When Linda Locke first started a part-time network marketing business, she felt isolated. She was very active in a local women’s networking group, but found that most of the other members had strong negative perceptions of network marketing. She had no one to talk to about her business.

When she subscribed to America Online in 1995, she was delighted to find that there was a community of people all over the country in just the same situation.

“There were some great forums at that time for women in MLM. All of a sudden I could connect with people all over the US! I no longer felt that isolation.”

A Journalist’s Appetite
With her background in journalism, Linda was naturally interested in finding out as much as she could about what others were doing to succeed—and in sharing that information with others. She started sharing information with those she met through the forums. She sent articles to her online friends, based on her own experiences and her conversations with others, and the response was resounding and positive. This started her thinking about the potential for a publication.

“I thought, why is it that the majority of people in networking are women, but there is no publication out there for this group? There was a void in the marketplace. I figured, I like to connect people together, I’m a good networker—and I saw that this could be a way to facilitate communication between all these women…to finally give them a voice.”

Linda launched the first two issues of the MLM Woman Newsletter electronically, then shifted to a print version with subscriptions. After a few years, to increase her audience, she switched to an entirely Web-based format.

www.mlmwoman.com was a radical step in that it was free to readers, raising the revenues needed to cover costs through advertising. Since its inception, it’s been a labor of love: Linda has found her niche as a promoter and facilitator of dialogue, friendship, motivation, and community for women in the industry.

“I realized that although I understood what it took to be really successful as a networker, that wasn’t what really interested me most. I was intrigued with the entrepreneurial aspect of this industry, with how people use network marketing to build a small business for themselves and improve their lives.

“As the newsletter grew, I decided it was better for me not to personally work a business—to be generic, an objective third party. I’ve not only studied the industry; everything I write about I’ve actually done myself. But the fact that I don’t have a specific company perspective and the objectivity that brings is something people trust and appreciate.

“I’m passionate about helping networkers keep their dreams alive. My greatest reward is the e-mails I receive from all over the world saying, ‘Thanks for being there.”

The Unique Approach of Women Networkers
As the point of connection for people from all different companies, Linda has a unique perspective on the profession. The most common question she hears from her readers goes something like this:

“I’ve marketed to everyone I know, and don’t know what to do next. I’m at my wits’ end. What do I do? I have no trouble selling products—but I don’t know how to recruit. How do I find prospects?”

MLM Woman is in large part devoted to addressing these issues, and Linda solicits new writers to share their thoughts. They do; but, perhaps ironically, men submit more articles than do women—which prompts Linda to make one of her many observations about how women and men approach the business differently.

“Why don’t women come forward more? I believe that they’re being modest. Women are taught not to blow their own horns, and don’t seem to be as driven as men are to get the word out about their accomplishments. Of course there are some women speaking up out there—but I wish they would do it more.”

In general, Linda observes, women do the business differently in two ways.

First is the reason they get into the business. Women, says Linda, tend to start out wanting a supplemental income to their regular job, or more flexibility for their kids or elderly parents; they are not usually looking for a “business.” Men, she says, more often come in looking for the substantial income.

Second, women networkers are more relationship-oriented than men. Linda sees women getting more personally involved with their downline and customers.

Another common phenomenon among women in networking is especially rewarding for Linda to observe: in the course of building a business, women often discover their real abilities.

“It’s almost like an awakening,” Linda explains. “Women often come in with no business experience and don’t realize they have these skills until they actually get out there and apply them. Then it hits them: ‘Gee, I am a leader. I can motivate people. I can be successful doing these things.’ Many don’t know that going in—and it’s wonderful to watch it unfold.”

Uma Outka is a contributing writer for Networking Times.