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“LuLaRich”: New Documentary Traces the Dramatic Rise and Fall of Multilevel Marketing Company LuLaRoe

Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

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How did a leggings business that started in a family home grow to $ 1 billion, then die out as quickly as it started?

It’s the story of a new Amazon docusery, “LuLaRich,” says LuLaRoe, the multilevel marketing (MLM) company known for its “soft” printed leggings. LuLaRoe has recruited tens of thousands of women, many of them mothers, to proselytize their mission to “bless lives” and promote a “boss babe” lifestyle. It was founded by married couple DeAnne and Mark Stidham in 2012.

“(LuLaRoe) has been adapted and sold to many women who are stay-at-home moms (which is) a very isolating experience in this country, unfortunately,” said Julia Willoughby Nason, who co-directed the series with Jenner. . Furst. “People are so drawn to the idea of ​​joining the company because they have friends, they have community and at the same time, they can be empowered and earn an income.”

LuLaRoe’s prints were each in limited edition and distributed to vendors at random, sparking demand for rare and popular designs. Credit: Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video

But after growing at an unfathomable rate – from $ 70 million in retail sales in late 2015 to $ 1.3 billion just over a year later – there has been a high-profile exodus of consultants. The company was being chased by reports of declining quality, smelly leggings and bizarre prints of a phallic or yonic nature.

LuLaRoe’s MLM structure was also criticized – new hires had to pay between $ 5,000 and $ 10,000 for their “starter” package to sell leggings, and many struggled to sell them, while others ended up. by declaring bankruptcy, according to “LuLaRich”. Meanwhile, established consultants have said they’ve made big bonuses for bringing in newbies. (One of the top consultants hired $ 51,000 in just one month, she said on the series.)

An “attractive” offer

Whether LuLaRoe employees mostly earn money through hires or retail products was at the heart of the civil lawsuit that Washington state brought against the company in January 2019, alleging it was of a pyramid scheme. (Pyramid schemes are illegal in the United States, while MLM companies, such as Avon, Mary Kay, Amway, and Tupperware, remain legal.) LuLaRoe settled the Washington case for $ 4.75 million last February. , but still has other lawsuits pending.

In addition to interviewing a number of former LuLaRoe employees, the directors spoke to the Stidhams, who were eager to share their side of the story. They spoke at length about their childhood, their Mormon faith, and the entrepreneurial spirit they were raised with, highlighting DeAnne’s story by swapping swap dresses for thousands of dollars. Over the course of the series, the couple maintain that their business is not a pyramid scheme, that LuLaRoe’s consultants have always made money primarily by selling the products, and that there have never been any significant issues. with the quality of their products.

“LuLaRich”: New Documentary Traces the Dramatic Rise and Fall of Multilevel Marketing Company LuLaRoe

LuLaRoe’s top consultants have said they earn tens of thousands of dollars each month in recruiting bonuses. Credit: Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video

“We didn’t have a big problem with the wet leggings. We didn’t have a big problem with the damaged leggings and products,” Mark said in “LuLaRich”. “We had a huge social media problem. And we’ve had a lot of noise about very few real issues. “

They also refute some of the more disturbing claims about the company’s pressurized culture, including that some women were selling their breast milk to pay for start-up costs (“extremely ridiculous,” Mark said with a laugh) and others were encouraged to undergo gastric surgeries in Tijuana to lose weight. (DeAnne said she only offered the information when asked.)

Ultimately, the series is a candid and often surreal look at what Willoughby Nason called the “flirtation” of the business, the husband and wife who founded it, and the variables that made LuLaRoe a phenomenon of this particular decade, such as the advent of new social media features such as Facebook Live.

“The cult of personality that thrives on social media is so emblematic of the astronomical growth of this business,” said Willoughby Nason.

Furst agreed, saying social media and MLM are “made for each other.”

“Before that, you know, these MLMs had to go door-to-door and you had to have a human connection to your Tupperware or your makeup or… Herbalife,” he explained. “I think with social media the doors are wide open all day.”

LuLaRich“is now available on Amazon Prime.

Add to Queue: MLM Mania

Listen: “Le Rêve” (2019-ongoing)

The first season of “The Dream” podcast explored the difficult world of multi-level marketing companies, speaking with those involved about the vision that was sold to them and the reality that followed.

Last year’s HBO docuseries on NXIVM delved into the inner workings of an MLM company where the marketing of personal and professional development seminars belied the dangerous cult that had formed within its innermost circle.

Read: “When Wolves Bite” (2018)

This book by Scott Wapner has detailed the battles between Wall Street investors Carl Icahn and Bill Ackman and Herbalife, the MLM company at the center of their fight.

To concern: “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Multi-Level Marketing” (2016)

John Oliver takes on MLMs with his typical disarming flair, examining companies such as Mary Kay, Rodan + Fields, and Nu Skin to ask if “they seem a little bit pyramid-shaped.”

To concern: “Becoming a God in Central Florida” (2019)

Kirsten Dunst stars in this (sadly canceled) dark comedy about a woman, Krystal Stubbs, who quit her job as a water park staff member in the 1990s to rise through the ranks of the fictional MLM Founders American Merchandise.

Top Image: DeAnne and Mark Stidham in “LuLaRich”