The decades-old multi-level marketing (MLM) and direct selling industry is the original gig economy job — and with the ballooning interest of remote or flexible work, has grown into a nearly $40 billion market. In 2017, more than 20 million Americans worked as network marketers for MLM companies — an estimated one in six households — with 78 percent being women seeking flexibility.
Like the majority of gig economy roles, customer service matters. MLM recruits will only succeed if they nurture the relationships they make while selling.
Following 20 years in the corporate software world, Jennifer Turnage decided to dive into the world of MLMs. She quickly found herself looking for a solution to keep track of those vital business relationships and leads, similar to the CRM options, like Salesforce, that she had access to in her corporate job.
Along with her co-founder Megan Sumrell, Turnage developed myBeeHyve to provide MLM entrepreneurs with a contact management tool that offers lead follow-up scheduling, goal tracking, automated reminders, communication history, email templates, and a master list of customers.
The contacts are securely stored and backed up and, as the database gets bigger, myBeeHyve can filter by profession, products purchased, and any wish lists created by the user. Turnage shares that people beyond network marketing now use it, including those in consulting and even lawn care professionals, as an easy way to prevent leads from falling through the cracks.
To get the word out to prospective customers, Turnage turned to her own contact book and started reaching to her peers to try the product. “That helped us get our initial customer base up and running.”
They also became thought leaders in the field, as a way to market their product and expertise. They released a book with advice and recommendations for setting up a startup and becoming a solopreneur, from setting up a mobile office to finances to following the right people.
“I think the challenge that you face as an entrepreneur is you have such a big vision and you’re trying to do so much and you want to move so quickly, but you don’t have the resources to do that,” says Turnage.
“But you still have to get your message out. Find people that you’ve worked with before or that come recommended by those in your community. You can’t do everything yourself.”
The Wilmington, NC-based startup operates on a SaaS revenue model with one free version and two paid versions.
myBeeHyve is currently used in 10 countries with thousands of users that represent about 130 networking marketing brands. In June of this year, the startup launched a mobile app after feedback from their customers signaled that they preferred to add contacts and manage their business while on the go.
With ongoing revenue and a $50,000 grant from the NC Idea Foundation, myBeeHyve remains bootstrapped. While they’re not actively seeking funding, Turnage shares that they will be looking for strategic partnerships in 2019 to grow their team and further accelerate their growth.
They continue to receive requests from users that they talk to corporate offices about integrating their product.
“We have proven success, so that’s definitely something that we’re looking into. How can we share that throughout that brand more effectively?”