Growing up in Orem, Lyn Johnson was “super knowledgeable” about multi-level marketing companies. They mark one of the only major industries to reach many women who have left the workforce, she realized.
But to work for these companies, women often have to pay upfront and depend on selling to friends and family. MLMs can become “predatory” at times, says Johnson, pointing to recent attention on LuLaRoe, a clothing company in California has allegedly operated as a pyramid scheme.
“We felt there was a need for a better, more aggressive alternative to that,” Johnson said.
So she teamed up with Sara Sparhawk, her business partner and fellow Brigham Young University graduate, to create an alternative: the West Tenth.
Launched in 2019, West Tenth offers an app where anyone can sell and shop from home, home-owned, women-owned small businesses including professional gift givers, bakers, homes. jewelry designer, children’s sleep consultant and personal assistant, among others.
As of the end of November, the company had nearly a thousand sellers on the app, mainly based in southern California and the Salt Lake Valley, with plans to expand to Phoenix and Austin. The app is free for customers and businesses to register and use. Johnson said there are no upfront capital or listing fees. And MLM is not allowed.
“We just make money [9.5%] Johnson said.
Sparhawk and Johnson, both 41, can’t predict the role their company will play in the coronavirus pandemic, as Women disproportionately leave the workforce Johnson said.
That’s why the West Tenth created #TisHerSeason is committed, which requires consumers and businesses to do 50% holiday shopping at women-owned businesses. While about 40% of businesses in the US are owned by women, only about a quarter of 4% of the revenue went to them in recent years, Sparhawk said.
“We set it up as a way to say ‘thank you’ to these women, Who shouldered this burden?, this economic burden, take care of their families,” she said. “They really bear the brunt of the pandemic.”
The pledge is focused on the Christmas season, but Sparhawk and Johnson hope their company will help shoppers connect with women-owned businesses after December.
‘We’ve needed this for a long time’
The West Tenth is now a team of five, with Johnson mostly working out of California and Sparhawk from New York. But they often go to Utah. And the Beehive State feels like a natural place to kick off the West Tenth, they said.
“You have a lot of women who have left the workforce and it can feel quite frankly that there are no more traditional jobs,” says Johnson. “But they know they have a set of skills that they really want to use [it]. ”
At the same time, Johnson says, “you have a lot of women who are weighed down by all the responsibilities that fall on their shoulders,” and West Tenth makes it easy for them to connect with other women in their communities.
Stephanie McKinley-Thompson, 30, started making charts in 2018 for friends. As Christmas approached, she started receiving more requests. She decided she needed to figure out how to do this and make money at the same time.
McKinley-Thompson was one of the first businesses to join the West Tenth, running “ingenious creations” while working from home in Salt Lake City. It allows her to have a creative side project that helps bring in extra money. In addition to the placards, she also makes and sells sourdough bread – a skill she acquired during the pandemic.
McKinley-Thompson says she grew up thinking about food as a way to show people that you love them. So it’s fun to contribute to people’s birthdays and weddings,” she said.
A few years ago, Britney Wood, who lives in Provo, started a home decor and gift business with a friend. But it quickly grew, sucking up all the important time they wanted to be with their family.
“Your website runs your life,” says Wood, 48, who has six children. So they closed it.
With West Tenth, she doesn’t have to pay for a website and she can close her store when she wants to go on vacation or be with family. The flexibility inspired her to start a new business on the platform: Bronze Gate Gifts, where she works as a personal gift giver.
Wood has always loved looking for gifts, she said. Her friends compare her to Leslie Knope, a character on the TV show “Parks and Recreation” known for her thoughtful gift-giving.
She has created custom gift baskets for companies and brokers. She is also part of the intimate moments in everyone’s life – choose a gift for someone who has lost a loved one to suicide or a miscarriage, or find the perfect way to congratulate someone on a new job or home purchase.
“I shop for a living and to make others happy,” says Wood. “It just doesn’t get better.”
Still shopping for gifts this holiday season?
Britney Wood, founder and owner of Copper Gate Gifting in Provo, offers her Instagram tips (earning copper). Here are some of her suggestions.
Do not think too much. A gift, she says, is a gesture that lets someone know that you’re grateful for them. Think about that person and what they would appreciate.
In general, Wood says people tell her it’s hard to shop for men, parents-in-law, and people who already have everything. She recommends buying something consumable, such as food or snacks. Dish towels are another option.
Wood says she likes the West Tenth feeling like sharing her business with the neighbors. According to Johnson, while platforms like Etsy have become global, West Tenth is focused on local goods and services.
“Our focus and our demographic is primarily on women, because ‘we feel that’s where the opportunity’ is,” says Johnson. But West Tenth welcomes anyone whose product or service aligns with the platform’s mission, she said.
Whenever Johnson and Sparhawk explain the West Tenth to consumers and potential business owners in Utah, “we just get this, ‘Oh my gosh, yeah, we’ve needed this for a long time. already. … Why hasn’t this been built before? ‘”
“And our answer was, ‘Well, there aren’t enough female entrepreneurs getting funding,’” Johnson said.
As a child, Sparhawk watched his stay-at-home mother run their home business in Rexburg, Idaho.
“She was a party planner, and she did a great job,” Sparhawk said. “But it was really hard for her to market herself,” and she eventually had to close.
With the West Tenth, Sparhawk thought, “This is a great way to give back and fight for women like my mother who have an incredible skill set, beyond taking care of our family” and “help these women succeed and grow their businesses.”
To do that, the West Tenth created Foundry, a “business school for home-based businesses.”
“Many women on our platform have never run a business before and don’t know how,” Sparhawk says. “And so we’re really here to … provide a support system, help them get sales and be seen by people.”
Sellers can connect with each other and hear from experts in the community on how to grow their business, apply for business licenses, and market their products, among other topics. . Classes are recorded so everyone can watch when it’s convenient for them.
“It’s really focused on this solo entrepreneur, what they can handle… the tools they really need,” Sparhawk said.
Christina Nielson, 55, says the classes have helped her interior design business in Lehi. She talked to other owners about how they found clients, she says, and learned tips for making photos look more professional on the site.
Nielson primarily runs HIVE Restyle & Design through word of mouth, and she worries that business will stall during the pandemic. But “it’s the exact opposite,” she said, as people stay home and stare at their walls, scrolling through Pinterest and Instagram.
“I was attacked violently, completely by people who wanted to update their home,” said Nielson. Since then, she has been in contact with clients from around the country, consulting virtually.
Nielson said she enjoys the flexibility of being her own boss, so she can be available to support as her two children come and go. During COVID-19, she can work and care for them if they are sick.
Nielson appreciates that West Tenth makes her and other women feel valued as both stay-at-home moms and entrepreneurs.
“It’s not like, ‘Oh, that’s cute. You are making jewelry out of your own house,” she said. “It was like, ‘Hey, you’re making such beautiful jewelry. Let’s get that word out there for you. ‘ There’s value and people care and want to pay us. “
Sparhawk said women need to be given more avenues to generate income for their families and families. It could be a traditional workplace, or starting a home-based business. But it’s also important to let women know that “any of those things will work,” she says.
“We really wanted to ease the burden on women, but then put the money in the pockets of other women,” Johnson said.
Becky Jacobs is a Report to the US corps member and wrote about the state of women in Utah for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant will help her continue writing stories like this; Please consider creating a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.
https://www.sltrib.com/news/2021/12/18/why-two-byu-grads-created/ West Tenth supports Utah women with out-of-home businesses