Those on the outside caution against this friendship formula, including William Keep, the dean at the School of Business at the College of New Jersey, who has studied multilevel marketing at length. He says these women are “not making friends; they’re buying them.”
Consultants, however, are quick to dispute this. “Did I have to spend $99 to make friends?” Greeke counters. “No. I could have done it easily on my own. Did it help me put myself out there? Yes.” Duvall agreed. “I joined because I was obsessed and spending a ton of money on the product already,” Duvall said. “I stay because the teams I’m on provide friendship I’ve not found since my sorority days in college.”
Sparky Lil Spitfires is a Facebook group like any other, but with members all belonging to teams underneath the leader, Jennifer Hosey. They use the group as a gathering point to swap stories, ask questions about new products, and look for advice on how to handle difficult aspects of the business—like how to deal with unruly customers or unreasonably slow shipping. Whenever a Spitfire signs on to Facebook and checks in with the group, she sees a cascade of posts touting Perfectly Posh perks, swag, contests, and fun. Spitfires also have nearly 400 members, many of whom consider one other very close friends. “This little Facebook page has so much heart and soul and love,” Patricia Frederickson, a graduate student in Georgia, told me. “Sales is the backbone, sure, but the heart of the group is in the people.”
During my time in the group, the Sparky Lil Spitfires did share tidbits from their lives, celebrating triumphs and mourning losses. But, more than anything, they posted about the Perfectly Posh products. Still, for every 10 or 20 product posts, a personal post would appear. “I see prayer requests, photos of kids, sweet dance moves, funny stories,” Frederickson said. “If you look through this page, there are sales, but there are also a lot of laughs and a strong sense of community engagement.”
She’s not wrong. When Brandi Henderson’s house burned down while she and her family were on vacation, she lost everything. In that time of turmoil, it was the Sparky Lil Spitfires group that sent her strength, both through kind words and support, and through physical items she needed just to get by day to day. “I love these people more than I love even some of my actual family,” Henderson says.
Several of the women in the group are taking care of chronically ill children or partners, and they say the group dynamics keep them going on difficult days. Susan Sweeney has an 8-year-old son with complex medical issues, which forced her to leave her full-time job in 2014. She spends most of her days in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices and said the Posh group saved her sanity. “My husband calls Posh my outlet from the doctors,” Sweeney says. “I touch my business daily, even in the hospital. I needed this.” But again, it’s not all business. “A lot of them are on my personal Facebook,” she told me. “They know when I’m at the hospital, they know when things are going all medically wrong with my children, and they are there for me. I can’t put a price tag on it.”