This established business model is becoming the answer to employment for Generation Y.
Born between 1981 and 1996, most millennials cannot remember a time before the internet, smartphones, and social media. They are the first digital natives, growing up fluent in technology, constantly connected to an ever-shrinking world, and with instant access to more information than any previous generation.
Today, millennials and their younger counterparts, Gen Z, live lifestyles that revolve around their affinity for connectivity, cross-border social circles, and technological skills that have revolutionised how we act, communicate, and work.
For the first digital natives, the way they interact and perceive the world is vastly different compared to previous generations – this is especially so in the workplace, where millennials do not see their jobs as something they do for a paycheck.
Compared to previous generations, millennials do not expect to hold a stable job over their lifetime: they look for what feels worthwhile and can complement their values and lifestyle choices.
This diminishing interest in career stability in favour of personal development and work flexibility has led to the boom of many independent start-ups within the gig economy.
The direct selling industry, which is perhaps the oldest type of gig business that relies on a distributed workforce has reinvented itself for the modern world with rapid digitalisation, social media marketing, and interesting products that appeal to the conscious consumer.
It is not surprising that the direct selling industry has seen a major influx of millennials over the last few years who look to this business as the perfect side hustle that complements their lifestyle. Direct selling can act as a supplementary source of income for those who are pursuing their passion, or even a full-time career for the entrepreneurial-minded, depending on what the person is looking for.
With direct selling, millennials can leverage their technological prowess, strong connection to the community, and powerful sense of social responsibility to generate a sustainable source of income outside of less flexible, traditional career paths.
Why Direct Selling?
Instead of retailers purchasing products from manufacturers to mark up and sell on to end consumers, direct selling representatives, or distributors, sell goods directly to consumers outside traditional stores.
CEO of Asian e-commerce based direct selling company QNET, Malou Caluza, references the research conducted by QNET in collaboration with Marmara University in Turkey and the Moscow State University in Russia to explain the draw of the direct selling business model.
“Many millennials find this business model appealing because there is no start-up cost, they do not have to be tied to a location, they have control over how they want to market the products, especially through social media, and they can work flexible hours.”
Companies like QNET have tapped into this trend by offering a 100% digital user experience through its e-commerce portal and mobile app. QNET also offers a wide range of health, wellness and lifestyle products and services.
Also, direct selling leverages millennials’ social media and technological prowess. The social networks of previous generations were limited by geography, typically the people they could meet in person, such as family, friends, neighbours, and workplace colleagues.
The first generation of digital natives have built vast online networks that transcend geographic boundaries. According to Goldman Sachs’ research, millennials top the chart of highest social media, text messaging, and instant messaging use.
Through direct selling, millennial entrepreneurs can leverage their natural ability to build and connect with online communities to develop a successful business and earn an income. Studies show that 62% of millennials are more likely to become loyal customers if a business engages them on social media.
Low entry costs into entrepreneurship for a financially challenged generation
While millennials grew up in a technological golden age, they have faced more significant financial challenges than previous generations. Stagnant wages, increased debt, higher living expenses, and multiple global financial crises have conspired to cause many millennials to fall short of the economic achievements attained by their parents’ generation.
Today’s job market is also vastly different: intense competition caused by rapid globalisation and the rise of remote work opportunities has led to millennials seeking non-traditional careers to earn a living wage.
Though many millennials aspire to become entrepreneurs, the investments and risks associated with starting a business can be daunting for a generation that has struggled financially.
However, according to the Direct Selling Association, start-up costs are a few hundred dollars or less for most direct selling companies. It involves little or no overhead expenses such as retail space, warehousing, or shipping. This provides millennial entrepreneurs with an easy, low-cost way to launch their own businesses.
The value of work-life balance for millennials
Surveys show that millennials view entrepreneurship as a job and a lifestyle that enables them to turn a passion such as art, personal health, or fashion into an income-generating business. They also value a healthy work-life balance and seek flexible schedules that allow time to explore various interests such as travel or volunteering.
Distributors for direct selling companies set their own schedules. They are free to devote as much or as little time to their direct selling business as they want or need. It can be a full-time job or a “side hustle” that provides supplemental income. Still, the inherent flexibility of direct selling allows the entrepreneur to develop the work-life balance they desire.
“Before I began my journey in direct selling, I was juggling a regular job and my studies at university to try to make ends meet,” said Nidaa Ryweck, a Platinum Star distributor for QNET who co-founded a business with her siblings and was recently featured in Entrepreneur magazine in the UAE.
“My busy schedule left me little room to grow on a personal and professional level. But things changed when I joined the direct selling industry – I get all the benefits of running my own business without the headaches that go with having a start-up, such as finding investors and venture capital.
The direct selling model teaches you what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur without having to undertake big risks, and the flexibility it offers means that I can dictate how I spend my time.”
Millennials are skilled at adapting technology to facilitate their lifestyles. To this end, mobile apps, such as QNET’s award-winning app, are a powerful tool for millennial entrepreneurs who want the freedom to run their business from anywhere at any time, making direct selling an even more flexible option.
As with any entrepreneurial endeavour, achieving success in direct selling requires commitment and hard work. But many millennials find the reward for their efforts in being their own boss and having the freedom to pursue passions and interests.
Millennials’ call for social responsibility and direct selling go hand in hand
In their childhood, technology connected millennials with the world around them and gave them an acute awareness of how their actions impact others. Now, they apply that awareness to their lives as workers and as consumers. 80% of millennials are loyal to companies that demonstrate social responsibility.
Because entrepreneurs are members of the communities in which they operate, the social structure of direct selling naturally fosters a keen sense of social responsibility. Many direct selling companies have long histories of giving back to the community and upholding sustainable and responsible business practices.
QNET’s CSR arm, RYTHM Foundation, for example, recently received the Gold Indonesian Sustainable Development Goals Awards (ISDA) for its sports-based programme, training local teachers to promote health, hygiene, and gender equality for youth in the community in line with the UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).
QNET also promotes sustainability by banning all single-use plastics in its offices and events and implementing a meat-free policy to reduce greenhouse gases. QNET also partnered with Certified B Corporation EcoMatcher to combat climate change through reforestation efforts initiated in Kenya, the Philippines, and the United Arab Emirates.
Caluza highlighted the importance of social responsibility initiatives to companies catering to the growing millennial demographic.
“The millennial generation is looking for businesses to lead the way and create positive change in their communities; they want to support businesses like QNET, who recognise social responsibility as more than the environment or climate.
I’ve seen many distributors, especially those who are millennials, advocate actively for projects that leave a positive impact on the lives of the communities in which they operate and the environment, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Sustainability programmes by direct selling companies work to further empower millennial entrepreneurs to collectively mobilise their connections, skills, passions, and businesses to create positive, sustainable change in their communities.
Companies like QNET are applying the tried-and-true business model of direct selling to empower millennial entrepreneurs to build successful businesses and live well-balanced lives while making a positive difference in their communities. With their devotion to social responsibility, connection to the world around them, innovation, and motivation, millennials in direct selling are shaping the future of entrepreneurship.
Get more information, facts and figures about QNet, click here for the QNet overview.