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Mandi Leadbetter sells LuLaRoe clothing from her Wishek, N.D., home and is a direct sales business that Katie Pinke and her daughters support. (Submitted photo)

A positive look at those 'annoying' friends in direct sales

I'm not here to sell you anything. I've never sold anything through a pyramid-style direct sales business, neither did my mom or grandmothers.

But direct sales businesses are not new to me. I remember my late Grandma Dorothy always having Avon products and a freezer full of Schwan's food. She wasn't much of a cook. As a widow, I imagine that her interaction with the Schwan's delivery driver or her local Avon representative, both who stopped by her small-town home, provided needed social interaction on quiet days.

Today, those who choose to dive into direct sales businesses build their connections and business through a digital presence and social media platforms. On Facebook, I've observed people writing comments such as "don't ask me to buy whatever you're selling," or "don't be my friend just to sell me something," or "I am going to unfriend you if you ask me to buy your product."

The way I see it, social media provides a new way to launch direct sales. Social media is for business, not only to stay in touch with your family or friends.

If someone wants to put themselves out into a digital space to sell a product or service they believe in, it's OK by me. If the direct sales outreach is over the top, such as spam email or just not something I'm interested in, I can ignore or delete the email or unfollow the page.

I also have the ability to say "no." No, I'm not interested in the product but I respect your tenacity to build your business. No, I can't fit this into our monthly budget right now, but thank you for asking. No, I already purchase that product from another friend and wish you the best in building your business.

I can also say "yes" to friends who sell directly. Yes, local mom, I will try the skincare line you're selling, and if it makes a difference with my oily, acne-prone skin, I will keep using it. Yes, seed saleswoman who also sells expensive lipstick, I will try your product. And since it's better than other lipsticks I buy, I will keep buying . Yes, local teacher, my daughters love the leggings you sell, and I'll attend your holiday open house and purchase items from you.

Supporting friends or even people I don't know but love the products they sell, supports others in their goals and dreams.

Their goals and dreams are not mine. But I respect their passion to do more for themselves.

You don't know why your friend started the direct sales business she (or he) is pitching, but their reason might not be something you're facing right now. I once was a single mom with student loan and (stupid) credit card debt. I married a guy who didn't pay close attention to his personal finances. We decided in pre-marital counseling with our pastor that I would take on the personal finances in our marriage.

I read Dave Ramsey's "Total Money Makeover" on our honeymoon. My husband didn't think it was one bit romantic to list our debts on a spreadsheet on a Mexican beach. But we did and then enjoyed the rest of our honeymoon. When we got home, we started knocking down our debt, paying it off as fast as we could to create the life we knew we wanted for ourselves and our future family.

I know firsthand a few of my friends are hustling and using their direct sales businesses to carve out and build a different and better life. They are providing in a way that wasn't available decades ago, using digital tools to build their businesses, often from rural locations.

It's not my place to judge how they do it. I can't say "yes" to all of them either. But I will always be a cheerleader of hardworking people who hustle.

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