One of our key tenets at Sseko Designs is “Ask hard questions.”
We welcome tough conversations with open arms! One conversation that we feel is important to jump into is that around the MLM (Multi-Level Marketing a.k.a. Direct Sales) business model.
Did you know that Sseko Designs is an MLM business? We weren’t always structured this way, but over the past few years we’ve made an intentional shift to sell products through our community of Sseko Fellows. As we dove into this sustainable business, we worked hard (and continue to work hard!) to create a model that is ethical and empowering every step of the way – for every woman involved, from those who create our products to those who sell them.
“But wait… isn’t an MLM a pyramid scheme?”
We’re so glad you asked! A pyramid scheme is when, in order for a company to profit, they just need to sell you on “the opportunity.” This type of company can successfully earn a profit even if their reps never make money!
Direct sales is simply a structure, and like all structures there is good and bad. You take the structure and you make it your own! Sseko has determined that the Direct Sales structure is the absolute best way for us to increase our impact, and we’ve decided to build out this structure in a way that is truly good (dare we say, GREAT) for everyone involved.
We do things a little differently.
Somewhere along the way, we realized that the way we “do Direct Sales” is pretty different from some other MLM businesses. We didn’t set out to be different for the sake of being different, we simply set out to build the best, most beneficial business possible for women looking to make an impact and earn an income.
Here are some things that make Sseko’s business model so unique:
We aren’t being flippant when we say that community is one of our highest priorities. The Sseko Fellows are an encouraging, gritty, inspiring group of women. It’s true what they say, “Your vibe attracts your tribe…” Sseko has attracted a community of incredible bosses that we’re lucky to work with, but we didn’t attract such a vibrant community by accident. We work hard to maintain a strong sense of sisterhood amongst the Sseko Fellows. How do we ensure this community stays strong?
Something we do at Sseko to ensure this community stays strong is require an application and interview process for new Fellows. We place a high value on making sure every Sseko Fellow who joins our team is a great fit and is known by our team! This is a very unique process that most MLMs don’t have.
Sustainable Inclusive Growth
We have women in our team that work part time and women that have made their thriving Sseko businesses their full time job. We fully support both of those types of women. This creates a culture where the woman who wants to do two shows a month (which equals about 10 hours a month) is just as valued as the woman who wants to scale her business and lead others.
Our compensation plan is best in class. We believe in generosity and a rising tide. If Sseko is dominating in sales, we want our manufacturing team in Uganda and the women who are on the retail side here in the States to benefit. We’re all in this together. And if Sseko wins, every single Sseko sister wins, too.
In the same way our team in Uganda has hopes and dreams that require resources (like going to college and becoming the first female president!), our Fellows do, too! From sending your daughter to NASA space camp to getting to travel more, if you’re working hard as a Fellow, you will win, too!
We know money might not be the primary motivator for a Fellow, but we deeply believe that they way someone is compensated for their hard work is still important! In addition to monetary compensation, we offer the unique opportunity to earn a free trip to Uganda where Fellows can meet their Ugandan sisters in person!
Selling Instead of Buying
We won’t name names, but other MLM companies incentivize buying. We incentive selling. What does that mean? It means that after you purchase your starter kit of samples from Sseko, you’re never required or pressured into making another purchase. If you’re not selling, your Sseko mentor won’t tell you to buy more; instead, they teach you how to sell more! Other MLMs have been known to put pressure on their reps to continually purchase and accumulate more inventory.
The minimum initial buy-in (starter kit, etc) for many direct sales companies in the thousands with monthly minimums to remain active. Our initial investment is one of the most affordable in the industry. We have multiple kit options, with an option as low as $99.
Slow Fashion + Quality Products
Our Fellows add a unique value to their customers because by being a Sseko Fellow, they become knowledgeable about ethical fashion. We’re not trying to cause shopping addictions. In America, women under the age of 30 will spend $125-$200k on fashion over their lifetime. This equates to just over 3,100 different items and include 145 handbags, 185 dresses and over 270 pairs of shoes. Clearly, we don’t need women to start buying more. We simply want to encourage them to buy better. We believe that when women invest in high quality products that are crafted with care, they can redirect the money they would have spent on cheap fast fashion into purchasing pieces that they’ll love and use for years to come.
Purchasing power is enormous, and Sseko Fellows get the chance to sell in a way that actually creates a positive impact in the world instead of feeling selfish or materialistic.
Sseko is committed to crafting products that are made to the highest standards and are something you actually want to buy and wear! Although we are a mission-driven business, we don’t believe that anyone should feel like they should buy Sseko products simply to support the mission… we’ve created products that you would want to buy regardless of the impact they create! They’re just that beautiful.
Connection to Producers
Fellows enjoy a meaningful connection to our team in Uganda through something we call our “Sole Sister Program.” Every Sseko Fellow is matched with a woman in Uganda and can share her story with customers while earning extra an extra scholarship for her through sales. Sole Sisters can write letters to each other and truly get to know one another. In fact, Sseko Fellows can earn trips to Uganda to meet their Sole Sisters in person and have a transformational and inspiring experience!
There’s something incredible about knowing who made your shoes, bag, jewelry, clothes, etc. and knowing that you’re helping that individual achieve her goals by purchasing and selling the goods she’s lovingly made.
Do you have other questions about the Sseko Fellows Program or our MLM model?
We would love to talk to you. Part of the interview process mentioned in this post is the chance for you to ask us anything you want as we determine if this is a good fit for you!
Want to learn more?
Watch Sseko’s Founder, Liz Bohannon, in this tell-all conversation about Sseko’s MLM Model!
Here’s what some of our current Fellows have to say about the experience:
“I am just a normal person, with an entrepreneurial heart. I work a 9 to 5 job, in a predominantly male field, and working with Sseko has given me the opportunity to show that we as woman can stand strong and prove that we can overcome anything. I myself am a Sseko Fellow, not only for the beautiful, handcrafted products, but for the knowledge that there is a woman, working in Uganda, with the same spirit as myself, that now finally has the chance to follow her dreams.”
“I stepped into this incredible journey as a fellow, knowing that it was exactly the journey I am suppose to be on! I am loving every minute of it. I am so excited for what’s to come and the opportunities to help support the beautiful Sseko sisters over in Uganda! This is such a blessing for everyone that is a part of it. My kids and husband have come alongside me and enjoy talking about Sseko, my sole sister, and the Team of sisters that I’m part of”
“I came for the Story; I stayed for the Sisterhood.
The reason I’m a Fellow today is different from why I joined a year and a half ago. Because let’s be honest: loving a cause and wanting to further it…that’ll only get you so far. When the going gets tough, you might say ‘Welp, I did all I could…’ and move on. My journey with Sseko has been a steep uphill climb, mainly because I launched my business the same month I moved across the country…and then under a year in, moved again. What has kept me putting one foot in front of the other?
It’s the community, hands-down.
A community of like-minded individuals, working together to create tidal waves of change in our broken world. A community that crosses borders and oceans, connecting women with inseparable bonds of bravery, dignity, and perseverance. A community that stands hand-in-hand against injustice and never, ever, ever backs down. I have 300 Sseko sisters in the US and 33 in Uganda. The 300 doesn’t “help” the 33. The 300 aren’t benefactors. We are a Global Sisterhood. I recently made a new friend, a beautiful mama from Uganda. When I asked if she had siblings, her answer was ‘We are seven.’ Such simple words, but they penetrated my heart. That’s it. I’m not “one” of the Sseko Sisters: WE ARE 333. And there’s ALWAYS room for more.”