Breaking the mould of the traditional direct sales model, Silpada Designs is showing Canadian women they can make their entrepreneurial ambitions sparkle by selling jewellery in a casual, party setting that focuses on fun instead of formality.
Silpada was founded in 1997 in the United States by stay-at-home moms and self-made entrepreneurs Bonnie Kelly and Teresa Walsh who had wanted to come up with a way to earn some income while still being able to take care of their kids.
They took their combined passion for designing and selling jewellery and started Silpada on the philosophy that direct sales works best when there is no pressure and customers can explore the product with their friends.
The formula is simple: Silpada reps set up parties where women and their friends try on and buy jewellery without any formal sales speeches to wade through. Arrival times are casual, there’s no pressure to buy and parties usually run for a few hours.
At the end of the night the rep earns a commission of 30 per cent of the sales total and the hostess who offered her house to be used for the party receives the same 30 per cent of total sales in credit for free jewellery.
The sales average for each Silpada party is $1,250 meaning reps and hostesses average $375 each per party — not bad for a few hours’ worth of mingling with your friends, especially since there’s no resumé to hand in or weekly hours to maintain since reps work as little or as much as they like.
The model has been so successful that Silpada has quickly grown to more than 28,000 representatives in the U.S. and retail sales of $270 million since 1997 and about 1900 reps across Canada with retail sales of $10 million since entering the Canadian market in April 2008.
“We feel very blessed. Our goal was never to get out there and make this big, huge company.
When you base something on your heartfelt passion, people see that,” Walsh said.
“It’s an easy product to sell — there’s no pressure and because of the party atmosphere it’s very low-key. You don’t have to feel like a sales person,” Kelly said.
Kimberly Ross, 37, used to be a construction safety manager in Toronto before becoming a full-time stay-at-home mom. Since starting last October she runs two or three parties per week and says Silpada is a natural fit.
“I wanted to get back into the business world — I wanted to do something for myself. It’s given me back my own sense of self from a business perspective.”