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Every woman has the potential to be a million dollar brand. It’s time to unleash your power and take your business to the next level with clever marketing, automation, and authenticity. Joining us for this episode is Michelle Cunningham, a successful businesswoman, coach, and a former top 1% network marketer for over 17 years. Michelle has a vibrant personality and a love for unicorns and all things pink, but behind the fun exterior lies a serious dedication to coaching and supporting women entrepreneurs. Today, she shares her inspiring success story and offers valuable advice for women entrepreneurs who want to take their business to the next level. She believes that every woman can be a million dollar brand and that they can achieve their goals through clever marketing and automation. Tune in as we dive into the world of women’s entrepreneurship and learn how to empower yourself to win.
Michelle Cunningham: Empowering Women To Win!
I am with Michelle Cunningham. I’m super excited to have you on the show. I know a little bit about Michelle. She was a big-time builder, loves unicorns, loves pink, lives in North Carolina, has a couple of children, and has a vibrant personality. She’s got beautiful background and setup but is still not happy with that level. Michelle, I’m excited to be with you, and thanks so much for being on the show.
Thanks for having me. We just moved to a new house. I got on with Patrick and I’m like, “I’m sorry that my background is not beautiful. I’m used to having it. I like a pretty background, but I got to get the installer to come in. It’s a whole thing.
If this is what bad looks like, I can see why you teach it though. You’re very good at it. Tell us a little bit about you, Michelle, so they can get an idea. You spent a long time in the industry and you are focused on coaching and supporting, especially women entrepreneurs in networking.
It’s a funny story. I was 23 years old and graduated college. I was poor growing up. I was the poor kid in town. My mom was a single mom.
Did you grow up in North Carolina?
I grew up in Connecticut. I was super poor as a kid and paid my way through college. One of my big driving forces was I need money. I want to make money because everyone who had money around me could afford things like new outfits. My dream as a kid was to have Pantene shampoo to put it in perspective. I come from very little and ended up paying my way through college. My buddy in college is now a surgeon. He’s a smart dude and he was like, “You should get a job as a pharmaceutical sales rep. You can make a lot of money.” I don’t like medicine or any of that stuff, but I’m like, “That’s what I’m going to do.”
I make it my mission to become a pharma rep. I bland one with Merck pharmaceuticals. I have a great company car and the whole thing, but two weeks in, I’m bored at this job. I’m like, “Is this what we’re doing for the rest of our lives?” I’m looking at the older people doing this, and I’m like, “Who likes this?” My coworker Sam was a cool dude. He was an entrepreneur. He is like, “My wife sells this beauty and skincare stuff alongside her real job.” I’m like, “I need that. What is that?” I go to a meeting with her at a hotel and I’m like, “These women and ladies made $1 million. This one is making six figures. This one is earning a free car. This is bananas. I’m signing up.” I sign up even though my mom believes it was a scam.
She’s like, “It’s a scam.” I’m like, “It’s fine mom. I’m going to try it.” I signed up for the scam and that turns out it’s not a scam. When I signed up, I was 23 and a little bit introverted. They were like, “You’re going to build a business by walking up to strangers in parking lots.” This was in 2002. No text messages and no Facebook. I’m like, “I’m going to walk up to, I’m sorry, strangers? That’s horrifying.” I didn’t do it for the next six years. I had ordered $3,000 of inventory. We stocked it and I sat on that inventory for six years and did nothing with my business.
That’s how my first six years started. Whenever someone is stuck, I’m like, “I get it. I was stuck for six years.” I thought about my business, prayed about my business, and laminated ideas every day, and I did it for six solid years, which is not effective. If anyone is wondering, don’t do that. At 29, I’m fed up with Corporate America. I don’t want to do this anymore. I need a change and I found a mentor who worked for the same company and I’m like, “This might sound crazy. I’ve been with the company for six years, but I haven’t done a thing and I want to make it work.” She’s like, “Come to our training,” so I go to her training.
Did you put a lot of effort into it at that point or you were dabbling in it?
No, because I didn’t want to talk to people. I’m an introvert. I was like, “I cannot build this. If I had to talk to people, I cannot do this.” I was not doing it, but I thought about it every day. I would put business cards in my pocket. I was going to bring them out while I was out selling pharma. I was going to do it, but then I would get scared. I did this all day and it was terrible. I met this mentor and she was a shy introvert. She suffered from social anxiety. She was driving a top-level company car and was super successful.
While she was doing this little training in front of ten of us at her house, this was the first meeting I went to, she had a red rash that formed on her neck because she was nervous. I looked at her and one of the big statements she said at that meeting was, “Successful women feel the fear and do it anyway.” I did not know that. At 29, that was the first time I heard that. I thought successful women were born into wealthy families, had a ton of confidence, and were lucky. I didn’t realize I could create it. She showed me what to do, and six months after meeting her with this new belief system, I changed my thinking. That was it.
I changed my thinking and I heard a quote at the same time from Tony Robbins and it’s one where he is intense. He was talking about, “You haven’t burned the bridge. You need to be on an island. There’s no other option. You’ve burned all your other options.” I said, “For six months, I’m going to burn all my other options. I’m going all in with it. If it doesn’t work after six months, it wasn’t meant to be.” I truly believe that anybody gives six months to everything and their business like giving up hanging out with friends and all the extras. You work your business for six months like a Looney Toon.
I was loony. I was messaging everyone. I was crazy and six months later, I was driving a free company car. I was a top 1% income earner. I went from a team of 0 to a team of 50. I went from no customers to 300 customers. At that point, I was making enough of an income to replace my corporate income and I was like, “Game on. We are going to do this forever.” I feel at that point that I knew how to do it. I was like, “I got to show other people what I did,” which wasn’t all that hard. I was like, “Message this.” We were using text.
What was the big shift for you as an introvert to make that happen?
I was fed up enough with my corporate job. I knew that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom one day and that I need to make a change.
If you’re fed up with where you are now and know that you want to be something else, then you have to realize that you need to actually make a change.
That was the mindset part, which is everything we know. Was there a how-to piece that you changed? Was there some form of execution or would that mindset fix that even the old way you went about it? Did it change how you went to the market?
I, an introvert, and still to this day, can talk in a social setting but I don’t like going up to a stranger. I don’t like the idea of that. I was like, “If I can figure out how to build this without walking up to strangers, game on.” We figured out we could put little jars around town and enter to win a free pampering session. it is how we did it. We put jars around town and people would enter to win. We’d call them and let them know they want a package for them and up to ten friends. We talked to them on the phone, and at that point, they were excited.
They were a warm lead. It wasn’t like calling a stranger. I was also like, “I was okay to call you if you told me it was okay to call you.” I was scared. I would text first, “Congratulations. You entered to win the salad craze in Avon and you won a pampering package for you and up to ten friends. When is a good time to call you to go over the details?” They would say, “Call me at 5:00 PM.” “I’ll call you then.” Now they’re expecting the call. “Is it a good time still?” “It’s perfect.” “Let me go over what it is that you won and we’d walk through it.”
We were a home party company, which I did home parties and I also did online. We took a standard home party and turned it from a boring, “Do you want to host a party,” which was a question I never ask. We turned it from that into, “You won this experience, and we do sell the products too. If you fall in love with it, you’re welcome to take stuff home, but there’s no obligation.”
You change the whole mindset. It went from an experience to, “I won. I’m having an experience and I get to invite ten friends.” As long as you execute the value well, they felt like a winner.
We brought a crown, a bowl, a fruit plate, or a chocolate plate. We changed a few little things. The standard presentation became a cool experience with a discounted price sheet. There’s a little bit of discounts on it and we sold like crazy. It’s a great way to meet people without approaching strangers.
Are you leveraging that same concept in the video and digital world?
Yes. With COVID hitting, the world changed and you had to use digital. Prior to that, in 2019, I hosted my first digital party and we recruited 20 people in 45 minutes and we sold $20,000 in 45 minutes. I was like, “Why are we all not doing this?” I was doing it a little bit before everyone else. They were like, “That doesn’t seem legal.” I was like, “No. We invited people to a group. We invited all our people. They came. We watched the same presentation I do in person but because it was online, I could do it for more than ten people. and I could do it for 100, 200, or 300. This is brilliant you guys. We should all be doing this.”
They’re like, “That seems wrong.” I’m like, “It’s awesome.” I remember having those conversations. Initially, we’re like, “You can take your same presentation. Instead of hosting, people want to host little parties. Put all the parties together into one presentation on a Thursday at 8:00 PM and bring everybody together.”
Let’s say you are doing it, you’re laying it all out and everybody is super excited, how do you avoid the, “Get back to the person that invited you?”
We wanted them to get back to the person. Are you saying, “How do we bring that up?”
Yes. In a perfect digital world, you would say, “Buy now,” but the problem in network marketing is different distributors and reps bring new guests and you can’t click buy now. Is there anything way around that or do you still have to send them back?
It was a bit manual at that point. After the presentation, we’re like, “The rep that invited you will be following back up with you. There’s a feedback form for you to fill out. Give us feedback on the products that you use and also, if any of you were interested in getting started joining our team, they’ll be going over that with you too.” When they filled out that feedback form that hit my home office, then I could see and I’d follow up with my reps.
“Did you follow up with Heather? She filled out her form and she wanted to join. Where are we at with everybody?” It was cool that you could track what was going on and also follow up. They’d be like, “I didn’t know she filled it out.” “Yes, it came through. It’s awesome.” It is individually followed up. With the different sale, I would say, “When you do a home party, you close a deal right then. When you do an online party, you close a deal within the week.” It’s a bit of a delay because after the presentation, they check out and they go back to their family. Now you’ve got to find them. You would get their time.
When you do a home party, you close a deal. But when you do an online party, you close a deal within the week. There’s a bit of delay because after the presentation they easily check out and go back to their families at home.
Ultimately, do you want to be at a live event if possible, or have you found that the mix is the very best thing?
I thought that it was infinitely easier to host a virtual event. It was like I had to pack up my car and drive to the event. It was three hours out of my night. Online is where it’s at.
You’re a video expert. Talk to us for a minute about the video side for the average company. We have a lot of people who read this blog who are leaders in the industry or from a corporate perspective. How do you teach distributors to leverage video? How do leaders execute that? How can they teach it and what would you be teaching if you were a leader about video specifically?
I first started using video for my team when I got the same question twice. I was like, “I don’t want to answer this twice. I’m going to make a video.” I started filming videos and I put them on a cheesy WIX website, WIX.com. My little videos were on there. If you need party training, it’s how do I log into my back-office video? Ultimately, you can send them the company videos, but it’s best for them to hear from you. They look to you as their leader. I always encouraged reps on my team to make videos for their team so that they saw that person as their leader.
As a leader, you can send them the company videos, but it’s best for them to hear from you. Because then they look to you as their actual leader.
What platform were they creating these videos and were they personalized to one person or to a group?
It was a group training video. We would film them either on our phone or we would use Loom and we would upload these videos. Sometimes we’d edit them in iMovie, or if you’re on a Windows computer, Filmora is a great platform to add in some cute things to make them a little more fun and add a little background music. We then would load them up to the WIX website. WIX takes a Vimeo link or a YouTube link. We’d first put them on YouTube or Vimeo. It was a little bit of extra steps to get the video up there but that’s how we did it.
Sorry for the detail, but I want to understand. Would they be providing those videos for recruiting and sales, or was it more focused on training the team?
A little bit of both. We had a tab that was all for training. It was the training hub for the team and that allowed my team to go from 50 to exponentially grow. I didn’t have to train everyone. The training hub was amazing and that was the best move I ever made. There was also a tab for an opportunity. Are you thinking about joining? You’re not sure. Watch this video. That video was a compilation of a few different people who had great stories that we put together and were on that page too.
Talk to me about the struggle which is real in this digital world we live in. It can be complex for the average person, even like, “Do I record this and post it to WIX.” For the average person, does that slow down your ability, or is it part of the game? Does it slow down your ability to create depth, momentum, duplication and speed? When I started, I had a VHS tape, a fax and a phone. There wasn’t even an email. I had a $500-a-month phone bill. That simplicity did allow for a lot of speed and duplication whereas now you get complexity through digital. How do you try to balance it, or do you say, “It’s the game I’m in and I’m going to identify the leaders and teach them how to use these tools?”
I do remember the month that I took off to put that website together because it was almost necessary. There was too much needed of me at that point that I said, “I need to put this together.” It took me offline for probably a month and I remember my production dropping. There was a lot that went down that month but from there, we skyrocketed. There was a little bit of time. For people that are building a brand, creating videos or creating content for their business, I say, “Let your income-producing activities happen from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM or 8:00 PM.” That’s when we’re reaching out to people, and you’re reaching out proactively.
Let that be your time to do that. If there are going to be videos, let the video portion editing happen after 9:00 PM like 9:00 to midnight time so that we’re not wasting our daytime to make a little fluffy video. Unless it’s a quick fifteen-minute here and there, we’re on with it. Don’t waste your time because ultimately, what matters the most is reaching out to people.
It’s almost hard with that super part-time person that says, “I want to do this on the side.” They don’t even know what’s possible yet. They haven’t created this story in their mind, and they’re saying, “I’ll work 5 or 10 hours a week. I’m going to make a little money.” The strategy is not as much for that person as it is the one that’s saying, “Is that correct? I want to go build a team and create some leverage and I’m going to go put some numbers on the board in terms of recruiting.”
I would say that as far as building a training hub for your team, that’s leader training. I made those training and showed my leaders. Some of them used my site the entire time and some of them went and created their own if they wanted to have their own, but that’s for leaders to create. For someone that’s a consultant or a rep who’s building, good videos to create are showing the authentic side of you, sharing a little bit about your life and curiosity about your favorite products. They’re asking you questions. Your best videos or videos where people at the end are saying, “What was that? What was that thing you showed? What was that product?” They were creating curiosity with all the content that we’re putting out there.
When you’re posting to social or you’re coaching people to post to social with whatever their products or services are, are you leaning more towards the opportunity or the product? Even within that, does it tend to be fun information or education versus product offering?
It depends on the person. I have a lot of different students who are part of my branding training, and some of them sell beauty products. They want to be beauty influencers. Some of them are nail girls and they want to be the nail girl. I sold a beauty product, but I’m not a beauty influencer. I don’t get excited about putting on different makeup every day. I’ve never been so I like the business side of it. I like to talk, make money from home and share my strategies.
When I started my YouTube channel, I was like, “I’m going to show network marketers what I’m doing.” What I didn’t realize about that strategy was there’s something brilliant about this. For anybody who’s a network marketer, it’s like, “How do we get more network marketers on my team?” I was like, “Have you ever thought about being a network marketing trainer? Who’s watching you? People who are struggling in network marketing. Who’s watching you for all these years? They’re building a relationship with you. They’re getting to know you, and eventually, their company goes under or their company is stupid, or they decide they want to be part of your team.”
What ended up happening is people who were out of the industry for maybe two years and who had been watching me were like, “I’m thinking of coming back in. I like you and I’d like to join your team.” I thought that was interesting that I got a lot of people starting to ask to join my team from my YouTube channel, which was never my intention. My intention was I like make videos and help people and they were nice. They’re like, “This is helpful.” I’m like, “Thanks.” This is literally why I started my YouTube channel and the outcome was crazy.
It’s how life rewards purpose. Find a way to serve and create value and it’s amazing how it tends to come back around.
It’s a little bit mind-blowing. I believe God blesses efforts so you put the effort out there. You do good in the world, serve people, love them, and help them as much as you can. Something awesome will happen. Things started to happen and doors opened. It’s pretty crazy.
As we work towards a close here, who are you coaching primarily now that the benefits that you see when they engage in your content, it has a massive impact?
I help women in network marketing mostly although I did have a guy message me, “Is it okay if I come in? It seems like a lot of women in there.” I’m like, “Yes.” Guys can come in too but my world is very pink and unicorn-y, so I might send you a unicorn horn in the mail or something. It’s mostly women in network marketing. Some of them are building in person and they want some in-person strategies.
Some of them are building online and some of them want to start using video and they want to build a brand. I left the industry network marketing. I left in 2019 and started an online brand that shows people how to have success in network marketing and building an online brand. That’s who I train now. It is a bit of a mix, but mostly network marketers.
How do they reach you if they want to reach you directly, Michelle? How do they get in touch with you?
My website is MichelleCunningham.com. Tons of freebies there and cool things you can get. If you go to YouTube and look up Michelle Cunningham, it’ll pop up and you’ll find it.
It has been super exciting to have you. Any closing thoughts for aspiring entrepreneurs that want to succeed in networking?
The one thing that changed everything for me was this thought that I heard at training one time. There was a big speaker on stage and she said, “Remember this very one thing. What other people think about you is none of your business.” It’s a good reminder for all of us. Sometimes we’re scared to hit record, reach out to that person or do this thing. Ultimately, who cares what other people think about you? It is none of your business. Go for it. You only live once.
What other people think about you is none of your business.
One of those things is you’re a parent too and you’re always trying to communicate with your kids. In this crazy day and age we live in where comparisons defeat joy. There are all these social media and people get into the comparison game instead of looking in the mirror and saying, “I’m going to do the right thing every single day, create value, and live a life of purpose.” That’s exactly what you’ve done and it’s come back around. It’s exciting to see the level of success you’ve had.
Thanks. It’s such a blessing.
Great having you on the show. Thank you so much.
About Michelle Cunningham
As a former top 1% network marketer for over 17 years, Michelle used video to attract business on autopilot and now empowers entrepreneurs around the globe with her trainings. She is the international best selling author of Do It Anyway, Girl | A playful, simple, unique guide to achieving success in network marketing. Michelle’s trainings teach women how to show up authentically to bring in more business using clever marketing and automation. Michelle’s personal brand has generated multiple seven-figures in its first few years and Michelle believes every woman is a million dollar brand.