“How network marketing changed my life”

elemSunny Elem is the Managing Director of Nature Hero Ltd, a Lagos-based network marketing company. In this interview with Victor Bassey, he talks about the benefits and challenges of Multi-level Marketing (MLM) in Nigeria. Excerpts
How did you get it started?
It is really difficult to pin point when and how I started because right from when I was young I have always had business acumen and growing up, I always had this attitude of, I want to be on my own. But it was not easy starting from the scratch coming from a humble background. I had to face it.
I have done a lot of things, selling all manner of things from street selling to real estate. I have been into marketing all this while because I always believe it is marketing that can give you income. If you want to be wealthy, you must sell something – goods or services.
I believe you can never be up there without passing through some rough stages. I always tell people in starting a business, don’t always think of the money. Money should be the last. Start from your brain. This moves into a tangible idea, you now set goals and a plan and when you are done, you will be so surprised that the money will be available.
I also went into exporting dry-split ginger but unfortunately, we paid the Ministry of Commerce to fumigate the container before they were shipped. They gave us the certificate of fumigation but they did not actually do the fumigation and before the container got to its destination, the goods were spoilt and I lost all the money.
At that time, my wife noticed the dwindling family finances and went into network marketing. Initially I was not interested in it but after the cheques started coming in, I got interested in it because it fell into my area of passion – marketing. I realized network marketing is a different kind of marketing where I do little and at the end of the month I will earn from different individuals that I don’t even know. I went into research about network marketing and understood what it was and the rest is history. Through network marketing, my other businesses have bounced back.
When you say it is marketing that brings income, do you mean marketing anything or something that is in demand?
You can market anything if you have the skills and the flair for it. Let me give you an instance. There was something I bought one day I didn’t want to buy. A young man brought it and before I knew it, I had parted with my money. When I got home I was wondering why I bought it. At the end, I discovered the guy has a flair for marketing.
You market health products, are there other products in the mix?
Yes in network marketing you can market anything. I have used MLM to market real estate and other products. In Nature Hero, the company we are promoting in America – Nature Hero International have supplements, wrist watches, jewelries and other things that are not health related so you can market anything. I love the industry so much because I have seen it change the lives of so many people. But the irony of it is that when you go out, people look down on you, but in the United States, it is well respected. Bill Gates once made a statement that if he were to start all over again he would go into network marketing.
In Nature Hero, we have individuals going home with N1 million, N900,000, N500,000 every month in less than a year since the company started business in Nigeria. It is an industry that from nowhere, someone can become somebody as far as you really want to work. But the problem in Nigeria is the hype. Nothing is free.
Marketing is the hardest job to do, I must confess because you receive a lot of rejections and once you are rejected, it tears down your self-esteem. That is where the problem comes in but some of us have adequately prepared ourselves for it. For instance I tell myself I need to get 20 rejections to get one yes and when I receive one rejection, I say one down, 19 to go. That keeps you going so that you wouldn’t take it personal. I usually tell myself, this guy didn’t know me, so I wouldn’t take it personal. Walking to a total stranger or picking up your phone to call a total stranger is the hardest job but that is where the money is.
How does network marketing work?
Like the name suggests – network. You have network of individuals each one doing his own job. At the end you get paid for what those individuals did. So, you see that you are leveraging on other people’s effort and money because they too invest their money and effort and at the end of the day, you that referred them enjoy it too. It is a business that if you don’t have interest in helping people, you won’t go far. But I can tell you it’s a business you can do and still have your time.
Challenge of trust
It is in every industry. There are a number of people who were doing well and we built trust, supplied them with goods but they suddenly disappeared. It is there but we are trying to manage it.

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