Exposing the LuLaLies
LuLaRich reveals how a multilevel marketing company for stay-at-home moms ended in bankruptcies and lawsuits
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While clothing company LuLaRoe promised to create “freedom through fashion,” a new documentary streaming on Amazon Prime about the multilevel marketing (MLM) company contends the brand actually placed women in financial and emotional chains.
Over four episodes, LuLaRich traces the rapid rise and fall of the company Deanne and Mark Stidham founded in 2013. Deanne Stidham got the idea to create the clothing company after she sewed a maxi skirt for one of her children. Other girls began asking Deanne for their own skirts, and soon Deanne was sewing and selling the clothing items at a wholesale price to other women, who in turn sold them to customers at a markup price.
LuLaRoe’s business model was similar. Consultants paid $5,000 to $10,000 for a supply of the company’s shirts, skirts, and “buttery-soft” leggings. Then they’d sell the bright, patterned clothes for a profit to other women at home parties and through Facebook live events.
At the company’s peak in 2017, more than 80,000 consultants—mostly women—had bought into the company’s promise that they could make a full-time salary putting in part-time hours. The company also promised a community of “boss babes,” encouraging each other to sign up new consultants and “invest” more in their inventory.
But as the company grew, it ran into problems. Consultants began to report receiving wet, damaged, and moldy clothing. Reps say they tried to report the problems but were brushed aside. That put some who had paid the steep startup costs in a difficult position. Some went into debt and foreclosure on their homes, all the while stuck with boxes of unsold merchandise.
A 2017 lawsuit in California accused the company of being an illegal pyramid scheme because reps could make far more money signing other women up for the company than from selling clothes. In 2019, the state of Washington sued LuLaRoe, settling with the company for $4.75 million earlier this year. Dozens of other former consultants and employees have also sued for millions in damages. Today, LuLaRoe is still active but has suffered a big hit in revenue and popularity.
Directors Julia Willoughby Nason and Jenner Furst amazingly got the Stidams to sit down for an interview giving the documentary a true courtroom feel. The prosecutors (former LuLaRoe consultants) accuse the company’s toxic culture and business practices of ruining their finances, self-esteem, and marriages, while the Stidhams defend their actions, policies, and decisions at every turn.
LuLaRoe’s story reveals a deeper phenomenon: companies offering employees and investors a religion—a chance to have meaning and belonging and change the world—all while making money.
As one former rep says in the show, “They made me feel excited and important and connected.” Until people look elsewhere for what the soul longs for, there will only be more LuLaLies.
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