The rise of the momtrepreneur

How the internet is letting some stay-at-home moms make the big bucks

The momtrepreneur.
(Image credit: iStock)

Say goodbye to the door-to-door Mary Kay lady of the past. Please welcome the new work-from-home woman.

Mothers from all over the country are becoming high-profile "influencers" and powerhouse saleswomen. With massive online followings, these savvy moms are creating mini-empires in shockingly short time, and racking up billions in sales in the process.

Propelling this trend is the rapid growth of social media. Instagram is expanding rapidly, with 800 million reported accounts. More than half of these are women. Facebook is larger still. Having large followings on these platforms translates into large amounts of money. Entire companies exist to connect influencers of every level with brands seeking visibility. Sites like analyze follower count and engagement on various platforms, spitting out cash in exchange for single or multiple posts, stories, or videos for influences to pitch brands. According to TapInfluence, "the premier influencer marketing software," the average income for an "influencer" is more than $700 per month.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

One of the most popular "mom-hustles" out there is to be found in the essential oil industry, with an increase of more than $4 billion in sales expected between 2014 and 2020. The two largest American essential oil brands, DoTerra and Young Living, are both multilevel-marketing companies, requiring new customers to sign up under a distributor who directly profits from each sale to that individual, and everyone who signs up under that individual. Using personal social media accounts, many reps inspire deep brand loyalty by showing their "brand lifestyle" and creating whole online communities around a product.

Kelly Baily, a mom of two living outside Nashville, Tennessee, started selling DoTerra oils at small home parties four year ago. She said she quickly changed her main focus to Facebook. Live chats allow more women to attend workshops while home with kids, and private groups give instant access to both product information and business building advice. Within a year, Baily was able to stop working as a graphic designer. She now makes a six-figure salary working less than 15 hours a week, and all her work is conducted online. "It has given us a really beautiful life" Baily says, adding that her family lives completely debt free and is now putting income into savings.

Baily ranks in the top 7 percent of the company for sales, with nearly 2,500 people in her "downline," the list of people who purchased from her or from others already under her. Several years ago, I purchased a Young Living essential oils starter kit from a woman holding a "natural health care for families" talk at a local chiropractic office. Young Living claims more than 2 million active members either purchasing or purchasing and selling their products. The woman told me her mother had been with the company for more than a decade and had reached one of the highest ranks in the company, making enough income for her husband to retire early. The company lists the average income for her mother's rank at over $30,000 — a month.

So many women are jumping into this business model that a secondary industry is growing with them. Moms blogging about blogging. Women starting out need business and social media training that pertains to them and the unique issues these women may have. And top momtrepreneurs are further capitalizing on their own success.

McKinzie Bean, a young mother from Utah, is the #2 sponsor for Lipsense, a direct-to-consumer lip color brand. While company policy forbids her from disclosing exact numbers, she said she brings in "a comfortable full-time income." Her website claims that her income is actually more than twice her previous full-time salary and that her husband no longer has to work. Her business Facebook page has more than 10,000 followers. But her blog training page boasts more than 18,000 women. Her website, Mom Makes Cents, offers free trainings, paid in-depth courses, and personal direct-sales mentorship (which currently has a full waiting list).

Other mothers, like Jen Snyder, focus full time on teaching women to build blogging and social media businesses. Her private, paid Facebook group offers dedicated followers a chance for more one-on-one attention and immediate access to Snyder. She spends between two and four hours a day on the platform, interacting with members and blogs amid her daily duties of staying home with three kids. She'll make just shy of $50,000 this year.

However, not every would-be-mommy-mogul is cashing in. Young Living's own public income disclosure reports state that a staggering 94 percent of their members average just $1 a month in income. That is not a typo. One dollar! Around 0.2 percent of members average a high enough income to replace an entry-level salary. This can be problematic for members since multi-level marketing, or MLM, companies typically require monthly purchases to be eligible for payouts. Young Living's minimum requirement? One hundred dollars a month.

And MLM has been in the spotlight in recent years. The Federal Trade Commission settled an investigation with Herbalife, one of the largest multi-level marketing companies in the country, in July 2016 to the tune of $200 million in restitution to members. LuLaRoe, a women's apparel company which requires a $5,000 inventory buy-in, is currently fighting a civil suit filed in October after the company's guaranteed buyback policy was suddenly reduced. So while the multi-level marketing structure is legal, and for some, lucrative, these companies are (and should be!) viewed with skepticism. In other words, maybe don't quit your day job just yet.

Still, many moms are not deterred. One woman told me casually that every mom she knows has a side hustle and no one bats an eye. As a mom who also uses social media daily, this doesn't feel far from the truth. I can easily name mothers I know using Facebook or Instagram to sell hair products, children's books, private clothing brands, oils, protein drinks, private nail color, body slimming wraps, workout programs, and even organic spice blends. In 2016, the Direct Selling Association reported 20.5 million individual salespeople — and it's growing every year.

But these women are no longer cold-calling, hosting moms' night out, or canvasing neighborhoods. Now moms watch their children in the park as they post sponsored pictures of their outfits or review products live on Facebook. And they do it for a fee.

To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us