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How did the biggest MLMs get started?

Article by: Wendy Green
August 13, 2014

We’re talking about startups this week on and what better way to encourage success than sharing the startup facts about some of the largest direct sales companies on the planet?

Avon is a world leader in the cosmetics and beauty products world. With almost six million distributors and a revenue exceeding $10 billion a year, its success has far exceeded its humble beginnings in 1886. Avon originator and travelling book salesman, David H McConnell, started Avon when he noticed women were more interested in the perfume samples he gave out than in any of the books he was selling. These women were also home alone during the day so he began recruiting them as sales representatives of his products. His belief in their peer marketing ability helped his little idea turn into a gargantuan company.

Herbalife International is the next one to discuss. It began in 1980 as the dream “of a future brilliant beyond compare” of Mark Hughes. He wanted to improve people’s health while also creating a solid business opportunity. Its weight loss, protein bars, and weight loss products can found in over 70 countries. Herbalife reported net sales of $1.8 billion in 2013.

Mary Kay Ash started Mary Kay in Dallas, Texas in 1964 with five products. Her company has grown worldwide with 3 million consultants marketing over 200 products in more than 35 countries. Earnings last year were reportedly over $3.5 billion. Mary Kay donates millions of dollars to charities every year and is making great strides with their environmental focus.

Another biggie is Pampered Chef. Launched in 1980 by Doris Christopher, this company sells a wide variety of kitchen products through a party plan system or “cooking show.” Pampered Chef has over 70,000 distributors around the world who helped bring in over $400 million in revenue last year.

Amway is also a biggie, of course, since it operated in over 75 countries and is regularly featured in Top 10 lists throughout the industry. Founded in 1959, Amway Founders Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos named the company as an abbreviation for “American Way.” Amway made $11.3 billion last year selling beauty, home, and health products.

Tupperware may be an oldie but it’s still a goodie. Earl Silas Tupper invented Tupperware in 1939 though the company was founded in 1946. The plastic food storage solutions company has sold merchandise mainly through home party demonstrations but recently began adding beauty products and body care items to its products line. Tupperware earned $662 million in 2013 alone.

Our final company today is Scentsy, a fragrance product company. Founded in 2003, it’s the newest on our list today. Over $500 million was made last year with over 140,000 independent sales consultants selling candles and ceramic candle warmers.

As we can see, the direct sales industry offers many great opportunities for new companies to earn substantial profits no matter how humble its beginnings.

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Wendy Green

Wendy Green is the new associate editor of! She will be helping to provide new, original content to our website.

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Comments (1)

  • sara velasco - Reply

    Aug 22, 2014

    Pretty interesting, seems MLM’s are a very “desperate housewives”- dominated business.

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