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Manjula’s world has always been relegated to her small home in rural India. Her husband tried to support the family with his salary from pumping gas, but they were never able to make ends meet. Despite Manjula’s strong work ethic, their conservative beliefs forbid her from seeking work outside the home, and with only a 7th grade education, her options have remained limited. Inspired to do something to bring money to the household, she often sold costume jewelry and clothing to her friends and neighbors. The pittance she earned helped them stay afloat, but when her husband died of jaundice there wasn’t enough left to support them.
While Manjula’s mind was filled with grief over husband’s death, it was anxiety over feeding her family that occupied her thoughts. She needed to find a way to earn money but she didn’t know how. Taking pity on their dear neighbor, her friends helped her find a post in the local Anganwadi—a community center for local children. She felt grateful for a steady job and income. But she couldn’t get her mind off of other ways she could create a better future for her children.
When she heard about a training workshop taking place in the area, she was eager to join in. There she learned about the basics of developing a profitable business—one where your costs are low enough and your demand high enough that sales bring a surplus of cash. She thought more and more about her at-home shop. She seemed to have a knack for picking out things her friends and neighbors would like, so she rarely had difficulty selling the stock that she had. Her problem was that she never had much to spend on buying stock, so in turn she made very few sales. With only a couple of rupees extra from each sale, she didn’t have much at the end of the month to justify the work. She learned that this was an issue with scale and that if she was able to invest more in a large stock, she could multiply her earnings.
The staff introduced Manjula to the Magic Fund, which made awards to micro-entrepreneurs. She excitedly organized her thoughts: she would start her at-home boutique back up, but this time she would only sell costume jewelry and she would sell much more of it. At home sales would be the perfect complement to her job at the Anganwadi and allow her to make extra money to support the family.
With 15,000 rupees from iCreate, she bought more stock and at wholesale prices. Soon, she officially “opened” her home store and started welcoming local customers. After the workday ended and their families were fed, local women would walk into Manjula’s cool dark room to see what she had for them. On a long table, they would find were gold chains and bangles, colorful glass beads, and contrasting fabrics–all laid out. With her knowledge about what they liked and didn’t like, they came to rely on her shop to look good, coming by whenever they needed something new or a boost. Today, her costume jewelry business earns her 5,000 rupees per month and Manjula is proud to be the head of her household.
Manjula succeeded when she focused her energy into something she knew: selling goods out of her home to her friends and neighbors, a method called direct sales. Perhaps no company is more well-known for this type of sales than Avon. Like Manjula, the company’s founder, David H. McConnell, didn’t originally intend to sell just one type of product. Instead, he sold mainly books and sometimes included beauty products as an extra. But when he saw the buzz from his perfume samples, he pivoted that business to the Avon we know today, today’s biggest direct sales company. Whether on the macro level like Avon’s worldwide sales or on the micro with Manjula’s at-home sales, working directly with your customer always pays off.
December 28, 2018 at 09:08AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs