12 Hot Business Ideas

Home Party Sales

With a direct sales business, no storefront is necessary.

It's a party at your home--or better yet, at someone else's. You make money, and customers socialize with their friends. Need more convincing?

Home parties now account for roughly 29 percent of the nearly $30 billion in U.S. direct sales, and 13.6 million Americans bought or sold goods from home in 2004. Not limited to Tupperware, direct sellers are hawking everything from organic gardening supplies to wine, apparel and power tools. Some are even hosting virtual parties online. And the numbers are growing, according to Amy Robinson of the Direct Selling Association in Washington, DC. "The majority of companies coming into DSA membership are party plan companies," she says. "In a lot of cases, they are smaller, newer companies."

Andrew Shure is one of them. Nationwide, he has 1,400 consultants selling Shure Pets pet products, and he predicts that number will double by the end of 2007. For Shure, the numbers are a prime example of people doing what they love. "The only requirement at Shure Pets is a passion for pets," says Shure, 43, who launched the Chicago-based business in 2003 and saw sales of $1 million in 2006. Another example is Newburyport, Massachusetts- based Anna William, which lets customers design their own handbags. Kristen Lee, 29, launched the million-dollar company in 2003 with Keek Bielby, 57; Rani Chase, 36; and Erin Hornyak, 33--and they already have 125 consultants nationwide.

Thoroughly research any company you're considering, and make sure you love the products. As Robinson says, "It's no fun to sell something you're not interested in." And here are a few other steps you can take to get the party started.

Scrutinize the initial fee. If you're buying into a home party business, ask what's included in the startup kit. Look for plenty of samples, training materials and other tools that will help you host a successful party.

Ask whether there's a buyback policy. Companies that are members of the DSA must agree to buy back inventory from consultants within 12 months of the date of purchase at a minimum of 90 percent of the original net cost. That way, "if you decide it's not for you, you can recoup most of that money," says Robinson.

Make sure there's a real product being sold. If you suspect it's a pyramid scheme--where your time and money are devoted to recruiting and earning money off a downline, and there's no product being sold or the product is worthless--keep looking.

Don't feel pressured. Shady operators might try to convince you to "get in on the ground floor with this new opportunity," says Robinson. "But a good opportunity will be there tomorrow. You need to take your time and think about it--make sure you're completely comfortable with it."

Remember, the party is never really over. Hosting a home party isn't just about the party. You need to be willing not only to make the initial sale, but also to follow up, develop relationships, be the kind of salesperson who could sell chocolate ice cream to a woman in white gloves--and call her a few weeks later to see if she'd like some more. "This is a relationship business," says Robinson. "It's about service after the sale."

Home Party Sales:

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This article was originally published in the February 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: 12 Hot Ideas.

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