On the Level

Success Stories

Just ask 31-year-old Corey Baker, a Dacula, Georgia, independent distributor for EcoQuest International Inc. of Greeneville, Tennessee. Baker, a former computer analyst and account manager, first took an interest in MLM after attending an EcoQuest meeting with his brother, Scott, and his entrepreneurial father, J.K. Baker. They all liked what they saw and became distributors, selling air cleaners and water purifiers made by Alpine Industries (also based in Greeneville) by placing them in people's homes. Corey was soon earning up to $15,000 a month from EcoQuest, working part time. After a year, he left his corporate job; he now has 3,000 distributors in his downline and has averaged $150,000 per year over four years. "I absolutely love it," says Corey. "I love telling people about things I like."

Corey built his network the old-fashioned way: with meetings and information packets. But now the Internet helps Corey work more efficiently. Instead of conducting meetings all the time and spending eight to 10 hours on the phone every day, he refers prospects to his Web site and encourages them to send in questions via e-mail. Three times a week, he sends out e-mail updates to all his distributors. "We can be more effective using the Internet, as long as we don't abuse it," he says. "Some people use it as their only tool-it's so impersonal."

Michael Jackson, president of EcoQuest, goes a step beyond that. "The Internet is creating great havoc in the network marketing business," he says. As in any industry, upstart companies can go online and sell products at a very low cost, then go out of business. Maverick distributors can easily undercut other distributors with predatory pricing. An EcoQuest distributor, for instance, might take an air cleaner into someone's house for a three-day trial and convince the customer to purchase one. "Then the customer says 'Let me go on the Internet and see what price I can get,' " Jackson says. "The Internet dealer gets to sell one for practically nothing, because he didn't have to go through the process of the three-day trial."

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This article was originally published in the July 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: On the Level.

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