Love it or hate it, multi-level marketing is a big business. More than 18 million Americans are involved in MLM or direct selling businesses, according to the Direct Selling Association. (While MLMs and direct sales aren’t exactly the same thing, 95% of all direct sales companies use a multi-level compensation structure, per the DSA.)
Joining an MLM is appealing to many, since it offers freedom and flexibility, plus the promise of big earning potential. But experts suggest proceeding with caution if you’re thinking about signing up. While it might be possible to make good money if you’re a genius salesperson and get in on the ground floor at a growing company, most people aren’t so lucky. The majority of sellers make just a few hundred dollars per year, and many people actually end up losing money.
If you’re considering joining an MLM, you’ve probably heard something about the following businesses. These are the top MLM companies in 2018 by revenue, according to industry publication Direct Selling News.
- Revenue: $2.26 billion
Tupperware is one of the oldest and best-known MLMs. People have been hawking Tupperware since the 1950s. The companies founder was one of the pioneers of direct selling, realizing that it offered women a way to make money when many didn’t work outside the home.
Today, there are 2.9 million Tupperware sales reps. The average consultant earned $710.56 a year in 2013.
9. Nu Skin
- Revenue: $2.28 billion
Nu Skin is an MLM company that sells anti-aging skincare products and nutritional products. It was founded in 1984 in Utah. In the early 1990s, the FTC investigated the company for making unsubstantiated claims about its products; the company eventually had to pay a $1.5 million penalty.
Active Nu Skin distributors earn an average of $150.53 a month, according to the company’s distributor compensation summary.
- Revenue: $2.96 billion
Perfect might not be familiar to most people in the U.S., but the MLM is big in Asia. The Chinese company sells cosmetics as well as personal care, skin care, household, and wellness products.
- Revenue: $3.09 billion
Natura is a Brazilian company that’s been around since 1969. It’s known for its natural and sustainable beauty products. It sells its products through 1.5 million sales consultants, as well as in stores and online.
6. Mary Kay
- Revenue: $3.25 billion
One of the best-known names in multi-level marketing, Mary Kay has been around since 1963 when founder Mary Kay Ash started the company with a $5,000 investment. There were 600,000 Mary Kay ladies in the U.S. in 2012, according to CBS.
- Revenue: $3.92 billion
Infinitus is another Asian MLM that’s not yet a big name in the U.S. The company sells a variety of health food and beauty products inspired by traditional Chinese medicine.
- Revenue: $4.19 billion
Vorwerk is a German direct selling company that makes household products, cosmetics, and carpets and floor coverings. The company has been around since 1883 and has more than 633,000 independent sales partners around the world.
- Revenue: $4.40 billion
Nutrition company Herbalife is an MLM giant, with more than 2.3 million distributors. The company has been accused of being a pyramid scheme, and it eventually had to restructure its business to appease regulators. But that hasn’t stopped it from making money – it’s the third-largest direct selling company in the world.
- Revenue: $5.7 billion
Avon has been around since 1886, when it was founded as the California Perfume Company. Known as Avon since 1939, more than 6 million people around the world currently sell the company’s cosmetics and other products directly to customers. This MLM company is one of the biggest beauty brands in the U.S., according to Forbes.
- Revenue: $8.6 billion
Amway is the biggest multi-level marketing company in the world, with nearly $9 billion of yearly revenue. While many have called the MLM company a pyramid scheme, the FTC decided in a landmark 1979 ruling that the company was legit since it was selling actual products. The home, health, and beauty products the company sells are real, but in 2010, the company paid $56 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that again accused it of being a pyramid scheme.
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