Independent representative introduces Tastefully Simple to Sequim

Like many young mothers, Valerie Oldemeyer dreamed about staying home with her children while she was pregnant.

But like others before her, she quickly learned doing so wasn't financially possible. With a 3-year-old and a 5-month-old, she needed a job. Hoping to work from home, Oldemeyer started exploring direct sales jobs such as Sensaria Natural Body Care, The Pampered Chef and Party

Lite, all the while remembering her disastrous post-high school attempt at selling Mary Kay products - how she bought more makeup than she sold - and her more recent attempt with At Home America, where she hosted one party but was too uncomfortable "selling" products.

Then, she heard about Tastefully Simple from a friend living in Arizona. "She was doing so well and meeting all of her goals," Oldemeyer said. "I thought at-home businesses never worked but there she was making it work."

It was a perfect fit for her personality. "I'm not a good salesperson," Oldemeyer admitted. "But with Tastefully Simple, the food sells itself. I don't have to push the food on anybody. They either like the taste or they don't."

Tastefully Simple is a nationwide, Minnesota-based direct sales company, meaning products are sold by independent consultants, primarily at home taste-testing parties. The company offers a wide selection of convenient, easy-to-prepare gourmet foods designed to help people spend less time in

the kitchen and more time

enjoying life.

"It's gourmet food that is simple," Oldemeyer said. "You add one or two ingredients or open and serve."

With each product, customers receive a suggestion card suggesting how to use the product.

Within a month, Oldemeyer completed her online training, invited friends over for a catalog party, hosted her first tasting party in Sequim and submitted multiple orders to headquarters.

"While other businesses are shutting down because of the slow economy, Tastefully Simple is booming," she said.

The great part about Tastefully Simple, Oldemeyer continued, is that if several people from the same group of friends want to host parties, the sampling of food at each event is different. Plus, if customers aren't 100-percent satisfied with a purchase, they can return the product for a full refund.

Oldemeyer is hoping to host additional Tastefully Simple parties in Sequim and Port Angeles. Hosts are given all the food needed for a party and only are required to open their home to guests, send out invitations and prepare the food.

"There are a lot of towns and people who haven't been touched by Tastefully Simple yet," Oldemeyer said. "But pretty soon, that won't be true of Sequim."

For more information, go online to To host a party, call Oldemeyer at 452-6811.

A growing industry

Recent surveys show that 74 percent of Americans have purchased goods or services through direct sales. That's more than the number of people who have purchased through television shopping and online computer services combined.

People of all ages and from all walks of life are successful in direct sales. Primarily a woman's profession, about 75 percent of those working in direct sales are female.

Despite popular belief, many representatives are highly educated, said Jodi Minker, a Sensaria Natural Body Care independent representative.

"People assume this is something you might do if you can't get another job but a lot of representatives are career-minded women who see the potential for an unlimited income stream," Minker said. "You can make as much as you desire."

According to the Direct Selling Association Web site, 42 percent of sellers are college graduates and 29 percent have an AA degree, graduated from a trade school or attended some college.

Fall and winter months are busy in the direct sales industry.

"For the holiday season, most companies have generous hostess plans," Minker said. "For hosting a holiday party, you get free and half-price items - a great way to get Christmas presents for free or on sale."

"I always say, 'Shop from your seat instead of your feet,'" Minker continued, encouraging people to host parties to buy gifts rather than driving out of town, waiting in line at stores and benefiting big box stores. "From what I've experienced lately, people are looking for fun and entertaining things to do that don't cost money. This is an alternative to going to the movies, a great way to do your Christmas shopping while getting the essentials you need for yourself and, most importantly, it benefits the community."

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