Investigations

How self-help and personal development fuels multi-level marketing schemes

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“I love money, money loves me.” - The Feed goes inside The Money Mindset.

SEE THE FULL FEATURE ‘GET RICH QUICK’ THURSDAY, 8:30PM ON SBS VICELAND

 At a conference centre in the depths of the Gold Coast’s Star Casino, five hundred people are stamping their feet, waving their hands in the air and chanting, “I love money, money loves me. I love money, money loves me…”

Everyone here wants to get rich quick and they’re hoping to do this through one of the newest, hottest multi-level marketing schemes in Australia. Many have already paid thousands of dollars to sign up.

But when the speakers hit the stage there’s little talk of the scheme’s product (an ionising, alkalising water filtration system), or sales strategy. Instead, these new recruits are told the real key to success is cultivating an “abundance mindset”. The conference continues with a focus on inner work and personal growth - a group meditation session, a workshop on personal goals, the sharing of daily gratitude rituals.

Conference co-organiser and top earner, Kristie Ord, claims the power of abundance and positivity has helped her and her partner make more than a million dollars in the previous year.

“If you don't believe that you're someone who deserves to make a million dollars in a year, then you're not going to,” she tells The Feed at her beachside apartment.

Kristie Ord and partner Clint X Morgan
Kristie Ord and partner Clint X Morgan
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Those aspiring to be a top earner like Kristie have adopted the rhetoric. “It's personal development, changing our lives for the better, and creating that income along the way,” says conference attendee Nicky, who took out a loan to pay $10,000 to be part of the scheme.

This kind of personal development messaging is fuelling the growth of many, modern-day multi-level marketing schemes, or MLMs. Whether they’re spruiking diet shakes, vitamins or makeup, these newer incarnations of Avon and Tupperware use the allure of personal transformation to get new people to sign up. Facebook and Instagram have turbo-charged their reach - it’s that friend-of-a-friend who always posts about how wonderful their life has become since they joined a particular MLM #gratitude #abundance #freedom.

Apart from making a career in an MLM more attractive, critics argue merging multi-level marketing with positive mindset ideology is a convenient way for some companies to avoid taking any responsibility when their members fail to make money; when things aren’t going well, it’s not the scheme’s fault - it’s the person’s mindset that’s to blame.

When Justin Schroder invested $5,000 in a health products MLM, he attended weekly seminars that were “very much about having the right mindset…they basically said that you have to have a positive mindset in order to do well.”

Struggling to make back his initial investment, Justin was told that he needed to attend more seminars in order to develop a more positive outlook.

“I actually believed it myself, I was sort of only listening to people in the company,” he tells The Feed, before admitting that he never made back the money he put in. “I did feel quite down about it.”

Justin Schroder
Justin Schroder failed to make the $5,000 he invested in a health products MLM.
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Entrepreneur Kristie Ord insists,

Every single scenario that we have seen where people haven't had the results that they're after is due to something going on within.

But the reality is, no matter how positive or abundant your outlook, and no matter how much work you do on your inner self, your chances of making big bucks in an MLM are pretty slim.

“For new recruits, 99.7 per cent of people lose money, or make nothing at all,” says Jane Marie, producer and host of “The Dream”, an American podcast that took a deep dive into the world of multi-level marketing.

Jane Marie says that many modern MLMs are like a “Tony Robbins experience”, where people keep trying to make it work and blame themselves when they’re not making progress.

It's like being in a bad relationship.

"You think, I've already invested all this time, I might as well just stick with it and I'll change, and I'll sacrifice more...and then it will get better.”

But - as Jane has found - the chances are, it won’t.

SEE THE FULL FEATURE ‘GET RICH QUICK’ THURSDAY, 8:30PM ON SBS VICELAND