In April 1999, Gina Lenard's less-than-stellar career in home party sales had finally come to an end. Hungry for business ideas, Lenard posted a query online. But what she received was an inbox full of e-mails from companies soliciting everything from selling dishes to stuffing envelopes.
One e-mail came from a consultant at Tastefully Simple, a food company that specializes in easy-to-prepare gourmet meals and home taste-testing parties. Lenard was intrigued.
"As soon as I saw the printed materials and a little bit of the story about how Tastefully Simple started, I was totally drawn to it," says Lenard, 40.
For $170--the standard startup cost for Tastefully Simple consultants--Lenard organized her business and created a schedule that fit her busy family life. When her family moved from New Jersey to Pennsylvania in 2000 and then to Maine in 2003, she re-started the business from scratch: new clients, new orders, new everything.
Her days at home are spent coaching other consultants and completing orders, and two nights a week she hosts Tastefully Simple parties for clients, who range in age from 20 to 80 years old. "A big thing that lures people to the business is the fact that the product is consumable," says Lenard. "People whip it up in their kitchens and then they need more."
On top of a reliable customer base, Tastefully Simple lets its consultants earn commission for recruiting and training new associates who become part of the recruiters' teams. Lenard's team of more than 1,200 consultants projects sales of $8.6 million for 2007.
All the while, Lenard maintains a fairly quiet existence at home with her family. Says Lenard, "Anyone outside looking in might think I'm just a stay-at-home mom because they don't see what I do behind the scenes."