Purses and parties: Owners of local direct-sales companies say business is booming
By Susan Shinn
CHINA GROVE ó No matter the state of the economy, a girl’s gotta have a new purse, right?
Or a new lipstick.
Or a pair of earrings.
That may be one reason direct sales businesses are doing so well right now, despite the economic doom and gloom.
The purses that Jennifer Carracio sells are anything but gloomy.
Cheerful polka-dots and eye-catching prints and bright stripes.
Jennifer signed on to sell purses last May after going to a show at a neighbor’s house.
She’s now a top salesperson, and purses with her name embroidered on them ó Carracio! ó are in the company’s spring and summer catalog.
Jennifer typically didn’t attend home shows, but saw the catalog and thought it all looked pretty cute.
“The company is family-friendly and the merchandise is reasonably priced,” says Jennifer, 36, a stay-at-home mom of four.
The company is also faith-based. The name Thirty-One is based on Proverbs 31, about the virtuous woman.
“I really was praying about something to come along part-time,” says Jennifer, who was a Title I reading specialist in Rowan-Salisbury Schools.
“I’ve made it a full-time job that fits around everybody’s schedules,” Jennifer says. She was recently promoted to director and has 10 other women on her team. Seven have signed on since January.
“There’s still that social aspect of home shows,” Jennifer says. “People are still wanting to buy gifts, but are more inclined to buy a lower-priced gift that’s useful.”
Not only does Thirty-One offer purses, there are lunch bags, gym bags, cosmetic bags, totes, stationery and more. There are even “skirt purses” ó skirts with interchangeable covers.
“Women are still gonna buy a purse every season,” Jennifer says. “Women who have previously bought name brands are able to look at Thirty-One as an affordable option.”
Fabric bags average around $45, and may or may not be personalized, Jennifer says, although most women choose that option.
Thirty-One is a debt-free company, Jennifer notes, and is adding two divisions this year: 31 kids and Direction for teens.
Because the company is faith-based, Jennifer says, “I get to share a little bit about my faith.
“I really felt that God had opened this door for a reason. This is where God is wanting me to be. It’s just been a neat, neat opportunity.”
Jennifer is partnering with friends Jeff and Kathy Padgett in Concord, who buy jewelry. So you can bring any gold jewelry you’d like to sell, and pocket some cash or buy a new purse at one of Jennifer’s shows.
Jennifer says that her own direct-sales business “is going gangbusters.”
“It’s a niche that’s not been touched by the economy,” she says. “Last month, I made more than I did as a teacher.”
Jennifer typically does two shows a week, usually on Tuesday and Thursday.
“It’s all flexible if I can get babysitting worked out ahead of time,” she says.
She’s also willing to do fundraisers. She typically gives 20 percent of proceeds to an organization.
“Then I get the hostess freebies, which helps me build my display,” she says.
Jennifer’s husband Frank owns his own business as well, Not Just Franks, at Carolina Mall in Concord. He’s looking to expand the business.
Jennifer constantly strives to do it all.
“Because I love Thirty-One so much, it’s hard to find a balance ó juggling all I want to be as a mommy and as a wife, and all I need to be for the business. That’s the challenge.”