Who hasn’t encountered MLMs?

After my Centonomy course(you can read more about those on this post here), my classmates and I, naturally, decided it would be a good idea to start a whatsapp group and add everyone to it. A nice and easy way to share business opportunities with like-minded individuals and to keep in touch, keep motivating each other, you know, the likes!

As with anything in life, we started with great enthusiasm. We shared news stories on the various investment tools available, the status of NSE listed companies, promoted our own individual hustles and of course the occasional group member would disregard those unwritten social norms that dictate you should stay relatively on topic when posting in such a specific-purposed group and bombard us with forwarded messages that are too long to even bother reading.

Of late, 5 months since we graduated from our course, things have slowed down almost to a complete stop. Sometimes, for weeks on end, there will be nothing. The one-off post that comes through will have me thinking, “Oh yeah, this group still exists, huh?”

I wonder how many of my classmates still track the nitty-grities of their spending, how many actually invested, how many still make a point of saving. Perhaps I shall convince myself to ask them.(Normally, I am the silent, mere consumer, in the group.)

The most recent post that got quite a bit of attention and got people talking on the group was an invite to a Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) pitch event.

Multi-Level Marketing is a marketing strategy in which the sales force is compensated not only for sales they generate, but also for the sales of the other salespeople that they recruit. This recruited sales force is referred to as the participant’s “downline”, and can provide multiple levels of compensation.

I wonder how many of us are familiar with these…

The girl who brought up the topic, I suppose, was following a script of sorts. I have come to learn that these things are always scripted! Unfortunately, I cannot seem to trace the actual messages but the general drift of the conversation went something like this…

“Hey guys! I just learnt about a new business that I am definitely planning on putting some money into. Halla privately if you are interested!”

Of course people were interested. However, no one asked for details on separate private threads so the conversation went on in the group. When interest was expressed…she proceeded to tell us the name of the company(unfortunately, I cannot remember and I have switched phones since then…something to do with life maybe…), the products they push and the life-changing, more than just sales aspect of the business… the recruiting of others and subsequent exponential growth of your commission! This is where the money is supposed to be.

The response was swift and unanimous.

“Those are pyramid schemes!”

“It never works!”

“Put your money on the stock market instead.”

Clearly many people in the group were familiar with these ‘new and revolutionary’ ways of making money, of engaging in business. I am familiar with a few of them. I think most Kenyans are.

GNLD was the first I encountered, but only in passing.(I wonder if it is wise to name then…*insert bulbous eyes emoji*) I think they had vitamin supplements, or something similar. I remember one of my classmates in primary school used to have them. They were yum! I also remember wondering why my parents never gave me any vitamin supplements and worrying that I would have a deficiency.

I know there are very many out there. If you have come across one then you will know exactly what I am talking about. MLMs are not about selling you a product, they are about selling you a dream, your dream. That is what baits and hooks so many people, the fact that you are made to believe you can have whatever it is you want through engaging in this business, and our able minds will immediately fill in that gap of ‘whatever it is you want’ with all the things you dream about.

Financial independence? Yes, of course that’s part of the package.

Travel? Mais, oui monsier!

Peace of mind and general well being? You best believe it!

A happier marriage?

More disciplined children?

More hours in your day to concentrate on your craft?

Travel back in time and change some major decisions you made(that you would rather not live with)?

Yes, yes, YES! You can have it all!

I reckon that is why there will always be a market for these businesses to thrive. Their target ‘customer/distributor’ will always be there. Someone desperate, someone who feels as though they have taken all they can take and are now looking for options, greener pastures, fatter paychecks, a way out of their lives as they are, possibly a way out of the rat-race.

There’s even an organisation in Kenya for people affected by pyramid schemes, I bet you did not know that! It is known as the National Pyramid Scheme Victims Initiative (NPSVI). Heh heh!

This is not much of a laughing matter though. Reading up on incidents involving pyramid schemes in Kenya immediately reveals just how scarred very many people have been by these organisations! People have lost great sums of money and in other cases some have even lost their lives. Imagine investing your whole pension into something that you are made to believe is closer to zero risk than low risk and then finding out that what you spent your whole career working for is simply…gone! And there’s nothing you can do about it.

Is it possible though to make loads of money from these organisations? There’s always someone relatable, easy-going, inspiring, a great speaker who tells their story(ideally at one of their pitch/networking events.). A story whose beginning may not sound too different from your current situation. A story that will have you believing that their end can be yours as well. Really though, what are the odds? One article I read about MLMs studied one particular organisation and claims that of the over half a million people who are signed up as distributors, 23,678 earned more than $1000, 2,806 earned more than $10,000 and only 318 earned more than $100,000, annually. That, my friends, is less than 5% making more than $1000 annually. I’d rather put my money on the stock market.

The way I see it, the easy way out…is never really an easy way it. A lot of times, it is an easy way out for someone else and you, oh dreamer, you are their financier.

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