This is not your grandmother’s Tupperware party. India Hicks is working hard to change the image of the at-home direct-sales business model.
“I looked at the wholesale and retail markets, and I felt they were fairly broken,” Hicks tells me in the video above. “I felt the landscape was shifting and was intrigued by the idea of going back into the heart of the home [to sell].”
The 49-year-old author and former model brings an aristocratic flair to her eponymous lifestyle brand, which launched in 2015.
Hicks is goddaughter of the Prince of Wales, granddaughter of Britain’s last viceroy in India and bridesmaid of the late Princess Diana.
Her direct-sales business of clothing, handbags, jewelry and accessories tends to attract a well-heeled crowd. They’re buying into the Hicks’ lifestyle, which is reflected in her products. Clients can choose from hundreds of items, including $54 scented candles, a $150 gold-finished necklace designed by Hicks, and a $480 leather handbag.
Direct sales goes retro-chic
Of course, Hicks is not the first to try to make direct sales chic again.
Stella & Dot helped pioneer the modern-day Avon Lady in 2004. Now 13 years old, the company recently added skincare to its line of accessories and beauty products. San Francisco–based Stella & Dot paid over 300 million dollars in commissions last year to its 50,000 “stylists.” Founder and CEO, Jessica Herrin, made the Forbes self-made women to watch list in 2016 with an estimated net worth of $135 million.
But unlike Stella & Dot, Hicks’ brand is built on her personal taste and lifestyle.
“I’m inspired by so many things,” Hicks explains. “I’m very blessed to have had a multi-dimensional and varied life.”
Hicks grew up in England and has been living on Harbour Island in the Bahamas with her partner and five children for the past 20 years. She says her extensive travels and love of the outdoors is what inspires her collections.
While Hicks declined to provide figures, she says sales at her company tripled last year and that 2017 is going “strong.”
The “tribe” is growing
Hicks’ “tribe” of sellers has grown from just three “brand ambassadors” at launch to 2,000 today. They run the gamut from women in corporate America to stay-at-home moms to philanthropists.
Her business model follows the industry standard. Sales people earn a commission, and there’s a one-time fee to get started. Sales “starter kits” range from $99-$749.
Ambassadors receive a minimum of 25% of their sales, plus product discounts and perks, such as attending India Hicks’ birthday bash in New York City or being invited to Harbour Island where Hicks hosted a dinner last year for the best-performing ambassadors.
New York–based marketing consultant Dagmara Szulce joined the “tribe” 10 months ago.
“With all my clients complaining about their retail businesses declining, I felt India’s idea of reinventing the direct-selling business was a breakthrough one, and I was eager to learn the new business model.”
Szulce says being an ambassador has helped her grow her own sales through event marketing, e-commerce and social media.
The mother of two especially likes how hands-on Hicks is with her company. “She came to my apartment in New York City to help raise sales during my trunk show!”
Szulce hopes to grow her India Hicks sales into a larger, online business in the next year or two.
And, in another twist, ambassadors can choose to donate a percentage of their sales to the charity of their choice. Hicks pledges to match a portion of the donation. For Szulce, that charity is Citymeals on Wheels.
While most sales people join for a side-business, Hicks sees a growing number of her ambassadors trading in their careers to grow their India Hicks businesses full-time.
“I see them as my partners,” Hicks says. “We’re mentoring one another as women, and we’re supporting each other in growing this business together.”