Sandra and Ted Tillinghast are happily married business partners who are living the life of their dreams off the Pacific coast in San Diego County.

When they met, Ted was an engineering project manager and Sandra was already a network marketing leader. Once they got married, it became clear that the benefits of Sandra’s business made it more conducive to the vision they held for their marriage than Ted’s corporate job. When Ted let go of his first career to join Sandra full-time, their business grew so much that they tripled their family income in just four years.

Seeing what the Tillinghasts were able to create, other distributors in their company come to them for advice on how to work together as a couple or how to get their spouse involved. Ted and Sandra love to share their story and the lessons they gleaned: find your strengths and build on them, honor your differences and respect each other’s freedom, commit to the process of finding out what works, don’t compare yourself, and don’t quit. In network marketing, there is no need to finish first; if you stay in the race, you will win.

Sandra speaking at a national convention launching her company's new anti-aging line.
Sandra and Ted on a company-sponsored Caribbean cruise.
Working from home while enjoying the ocean view.
Greatful for a business that allows them time to play with their grandbabies.
Get-together with local leaders and their company-earned cars.
His and her Mercedes, thanks to the company.

Discovering Freedom

Sandra was a single mom working in corporate America when a friend introduced her to the business through a sample pack of personal care products. Sandra fell in love with them and wanted to tell others about them, so she went to a presentation to learn more.

The concept of network marketing wasn’t entirely new to her, as she had attended a home party some years earlier. Now she was looking for a way to supplement her income without having to leave the house, so she decided to give the business a try.

She was good at taking directions from her upline, but she had a challenge: she was very shy.

“I had never sold anything before,” she says. “I was a single parent and I didn’t have money to invest in products or marketing tools or sample packs. I had to start somewhere, so I overcame my shyness and told my colleagues about the product at lunch and at the copier while making copies.”

Sandra also gave small group presentations twice a week: on Wednesday nights, at her home, and on Saturdays, usually at someone else’s. She believed 100 percent that if she did this over and over, every week, she would sell product and meet others who needed to earn extra money, too.

Committed to spending more time with her son, Sandra at first built her business around her job, and after about a year, she was able to leave her job for good. This was in 1990, and her network marketing company was just ten years old at the time.

“It’s hard to imagine today, but we built our business without cell phones, computers or online systems,” she says. “Back then, we only had a tiny catalog with nineteen products. One of the reasons I quit my job was so I would be free to temp for different companies and meet more people. I spent most of my time on my business, and a couple of days a week I would take two-day or three-day jobs, just long enough to build rapport with new prospects and expose them to my opportunity.”

As Sandra continued to expand her network, she climbed up the ranks in her company’s pay plan, and by the time she met Ted, she had become a regional vice president and earned a company car.

“When she told me her title,” says Ted, “I figured it meant she was responsible for sales in a certain area. But when I asked about her territory, she said it included the whole country. She was driving a Mercedes and didn’t seem to have to go to work, which really got me intrigued.”

Ted didn’t understand what Sandra did for a living, but he quickly knew she was the one for him. They got married ten months later.

Working full-time as an engineer, Ted had to get up early, while Sandra would sleep in.

“She didn’t even own an alarm clock,” he says. “I’d come home after work and ask her how her day went, and she would say, ‘Great! I was out and I met some friends, we had some coffee, then I went and got some shoes. I got my nails done while I called some friends. I got my dry cleaning and talked to some more people.’”

Sandra would also take Ted on incentive trips to exotic places. At the end of the company vacation, she would say, “Since we’re already here, why don’t we just stay a few extra days on our own?” Ted, who could barely get the time off from work, would answer, “No way! I’ve got to get back on Sunday night so I can go to work on Monday.”

It came to a point where Ted felt he was impeding her lifestyle, so he tried to figure out a way to have more freedom. He quit his engineering position, which was a tough decision because he was very successful and well compensated, but he wanted a life with his wife. He started his own engineering business and did well in it, but while he had a little more freedom, he was working a lot more hours. Moreover, when he came home from one of Sandra’s company trips, he realized he hadn’t made any money, while her business had grown in her absence. Ted’s business model paled against what she had created, so finally, in 2005, he decided to take the leap and join her.

Combining Talents

Over the years Sandra had prepared Ted during many of their flights home, drawing circles on napkins and describing what it would be like to do the business together. When he was working long hours, she would point out, “Honey, you’re not looking well.”

Seeing his wife looking young and beautiful (thanks to her company’s anti-aging products) was a daily inspiration for Ted, and while he had always been supportive of her business, his commitment to working with her full-time took it to a new level.

“The timing was perfect,” says Sandra. “My nature is to be driven, intuitive and supportive of people, but I didn’t have the mindset or the computer skills to create systems for my team. Ted has a logical, systems-oriented mind. He is very outgoing and easily talks about the business to anyone we meet. When he turns them over to me, I usually can identify right away whether the person is a candidate for the products or the business, and I lead them right into our system. Ted was truly the missing half for me to build my business efficiently.”

Ted is quick to point out that when he met Sandra, she was already at the second highest rank in her company, and when he came into the business, she had reached the highest rank, despite her so-called shyness and lack of focus on systems.

“I tend to be the ice-breaker, while Sandra is the dealmaker,” he says, “Once a conversation starts going, I kind of pull back and let Sandra do her magic. She has a soft way of asking questions and engaging people. I love to watch it. We have learned to do this dance together that works beautifully.”

Sandra says another aspect that helped their success is that, while she has a clear overall understanding of how the business works, Ted looks at it from different angles and breaks it down into a step-by-step approach.

“I could just share with Ted what I felt would support our growing organization, and he would develop a system to make it a reality.”

Many couples who are new in the business—and also women who want to get their husbands involved—want to find out how Sandra and Ted work together.

“I always start with our premise,” says Ted, “which is that our relationship comes first, the business comes second. I then share a few important tips. First, you can’t tell each other what to do. You can’t say, ‘It’s my way or the highway.’ You truly have to learn the dance of working together, which is different for every couple.

“Second, if the husband is joining the wife’s business, I tell him to find out what his strengths are that can help her business. Typically, his strengths will be different from hers. Work with your strengths and where you feel comfortable, doing what you enjoy, because dividing tasks up 50/50 or dividing every task in half never works.

“It takes some time to figure out, because it is a courtship. You’re exploring a new and different part of your relationship, and you have to be careful because you don’t want it to affect the quality of that relationship. When things start getting tense and you butt heads over how to do the business, you have to retreat and ask, ‘Okay, what’s going on here? What’s more important? It’s our relationship.’ Once you reestablish this common ground, you can go through and beyond the issue at hand, and create better results. You have to trust that if you both commit to this process, a system for working together will fall into place.”

Sandra remembers having some initial apprehension about Ted joining her business and how that might affect their marriage. She also was protective of “her baby” she had put so much time and energy into over the years and which had been her livelihood as a single parent.

Today both Sandra and Ted believe couples in network marketing can be very strong and gain a lot of respect from people around them, if they do it right. The key is to honor each other’s freedom and let the other person figure out how they are going to fit in.

Appreciating Differences

Ted and Sandra’s commitment to the process of learning how to work together helped them grow in appreciation for each other’s differences. Ted explains:

“When Sandra says something that doesn’t fit into my rational frame of mind, I just allow it to be, and I trust that she’s probably onto something, even if I can’t make logical sense of it. Vice versa, if I want to create a more methodical approach in some aspect of the business, she’ll let it happen even though her mind might not work that way. While we may not share the other’s opinion, we respect it enough to allow it to come forth, trusting that by merging our different perspectives, we can have a fuller picture and we end up creating something better.”

Sandra illustrates his point with this example:

“When I first wanted to go national, I woke up one morning and said to myself, ‘I’ve been in the second-to-top position for too long. It’s time for me to go to the top position.’ My inner critic immediately jumped in and said, ‘Don’t be crazy. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.’ But I decided, No, I wanted to go for it. I went downstairs where Ted was working on some engineering project and said, ‘I’m going to go national this month.’ This was three days before the end of the month.

Ted didn’t say, ‘You can’t do that.’ Instead, he was very supportive, writing me encouraging cards and leaving them around the house.

“I was $100,000 away from being able to qualify, three days before the end of the month, but my intuition said, ‘You’ve got to do this.’ I got on the phone and started calling my leaders. I didn’t tell them where we were, I just said, ‘We’re so close, you wouldn’t believe it.’ I thought, what’s the worst thing that can happen? I’ll just find out how strong my team really is and what they’re capable of. And if we don’t make it, we’ll do it next month.

“We went for it 100 percent, and the funniest thing happened: the company computers broke down at the end of the month, so they had to calculate our qualification based on an average over ninety days—and we qualified! Ever since this happened, we tend to trust my intuition even more and we are open to any unexpected help from the powers at be.”

Ted admits that when Sandra first came to him with the idea, he thought it was crazy. But he didn’t let his rational mind judge her or stifle her resolve. He thought, “She must know something I don’t know.” Even after she made it that first month of the three-month qualification, he thought, “Okay, she made it this time, but how’s she going to pull it off next month?” Sandra had to jump about 30 or 40 percent in volume—and stay at that level—from what she had been doing all along. All Ted could think was, “What miracle is going to happen this month? How is she going to sustain this?”

The following month, another stroke of luck occurred that pushed her over the finish line. After reaching the highest level once, they never went back. Ted decided, “Okay, I’m sold on this intuition thing. My rational mind said, ‘It won’t work,’ but luckily, I kept my mouth shut. I trusted Sandra’s inner knowing, and she made it happen.”

Finding Purpose

Today Sandra and Ted enjoy a lifestyle most people only dream of. But Sandra remembers her life before she met Ted as a real struggle.

“There’s nothing attractive or easy about being a single mom living in LA, with no family around,” she says. “My family lived in Missouri, and I was having a challenging time.

“When I started this business, I did it because I had to, not because I was thinking, ‘I can’t wait to be a network marketer.’ I asked myself, ‘What can I do to really affect my life and my son’s life?’ We needed more money so we could have more choices and more freedom.

“I was open to the idea of one day meeting a great man with a solid career who would take care of us, and I could have my little network marketing business on the side. But by putting my heart and soul into this business, it grew much bigger than I ever envisioned. Now it gives us the opportunity to work together, to live our life right now instead of waiting until one of us is retired, and to be able to make a difference in other people’s lives.”

Sandra believes in changing lives one person at a time, even if it’s just helping someone make an extra $500 a month.

“If $500 a month makes that person’s life better, that’s making a difference. In our fast-paced world, there aren’t many people willing to sit with you and help you figure out who you are, what you want and how to get it. My contribution is to show others what they’re capable of, once they get in touch with their why, and to empower them to build a better life.”

When Sandra met Ted, she immediately recognized his love of people and thought how great it would be to have him involved in the business with her, because of how he champions others.

Before they got married, Ted and Sandra would dream and picture their future together. They would ask themselves, “What’s our purpose? We need a purpose for our marriage that’s greater than ourselves.” The answer they came to was that they would show others how great marriages can be.

“More than half the marriages in our country don’t work out,” says Ted. “We wanted to demonstrate that relationships can work great. We have the same issues and challenges that everybody else has, but it’s how we handle those situations in light of that higher purpose that makes it all worthwhile. Our networking business has led us to really live our purpose. To work together, live together and spend all your time together, you can’t just be tolerating each other. You have to make things work synergistically.

“This willingness to work through obstacles, and to hold the relationship that high, transforms not only ourselves, but also our children and our grandchildren—and through our business, many other couples and their families, too. We are living testimony that you can have a great relationship and a wonderful lifestyle, and we show others how to do it, if they’re interested.

Ted once read that whatever you aspire to be when you’re 12 or 13, that’s what your life purpose is. He always wanted to be an artist.

“As I got older, my rational mind told me, ‘You’re going to starve,’ because I didn’t have any exceptional gifts, except that I was creative. Thanks to networking marketing, I now get to create and be richly compensated for it. Not only do I create systems for our business, I also have time freedom to do engineering projects if I want to. For example, my sister has a product idea she wants to bring to market so I am doing the engineering and design for it. She’s not paying me, because I don’t need the money, but if it’s successful, I will share in the royalties.”

Ted and Sandra also took some art classes together and regularly schedule time off to unplug from any business-related activities.

“We are both very driven,” says Sandra, “and we’ve found that what works for us as a couple is to never do anything for longer than ninety days at a time. We may get involved in a project, but at the end of ninety days, we’re on a beach or sailing out in the middle of the Caribbean, doing something where we are completely disengaged: we’re not talking about the business, we’re not trying to be around people we could sponsor, we are just relaxing and connecting as a couple.

“Taking time off when we need it is balancing and healing, whether it’s surfing, sailing, paddle-boarding, painting or just hanging out together. We have a blast, and that’s the beauty of doing this business together.”