an hour. It is timed and scripted, so some reps tell me you can even set the phone down and go read email, play with the kids and/or sweep the kitchen. After the call is over, you click back over to answer any further questions your guest might have, and then talk about enrolling her in Melaleuca. It's your job to make sure her paperwork goes through with Melaleuca and help her place her first order with the company.

After that, you follow up with your enrollees on a regular basis. You make yourself available to them if they need your help in making appointment calls, presentation calls, closing calls or enrolling members onto their team. (It sounds pretty easy, but I've heard that it can be a little overwhelming at first.)

There are several companies also dedicated to marketing Melaleuca online. What makes MomsWIN different from other online marketing teams?

Here's what struck me the most: MomsWIN's professionalism and forthright presentation of the products and business opportunity. There was no sugar-coating and not even a hint that this was a way to get rich quick. While I found the people to be genuinely enthusiastic about their work, they didn't make it sound easy.

In fact, as someone who doesn't love to talk on the phone, I found the prospect of earning a living this way rather too daunting for me. You also need to be (or need to learn to be) fairly organized if you plan to really make a go of this.

Nevertheless, here's what I like about MomsWIN and why I can feel comfortable recommending it to others: A database-driven system paperwork free system of tracking prospects. A free Web site with no hidden costs. Wide range and flexibility of training. MomsWIN offers message boards, chat rooms and both one-on-one and team-training phone calls. Ariana boasts of a lot of support training beyond the Melaleuca business opportunity, including training in valuable life skills like time management, organization and goal-setting. MomsWIN is one of the fastest growing organizations with Melaleuca. Ariana's team has been in the top eight for over one year. MomsWIN caters to every type of business owner -- from very part time to debt-free careerist -- or you can simply be a customer who enrolls for the products and never enrolls any customers of your own And something that is very important to me... I was impressed with the MomsWIN regulations regarding spam. Ariana seems to have some very strict policies and will shut down the sites of people on her team if she finds out they've been sending unsolicited mass emails or posting to message boards against their policies.

In summary, despite my initial skepticism, I have become convinced that this is a legitimate work-at-home opportunity. Given my allergy to talking on the phone, it's probably not the one for me, however. I do believe that moms can't go wrong if they enter into a relationship with Melaleuca with the expectation that they are customers first. Expect an income commensurate to the amount of time (and, yes, some money) you are willing to invest. If you love the products and believe in them enough yourself to promote them, I think you'll be happy with this company. [Author's note: Type username: shopping, password: cart to see the products Melaleuca offers] Testimonial By The Founder of IdeaMarketers. Click here to find out more about MomsWIN. Click here to find out more about Melaleuca

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