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Direct sales prove recession-resistant for Springs woman

September 26, 2009
photo - Tamara Davis-Peck during a managers meeting at her home. Photo by Bryan Oller/The Gazette
Tamara Davis-Peck during a managers meeting at her home. Photo by Bryan Oller/The Gazette 

Tamara Davis-Peck just wanted some jewelry at a low price.

Instead, the Colorado Springs woman has become a direct-sales goddess, pulling in an income of more than $250,000 a year, with a sales force of 700.

And unlike most businesspeople, she has gotten a boost from the recession, she said. She’s enjoyingyear-over-year sales increases of about 80 percent, as her July sales total topped $600,000.

Davis-Peck was born and raised in the area, a graduate of Ellicott High School. And she went through some tough years as a young adult. She had two children by two men, and when her second beau became abusive, she was left as a single mom living out of shelters and her car.

“I wanted to give them a good life, just like everybody wants to give their children a good life,” Davis-Peck said.

“But because I had them so young, I felt like we would always just get by.”

Things started looking up for her when she met Andy Peck, her husband and a stable father to her boys. The family got by on the income Peck earned fueling airplanes nights and weekends.

It was September of 2005 when Davis-Peck went online and requested a lia sophia jewelry catalog as a pick-me-up. The startup costs were low, so she decided to become a saleswoman for the direct-sales company.

“I decided to do it, and I was just going to do the bare minimum — which was a show every three months — to get a discount,” she said. “The only reason I started it was because I couldn’t afford to buy any jewelry. I didn’t think I had the personality or the confidence (to sell).”

Her first jewelry party was a disaster.

“It was terrible. I was nervous and unprepared,” she said. “I stood up and read from the training manual. All the guests’ eyes were glazed over.

“My first few months I kept trying to quit, but people kept asking, ‘Would you please do one more?’”

By the time six months had passed, the nerves were gone and she stopped trying to quit the business. She started making money, and came to see the business as a way to help women like herself.

What Davis-Peck didn’t know was that she was walking into a terrific situation. She was the first representative in the Colorado Springs area for the quickly growing company.

“She got a lucky start, and then her caring nature made the rest possible,” said her husband. “The way she really wants to see other women empowered and successful has made her successful.”

Davis-Peck saw her income jump quickly, and her team of salespeople grew throughout the West.

Her husband eventually quit his job to spend more time with the boys, and they bought a new house.

She is still quiet and unassuming, but Davis-Peck is armed with an infectious giggle. That laughter was on full display at a recent meeting at her home with several of her managers, as her hubby affably waited on the group with drinks and snacks.

“I met all these great women while building this team, and hearing why they need this really inspired me,” Davis-Peck said. “It’s not just me making money. Lots of women on my team are making great incomes.”

Her managers include stay-at-home moms, former schoolteachers, marketing executives and satellite engineers.

They are a chatty group with that uniquely female skill of understanding three conversations at once, and it was like herding cats for Davis-Peck to move through her meeting agenda.

Lisa Raulie left the classroom where she taught kindergarten and said she now makes more than $100,000.

“My husband calls me a sugar mama now, and for good reason,” Raulie said.

“No one can hold you down. You really are helping other women, and it is a sisterhood,” said lia sophia manager Karla Wilder.

That theme of female empowerment is a surprising side of direct sales. Even the format of parties is tailored to the way women naturally network.

“It’s definitely about relationships and relationship marketing, and we’re so good at it,” said lia sophia manager Heather Davis.

The party plan behind giant companies such as Avon, Tupperware, Mary Kay and The Pampered Chef came about in the 1940s, said Amy Robinson, spokeswoman for the Direct Selling Association trade group, as the women working in factories during World War II wanted to keep working and making money. Direct sales, with women selling to women, became a way to circumvent sexism in the workplace.

As a side benefit, direct sales has turned out to be a recession-resistant industry.

“Direct selling has done well historically during recessions,” Robinson said. “Direct selling gives people supplemental income after they are laid off, or extra spending money.”

She said sales for the industry dropped slightly in 2007 and 2008, but as the economy soured and jobs disappeared, the direct-sales force began to grow and, hence, the total sales. This is especially true for companies that sell low-priced, feel-good items.

“It’s called the lipstick factor,” Robinson said. Women will buy inexpensive items that make them feel good, especially during a recession when they forgo big-ticket purchases.

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