[Here is a post from the Daily Mail on one women’s experience of what joining Forever Living meant to her. They admit that its not for everyone, but what do you actually have to go through to make it work for you?]
Can you really earn £350,000 a year selling aloe vera? As thousands of women join a controversial home-selling empire, read Candice’s very cautionary tale
- Candice Kiddle, 24, a stay-at-home mum from Maidenhead, signed up to Forever Living last August. Within four months, she was a neurotic wreck
- Wanted a job to fit around demands of motherhood but it was the opposite
- Forever Living is a controversial company that has received criticism
There can be few women who haven’t come across Forever Living. Perhaps a friend has badgered you to buy the company’s aloe vera beauty and nutrition products or you know someone who is a Forever Living sales person.
Among any group of mums of small children on Facebook, there is bound to be someone extolling the benefits of Forever Living – whether it’s the merchandise or the enviable lifestyle that comes with selling it.
Certainly, when Candice Kiddle wanted a job to fit around the demands of motherhood, becoming a rep for Forever Living seemed the perfect solution. Selling to friends on Facebook would mean no commuting or time away from her two small children.
Candice Kiddle, 24, and from Maidenhead, Berkshire, signed up to Forever Living last August when her son, Ashton, was three months old (she also has an older son, Harrison, four), after hearing about the company through a fellow mother at her antenatal group.
But within four months of signing up, Candice was a neurotic wreck, working until 2.30am, addicted to her smart phone and – ironically – alienated from her family.
‘By the time I quit I felt betrayed and ashamed of the lies I’d told to try to get ahead,’ says Candice. ‘My partner, Sam, said he no longer recognised me, our son would beg me to get off the phone and, despite working flat out for four months, I’d barely made a penny.’
It’s a criticism echoed by many women across Britain, who feel they have been manipulated into nothing more than a get-rich-quick scheme that brought them precious little financial reward.
Last year, Forever Living was criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority for making false claims about the health benefits of its products – which have been sold as a cure for everything from diabetes to Crohn’s disease. It was also warned not to use health professionals in its promotional materials.
More recently, it hit the headlines after The Medicines And Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency launched an investigation after it was revealed NHS staff were moonlighting as sales people.
So, what is Forever Living? And does it deserve its terrible reputation?
Candice with her partner Sam and sons Ashton, one and Harrison four.
After Candice had been working for Forever Living for four months, Sam said that he no longer recognised her, their son would beg her to get off the phone and, despite working flat out for four months, she’d barely made a penny.
Founded in Arizona in 1978, the business sells health and beauty products based on the plant, aloe vera. It has grown exponentially and nowhere more so than in Britain, where sales topped £120 million last year – a rise of 70 per cent from 2014.
Products are sold directly to individuals through sales reps, called Forever Business Owners (FBOs). In the beginning, FBOs touted their wares door-to-door and parties, but they now plug them on Facebook.
Recruits are charged an initial outlay of £200 for a box of aloe vera products, and are encouraged to recruit other sellers. Most of the company’s 6,400 UK reps are women.
Rex Maughan, the founder of Forever Living.
Candice, who’s 24 and from Maidenhead, Berkshire, signed up last August when her son, Ashton, was three months old (she also has an older son, Harrison, four), after hearing about the company through a fellow mother at her antenatal group.
RUNGS OF THE LADDER
Forever Living is a form of multi-level marketing (MLM) – a complex system in which new recruits are brought in by existing sales reps.
Though Forever Living FBOs are effectively considered self-employed, they still operate under the umbrella of the company, progressing through nine sales levels, from ‘assistant supervisor’ to ‘double diamond manager’, according to how many people they can recruit and products they sell.
The level of command is called an ‘upline’ and for every rung of the ladder people climb, they get paid a higher percentage of the sales profits than the person beneath them.
Income varies massively depending on your position in the chain. A supervisor makes 38 per cent profit on the sale of each aloe product, for example, and an estimated £250 a month, while a manager earns 48 per cent.
FBOs also receive a bonus based on ‘their’ team’s sales and a bonus when recruits buy products – each of which is greater the more senior they are.
The company claims a supervisor will earn an average £250 a month, a manager between £800 and £2,000 a month and a diamond manager upwards of £350,000 a year – a level it is claimed can be achieved in just five years.
BOSS WORTH £400M
Forever Living’s founder Rex Maughan, 79, has an estimated net worth of more than £400 million. He was brought up on a ranch in Idaho and is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As soon as Candice forked out £200 and signed an online form to become an assistant supervisor, the pressure from her ‘upline’ – the women higher up in her chain of command – began. ‘Suddenly the secrecy surrounding the company lifted. Everyone piled in and I felt the onus was more to recruit than sell,’ she says
His religion – Mormonism – opposes abortion and homosexuality, and Maughan is believed to have used his wealth to help oppose same-sex marriage in the U.S. He founded Forever Living Products in 1978.
Maughan – a father of three with 12 grandchildren – was accused of sacking two staff in 1996 after they refused to sell him land, though in 2002 he was cleared of wrongdoing.
Maughan – who offered financial backing to Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s bids for the presidency in 2008 and 2012 – was listed in the Forbes 400 in 2002 as the world’s 368th richest man.
GEL DRINKS & SOAP
Forever Living products range from bath salts and shower gels to essential oils, soap and gel drinks.
The core ingredient – aloe vera – is said to contain anti-inflammatory properties and, when swallowed, there is evidence it can help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels and aid digestion.
Despite being forbidden from making claims that Forever Living products can treat illnesses, some unscrupulous FBOs do just that.
Lucy Blackburn, 38, suffers from Crohn’s disease – an inflammatory bowel disorder that causes abdominal pain and fever – and was swayed by claims a £21.62 aloe gel supplement could make her condition more manageable.
‘The sales rep told me it would help ease my digestive symptoms and bowel movements,’ says Lucy, from Bridlington, Yorks.
Despite knowing she was reliant on disability benefits, the rep was persistent. ‘I was so desperate I was prepared to try anything,’ says Lucy.
‘I persevered with the gel for six weeks, but it tasted foul, made me feel sick and didn’t stop stomach cramps. I felt conned.’
Many people believe some multi-level marketing companies – including Forever Living – are similar to pyramid schemes. These are illegal businesses that recruit members by promising rewards for enrolling others, rather than through the selling products.
Marketing strategist Lyanna Tsakiris explains: ‘With pyramid schemes, individuals pay a fee to enter, and once they recruit others they get paid. This money is not invested in any product, but passed up the chain of investors.’
IS IT LEGAL?
Yes, it is. A spokesperson told the Mail it is ‘absolutely not’ a pyramid scheme and stressed less than 20 per cent of revenue last year came from recruitment, with 900,000 product orders placed in 2015.
Nonetheless, Lynne Tsakiris says: ‘It is a fine line. Multi-level marketing and pyramid schemes depend on continuous recruitment.
‘Forever Living can just about be classed as multi-level marketing because the products are ‘legitimate’ – though many don’t see them as having health benefits – while a pyramid scheme offers a non- existent or worthless product.’
As soon as Candice forked out £200 and signed an online form to become an assistant supervisor, the pressure from her ‘upline’ – the women higher up in her chain of command – began.
‘Suddenly the secrecy surrounding the company lifted. Everyone piled in and I felt the onus was more to recruit than sell,’ she says.
Despite being forbidden from making claims that Forever Living products can treat illnesses, some unscrupulous sellers do just that
Candice was introduced, with a photo and biography, via a Forever Living Facebook group to hundreds of other sellers and, within hours, the four women in her upline were sending Facebook messages advising on sales strategy.
‘One told me to put together a list of 100 family and friends who might want to join Forever Living and details of how I planned to contact them. One even started contacting them directly.
‘I was told to join four Forever Living Facebook groups that would help me sell, including a boot camp group that would kick me out if I didn’t get enough people to join.
‘They messaged several times a day asking me what I’d sold. It was overwhelming.’
When approached by the Mail, a Forever Living spokesman denied pressure was put on FBOs, saying: ‘The company would never encourage this. Many people join Forever as a route to escape the pressures of traditional working environments.
‘The philosophy is such that it would never pressure people to buy products or join the business.’
‘I was told to write Facebook posts advertising Forever Living between 10am and 2pm because that’s when working mothers would see them and envy my lifestyle,’ says Candice. ‘I was instructed not to say anything negative and to use inspirational hashtags such as #thankgodforforever and #workingfromhome.’
Forever Living uses an internal virtual currency of what are called CCs – or case credits. Each CC is worth £165 and agents are expected to sell four CCs of products a month – £660 – to stay ‘active’ and receive their bonus
Recruiting a new FBO is equivalent to selling 2CCs worth of products. Candice was delighted to notch up 26CCs – or £4,290 of sales – in her first month.
‘Around 30 per cent of that money was my commission, but the company said I needed to expand my range so I spent the money on more products straight away.’
After three months, she was promoted to assistant manager, recruiting nine FBOs. But she says: ‘When I should have been playing with the children I was glued to my phone. I felt awful for duping people I recruited into believing I had a perfect lifestyle with my inspirational hashtags, when in reality I was working until 2.30am.’
Because FBOs use their social networks to sell and recruit, the line between friendships and working relationships is blurred.
Ever more desperate for sales, Candice persuaded her parents, sister, brother and partner to sign up – paying for their £200 beauty boxes out of her own pocket.
‘Sam thought I was mad, but could see it was important to me. I wanted to prove wrong everyone who said it was rubbish.
‘But I still felt betrayed by the friend who had recruited me on the premise I would have more time to spend with my family.’
COUNTING THE COST
Candice quit in December and has returned to her job running a beauty salon. Despite earning thousands for the company, she says: ‘I just broke even and by the end was exhausted and miserable.’
She now blocks those who post promotional messages about Forever Living on Facebook.
‘Their exaggerated claims make me shudder,’ says Candice, who says the friends she recruited have also left and, thankfully, harbour no grudge for her role in their recruitment.
‘I realised this isn’t a dream job that allowed me to spend more time with my children. It is all an elaborate illusion.’
Have YOU had experience of this? What are your thoughts?