You can’t find Willagirl, a skincare startup marketed towards young girls, in stores. The company pulled its products from retailers in February and moved its business to a direct-sales model. Direct-sales companies like Avon, Mary Kay and Tupperware have long entered people’s living rooms to sell cosmetics and home supplies, but Willagirl is different.
The average salesperson is only 15 – girls as young as 11 or 12 hawk skincare supplies to their peers, and while some sales take place during classic living room parties, a lot of their work is done through social media and on cell phones. Direct-sell businesses sometimes come under fire for multi-level marketing – creating artificial demand for a product by making sales reps buy at a certain level.
Willagirl’s sales reps don’t purchase the items they’re selling themselves, instead they put in order forms that are fulfilled by the company directly, and earn a 25% commission on their sales and on any recruitment of new sales reps. Is using tweens in a direct-sales business model appropriate? What might these young women learn from this untraditional job? Is Willagirl forging a path for female entrepreneurship, or just cashing in on its young sales reps?
Christy Prunier, Founder & CEO Willagirl Inc.
Stacie Bosley, assistant professor of economics, Hamline University School of Business in St. Paul, MN