Karen du Preez - Avroy Shlain

MBOBMELA - There were many times over the past 30 years that Ms Karen du Preez had challenging times in her career and wanted to give up, however, she did not and is now the regional director of Avroy Shlain Cosmetics in Mpumalanga.

“If you look back to where I started, it has been an amazing journey and I would do it again!” She was recruited as a beauty adviser for Avroy Shlain off the street at 21. She was working at what was then Barclays Bank and was approached by a woman at a pedestrian crossing. “I was young, I had no confidence, I couldn’t speak in font of people. With only this one person who thought I could do it, believed in me, encouraged me and trained me, I left the bank.”

Du Preez has never looked back. “I have been very fortunate and blessed.” She recently mentored Bring Change Lowveld winner Ms Phephsile Maseko, who is starting her own skincare range, Phepisa Natural Resources Institute. Du Preez also shares her 10 of clumps of advice on the value of direct selling and starting a business with nothing with Lowvelder readers.

1. Find your purpose

The most important thing which she has learned over the past 30 years, is finding your purpose. “If you know what your goal and your dream and your vision are, you can go anywhere. Then it becomes easy to do what you are supposed to do every day to get to where you are going and want to be.”

2. To attain success in direct selling, you need two things: Good people and quality products

“You can’t be everywhere, so you would need people to sell your product. You need to choose the right people to do this. I’ve met many people over the past 30 years. Some will come in and think they will make quick money and you will lose them. Then you have those who make the journey worth it, people with brilliance. They must have a passion for the product to go out and sell it, otherwise they won’t make it.”

3. Invest in your team

You have to teach your sellers the right skills and they must have product knowledge, Du Preez explains. In the company’s case, people start out as beauty advisers and talented managers are identified among them and trained. To achieve this, a good structure needs to be in place. “We believe they must enjoy it, and not work under pressure. Beauty advisers must also be empowered with product knowledge.

“People will buy a product because they know what it will do for them as well as getting excellent service. Women like experimenting with new looks and products. They want to know what the benefits are. The beauty market is very competitive and a huge industry. If you have the right people you can take your company anywhere. However, you won’t find out until you’ve invested training and time in them.”

4. Branding is very important

Avroy Shlain’s beauty advisers are the people on the ground, those finding customers in their communities, and really selling to the client. The company rarely does formal marketing. “We believe that our people are our adverts, they are our marketers,” Du Preez explains. Its own brand research has shown people prefer good-quality beauty products. They won’t want products which are complicated to use. They also want them to be accessible. The product is the means to move you towards your goals and dreams.”

5. Recognition to your employees

“The wonderful thing about our company is recognition. It is about saying thank you, well done. We work for a lot of great incentives.” At beauty-adviser level incentives usually take the shape of products. Then they have it in hand and get to use the range and don’t have to buy it themselves. “It motivates them to sell more and they get to know the product. We demonstrate our range to the clients - they can feel, touch and smell what they are buying.”

6. Equip and motivate your people

You must set high standards and expectations to set them up for success. Equip your people to be able to do their jobs even better. Help them grow, and later they can move up. “It is an ongoing process. You may lose many in the beginning, but as long as the basis is right, and you have well-trained people with passion, you can take your company anywhere.” Be visible and accessible to them. They must know you. “Make sure you are there for your people, that they are happy and that you are their support system. Remember you also need a support system from caterers, decorators, a personal assistant and so on. As a woman in a busy business world, you need all the support possible.”

7. Invest in your company

Du Preez spends a lot of time, effort and money in planning, launching and pitching products to potential customers and sales force. To impress people, powerful presentations are called for. “First launches are very important. People may not buy immediately, but they remember the first time they heard about it. People also like to be spoilt.” For this reason it is not a once-off thing and needs to be done regularly. It also takes time to build relationships and for you to win people’s trust. “Once they trust you all the other relationships and aspects fall into place.” Similarly, teach your employees to invest back into their business by setting a little aside for tools to help them grow.

8. Study your market

“Make sure you understand the market. What do customers and clients really want?” Find out where you must go to market yourself, and what area would be the best. “Sometimes only a small group will show up. It may be that you have chosen the wrong time or day. But it is crucial that you go to them to introduce your product. Timing is everything! “If you have confidence and believe in your product, you will fly. It will not happen overnight, it takes time.”

9. Persevere

“Hard work always pays off, never give up. It can be tough. Sometimes I’ve driven home alone from making a presentation far away, and I wondered, ‘Was it worth it?’ "It is normal to feel that way. Then there are many times that I want to burst with excitement after a presentation.” Persistence is continuing to do what you are doing, day in and day out. “Eventually it will happen. Remember that what you do today, you will only see the results in two or three months to a year later. Consider it as an investment. “We are all human. You are going to have disappointments. When it happens and you feel the pressure, go back to your vision and your goal. Work from your plan - and tweak it a bit here and there. "The memorable moments are there to keep your spirit lifted and keep you on track to achieve that next goal. ”

10. Pay it forward

“I was afforded an opportunity to get where I am today and it changed my life for the better. Find out how you can help someone else. There is always something you can teach someone. If I can go to bed having taught someone something and left them with a belief that they can do it, it has been a good day.”

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