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House Party

Parties prove profitable and make selling fun for a former teacher.

Carol Romkema was invited to attend a HomeMaker's Idea show in 1996. But she had no idea that nine years later she'd be one of five senior executive directors of the home accessories network marketing firm, where she now mentors numerous independent sales representatives while meeting her own sales goals.

Romkema was first intrigued when the sales representative at the show mentioned she was looking for new area reps. Though she enjoyed being a teacher's assistant at a Springfield, South Dakota, grade school, Romkema needed a second job to supplement her income. After requesting more information, she purchased a starter case with sample products and supplies and found eight friends to host shows at their homes.

Romkema, 47, quickly warmed up to leading product demonstrations. "Many of us [representatives] didn't know we could enjoy selling," she says.

She also touts the flexible schedule HomeMaker's offers. Romkema points out, however, that "this is a business that has a direct correlation between the amount of time you [invest] and the money you earn." For each show she hosts, she estimates spending a maximum of five hours preparing and sending invitations, traveling, presenting the show, and finishing the orders.

Because Romkema has developed a team of representatives, she also spends time with her team, training and guiding them. According to Romkema, reps need to have a passion for the products, and be proactive and independent.

"The more you want to put into it, the higher you can go," says Romkema. With an annual income near $150,000, Romkema nets a percentage from her team members' sales, which totaled $3.8 million last year, but she still does shows herself. HomeMaker's is now planning to start a nationwide advertising push. "I want other people to have what I have," says Romkema. "This is one of the most wonderful things that has happened to me."

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This article was originally published in the May 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: House Party.

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