I like to be open minded and see the best in everyone I meet first always but a spate of meetings with people at networking events claiming to be entrepreneurs in the guise of MLM marketing has worn me down a fair bit now as I start to see the world through slightly tainted glasses each time the words Amway, Pharmanex, NuSkin, Nefful and World Ventures come up. Interestingly, the name of the companies don’t come up right away when you first meet these “entrepreneurs” and most of the time they surreptitiously spring the product on you after a couple of meetings. A well curated presentation here, a picture perfect video with lovely testimonies there, it’s essentially the same spiel cloaked in a lot of peppermint talk and deliberate interest in my life. It’s meeting way too many of the likes in this insidious pyramid schemes who parade themselves as entrepreneurs at networking sessions that have made me rethink the definition of entrepreneur which I would expound further at the end of this post.
Someone added me on LinkedIn recently with a very polite and articulate private message introducing himself. For a personal message with good intent, I thought, why not? I don’t know why the lack of a company name on his profile was not warning bells enough for me but the next message he sent me was “would you like to get paid travelling and playing with children?”. I replied that it sounded interesting though I do run my own ecotourism company for shark conservation, The Dorsal Effect, as well, and perhaps we could collaborate on something since we are both in the same line of work. So we arranged to meet for coffee of which he bailed twice and changed the timing for meeting on the day we were supposed to meet.
When we finally managed to meet, he brought a supposed friend along who essentially did most of the talking. Friend shared about how he used to work with ExxonMobile and gave it up when he figured he could have more financial freedom and get paid while travelling (note: he still hasn’t revealed his company name yet at this point) and asked if he could show me a video. It was then that I asked, are you guys from Worldventures? So sure enough these guys admitted to being so but told me to maintain an open mind as I watch a new video they had which was different from the ones I may have watched before. Long story short, this was an improved version of what they had before, showing all the members with their “you should be here!” blue banners in all parts of the world and some testimonies that involved tears. They then proceeded to ask me, what 2 things did you like best about the video? My reply was this “I don’t know what I like about it yet but can I share what 2 things I don’t like about it first? For one, everyone holding the same blue banner gives a crowd mentality and herded sheep cult feel to this whole thing and I think I like my travels to be unique. For another, the picture of a little girl touching a dolphin at a marine park in one of the still shots was disturbing as I don’t believe in captivity nor touching of marine life since I believe in responsible ecotourism and this goes against the grain of the spirit of my business.” Clearly shaken by my response, the guys replied that maybe this isn’t for everyone and I echoed their sentiments before taking my leave.
I had actually taken my early leave from a meet and greet session with a bunch of amazing start up entrepreneurs at Hubquarters to meet these 2 guys who claimed to be entrepreneurs and that was really breaking point for me, as a result of meeting countless others who have exploited my time and some even with promises of hooking me up with like minded people never to follow up if I reject their MLM products, over the course of the year that just passed. They say they are entrepreneurs but have they sat down to craft their own presentation slides, videos, financial spreadsheets and projections, business plans, proposals and materials from scratch? Have they had to reach a point of a zero bank account balance before in the pursuit of making a business venture idea be realised? This journey with The Dorsal Effect has been long, lonely and hard yet the moments of little successes as making a connection with some of the local fishermen, taking off my first boat excursion, winning my first business plan for a better world competition, and having my first press feature have been priceless albeit they don’t really help fill the pocket and the stomach yet. It’s also heartbreaking to see MLM product marketers infiltrate pitching events meant to propagate genuine innovation and motivation as well, without ever a mention of their product names. Maybe I have a naive perception of the world and still like to believe real and genuine people are the only kinds of people we should keep in our company. I am sorry for those I may have offended and these are, indeed my personal and biased opinions but for the people person in me, it is still hardest to have to lose friends to such ventures along the path of life.
More so now, I believe responsible and environmentally sustainable tourism must happen and thank you, countless MLMs out there, for spurring me on. Every traveller and tourist has the power and right to make positive change while having fun on their holidays and I am going to take The Dorsal Effect off in a bigger way this year.