Sonya Shields and Becky Young are two dynamic Gen Y moms who discovered network marketing in their early twenties. They both live in some of the remotest areas of the Canadian countryside, surrounded by cattle and farmland. Yet they never let geographical isolation from each other, from their upline or from their growing team be an obstacle to partnering for success.
Sonya lives close to the mountains in a small town south of Calgary, Alberta. It sometimes snows as late as July and temperatures in winter can stay below minus 25 degrees with the wind chill for months on end. Sonya has always been an athlete and was until recently an award-winning rodeo rider. Her husband is a professional bareback rider who continues to win many titles.
Becky lives two miles away from a hamlet with a population of sixty, and thirty-five miles away from Weyburn, a small city in Saskatchewan with a population of 10,000. Becky and her husband own a ranch with 2,500 head of cattle and twenty-five horses. Becky grew up as a 4-H kid and credits that organization for teaching her early leadership skills such as public speaking.
Sonya and Becky got to know each other at professional rodeos while watching their husbands compete. Both looking to make extra income while working from home, they became some of their company's first distributors in Canada. Without any role models or social proof that the business would work there, they pioneered the way for others to succeed and quickly became international top producers.
"The 4-H motto is Learn to Do by Doing," says Becky, "and that's exactly what I applied to my business." Similarly, Sonya attributes her success to the real-life business experience network marketing teaches, allowing people to grow as they go.
Becky Young and family.
Sonya Shields and family.
Ryder and papa having fun, playing with a calf trying to eat Ryder's pants.
Davey Shields on World Champion Bucking Horse winning the Calgary Stampede's $50,000.
Earning a company-paid white Mercedes.
Becky's husband Blade pulling son Grady behind his horse for fun in the winter time.
Mercedes and Ryder enjoying a Hawaiian garden.
Mercedes living her dream of becoming an Olympic figure skater.
Sonya and her team at the Canadian National Training Conference in 2010.
Becky's team at a global training event.
Originally from Oklahoma, Sonya moved to Alberta in 2002 because she married a Canadian. She was introduced to the business on a visit home in 2004, when one of her younger sisters gave her some skincare products. Sonya loved the results, but when her sister told her about the company and business opportunity, she says, she had no idea what network marketing was. She started researching online but couldn't find much information without having a distributor ID.
Although she had graduated with a college degree in marketing, Sonya had no concrete career plans at the time. She was attracted to fashion and the corporate high life, but did not relish the idea of having to work long hours away from home. Having grown up with a stay-at-home mom, she wanted the same for her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Mercedes. When Sonya found out she could actually drive a free Mercedes by selling these products her sister had shared, she got excited.
Naturally social, Sonya was having a hard time being isolated from her family and friends in Oklahoma. She couldn't afford a plane ticket, so each time she wanted to visit she had to drive thirty hours to see them. Feeling homesick, she hadn't made the effort to reach out and make friends locally.
"I felt fortunate to find this opportunity at the time that I did," she says, "because I saw this was going to help me go out and meet people. Also, the idea of supplementing my husband's rodeo-riding income with some extra money for shopping was attractive."
After her sister told her about the business, Sonya decided to extend her stay in Oklahoma for a couple of days. She had never been to a home party and wanted to see at least one presentation to get a better understanding of what it was all about.
Despite her limited finances, Sonya joined her sister's business and ordered a full set of products to get started. In order to complete the purchase, she had to ask her step-dad to cosign a $2,000 loan, but she figured, since she was going to be the first Canadian consultant, she would need physical product for demos. Soon she was making the thirty-hour drive back to Alberta, armed with forms, brochures and any other information her upline had been able to find.
As soon as she arrived home, Sonya called her mother-in-law to see if she wanted to host her first party. "I'm going to be driving a white Mercedes and making $25,000 a month," she told her excitedly.
Her mother-in-law, a corporate employee who planned to work until retirement, replied, "Honey, I don't want to burst your bubble or anything, but that doesn't happen to everybody. That just happens to the lucky ones."
Sonya simply answered, "Okay, you can just watch."
Although Sonya's mother-in-law was protective, she was also supportive and agreed to invite a couple of friends to the party, and Sonya made the three-hour drive to her in-laws to deliver her presentation. Not knowing what to do, she printed out a long script her upline had sent her. No one signed up that evening—but she did sell some product.
After that first party, Sonya started filling her monthly calendar with appointments, exactly as she had been taught: six for success, eight to be great and ten to win. Since her husband was often away, she took her little girl with her to the majority of these parties.
Today Mercedes is eight and regularly asks her mother, "Mom, how many years before I can sign up to build the business?"
Sonya signed up quite a few preferred customers at her parties, but she didn't recruit any business builders for six months—until one evening, when she signed up Becky.
Becky was originally from the same town as Sonya's husband and they all frequently saw each other at rodeos. While Sonya was competing in the rodeos, Becky and her sister Billie would offer to watch Mercedes.
Sonya introduced Becky to the business at a rodeo where their husbands were competing.
"She gave me a bag of products," says Becky, "including a couple of full-size bottles and every sample you can imagine. I don't remember what she said, but I was impressed with all the different goodies."
Becky was busy planning her wedding for the following month, so she didn't give it much further thought. She tried the products and thought they were great, but she wondered how she would ever be able to afford them. She was working as a teacher's aide making $900 a month, and the wedding preparations had absorbed any extra funds she had.
"Sonya kept in contact with me, but I paid no attention whenever she mentioned the business," says Becky. "I had heard of party-plan companies, but I didn't know what network marketing was."
After the wedding Becky went straight back to work, because there was no time or money for a honeymoon—and that finally got her thinking about Sonya's business.
Becky was not happy where she was working. She had just taken a huge pay cut from her previous job, which she liked, but she hated driving an hour each way, five days a week, especially in winter.
"I would drive in the dark to get into my cubicle, and then leave again in the dark," she remembers. "I loved the people I was working with, but I couldn't see myself doing that for the rest of my life. I was twenty years old and didn't know what I wanted to do. Being a teacher had seemed attractive, and I had thought working as a teacher's aide would be a good way to test the waters."
Becky got married in the summer of 2004 and in September she got a call from Sonya, letting her know she and her husband were leaving for Mexico on an incentive trip she had earned.
Becky thought, "I can't believe it. She's on my honeymoon. I should be the one going on that trip—I'm the one who just got married!" She started to seriously consider the business opportunity.
That evening, Becky sat her husband down and asked, "What do you think? Should I do this?"
Her husband was totally supportive and said, "Whatever you think, Babe. If you think it's good, I think it's good."
Becky's motivation grew stronger as she kept thinking, "What if I can give this a year and earn us a free honeymoon?" She finally called Sonya and said, "I'm in. Tell me what I need to do."
At this point (in 2004) the sign-up forms still had to be sent in by fax. Becky didn't have a fax machine, so she drove to her in-laws, where Sonya also faxed her the information she needed to get started. Becky began reading and learning from the product catalog and the one training module the company had available at the time, called Belief, Attitude and Commitment.
"We had no training calls to dial into when we started," says Becky. "Our upline in the U.S. was supportive, but they didn't really know what do with us, because we were in another country. Sonya had kind of accidentally opened Canada, and I was her first partner in my province. She drove out here nine hours with her daughter in the car and we just dug in together.
"We launched my business by giving two parties and a bridal shower. Sonya drove back home and we kept connected over the phone, talking every day, sometimes a couple of times a day. Six months later Sonya earned her company car, and two months after that, I earned mine. To celebrate this milestone, we held our dual car presentation in Calgary, because I had a large team in Alberta.
"We now were the first consultants driving company-paid white Mercedes Benzes on the Canadian roads."
Belief and Determination
When Sonya and Becky first started their businesses, there was no high-speed Internet or web support available to them. They used a dial-up connection, which was not only excruciatingly slow but also tied up their phone lines. Looking back on those early days, both Sonya and Becky agree that the lack of technology was challenging, but they were so passionate about their company's products and business opportunity that they refused to let anything stop them from moving forward.
Another factor that might have presented a challenge for most people was the fact that they both lived in extremely remote, rural areas.
"I didn't really find this an obstacle," says Becky. "I had to do more driving and got home later from parties, so sometimes I was tired—but I was so excited about my business, it didn't matter. I couldn't sleep anyway.
"Maybe because of our rodeo background, we are not afraid to get in the car and just drive. I would book parties wherever I had contacts, even if it meant going to Manitoba or Alberta, the next provinces over."
Becky built her business by talking to everyone she knew and blending it into her everyday life.
"I would just work it into things I was already doing," she explains. "I'm a very social person, so it's natural for me to ask questions. When I discover a need, I offer to fill it. This is how people joined my team."
Becky completely trusted that Sonya knew what she was doing, so she did everything Sonya told her to do. She had self-confidence and felt that she could learn any skill set the business required.
"I also believed that what she told me would happen," says Becky. "Sonya painted a big picture for me, and I totally tapped into that. If it wasn't for her vision, I don't think I'd be here. I prayed to God that we would get the company car, even though we didn't know anyone who had one. I believed it because Sonya did."
Sonya says a lot of her belief came from her love for the products. Her upline lived far away but was supportive and always available over the phone.
"My passion came from staying connected," says Sonya. "Becky and I talked all the time, and I talk to my upline. That made a huge difference. I also loved what I was doing, from being able to work from home to driving a white Mercedes. Who would have ever thought that this would be a possibility?
"Both of us came from hardworking families that instilled in us the understanding that in order to get something, you have to work for it. The traveling was nothing to us. We were used to driving an hour to buy good groceries, so to drive three hours to a party wasn't unusual. Living in rural places, where your closest neighbor might be three miles down the road, you don't really have an option."
Prospecting Success Stories
According to Sonya and Becky, the key to successful prospecting is never to come from a place of desperation. Instead, they say, always come from a place of passion and excitement and trust that there are people out there who will want to join you.
"I learned a big lesson at my first party," says Becky. "I had mentioned to Sonya as we were driving down, 'Let's just show the product and not talk about the opportunity, because there's nobody here who'd be interested in doing the business with me.'
"Sonya totally ignored me, and I'm glad she did—because my hostess that night became my first business builder, and her best friend, who was also there that night, signed up with her. From the first night, I had a team. All it took was this one person—whom I never expected to sign up.
"I immediately learned to stop judging and start listening. My goal became to build relationships and recruit one new person every month to join my team, and that worked very well for me."
Another prospecting story Becky likes to share is how she enrolled her sister Billie in the business.
Billie had signed up as a preferred customer and sometimes shared the products with others. If anyone was interested in doing the business, she simply referred the person to Becky, and these occasional referrals had earned Billie a considerable rank in the compensation plan.
Becky finally said to Billie, "You're already doing this business and you don't even know it!" Billie said, "Yeah, I knew you would be good at this, but it's just not for me." This was right after Becky quit her job, three months into the business. She had replaced her income and was now working from home.
Billie was at work and sent Becky an instant message saying, "What are you doing?"
Becky replied, "I'm working on my business."
Billie told her how bored she was at work, and Becky said, "Let me ask you a question. If you keep doing what you're doing, do you see yourself getting ahead in life?"
Billie was living in a basement rental suite, working two jobs after graduating with a diploma in business. She messaged back, "Okay, I've been thinking about that. Call me tonight."
Becky called her and continued the conversation. "If you keep working your two jobs for another year, do you think you'll be able to buy a car and move into your own place?"
Becky knew her sister was in need of a new car, so she continued, "What if I told you that if you give this a good, solid year, you'd be able to drive a free Mercedes, and you'd likely be able to buy your own place?"
Billie answered, "Then I'd say, let's do it!"
She started building her business with Becky, and one year later, she put a down payment on a condo and had her Mercedes.
"This business happens naturally," says Becky. "It's a matter of putting it out there and knowing how to ask the right questions, then identifying the people who give the answer you are looking for.
"My biggest fear was that it would require me to do things I didn't want to do, such as prospecting people at the mall. I didn't want to be pushy and was afraid of having people run in the other direction because they thought I was going to try to sell them something. I made a vow that I wouldn't do that, and it worked out great. I truly was able to work this into everyday conversation.
"You have to ask for what you want, but there's a tactful and non-pushy way to do that. I built my entire business around that principle."
Expanding the Vision
Looking back on her sponsoring history, Sonya emphasizes that it was an enriching learning experience.
"I always tell people it took me six months to find my first business builder. Sometimes we wonder why people don't just jump in, but for most, getting involved is a process that happens over time. We have to remember that when bringing people into the business, we are also bringing them into our lives, so we need to select who we want to work with.
"In the beginning, I wanted everybody to join. As my business started growing, I realized that I would be spending a big part of my life with the people I brought in. Think of the events you attend and the trips you earn and all the things you do together as a team. You really have to enjoy being around those people, as you become a big family.
"Today my priority is choosing well and enjoying the process of getting to know people. This also takes care of any fear of rejection. If we focus more on the activity than on the outcome, we start enjoying the journey a lot more."
In the spring of 2005, Sonya and Becky attended their first national company event. Together with Billie and two other consultants, they drove twenty-four hours to Las Vegas. Seeing two thousand other distributors propelled their belief to an entirely new level.
Fast forward to 2011—when they just attended their seventh national convention, with ten thousand people in attendance.
"Seeing how far we've come from the five of us being there in '05 is nothing short of amazing," says Becky. "It's probably not unlike what the pioneers of our company went through twenty years ago. Today we have over a thousand Canadian consultants and more than 150 of them are driving company-earned Mercedeses."
These days Sonya and Becky do fewer home parties and more leadership trainings. They hold weekly and monthly training calls, organize local and regional events, and attend numerous leadership retreats.
"It's important to stay in touch with your team, put out incentives and challenges, and just be a cheerleader for everybody," says Sonya.
"I handle things a lot differently today than I did six years ago," says Becky. "Every situation helps you grow, and I try to learn from others by watching what they do. If I don't like the results, I don't do it. If I like what they do and how it makes me feel, then I do that. This business is about learning by doing and constantly growing.
"Our company offers fabulous tools and resources we can plug into. We have an online university where we can take different learning modules to constantly sharpen our leadership skills.
"This business has also made me a reader. Some books that have had a great impact on me are Dare to Dream and Work to Win by Tom Barrett and The 45-Second Presentation That Will Change Your Life by Don Failla.
"Yet, ultimately, I think we learn the most from simply doing what needs to be done. This includes taking a look at what isn't working and making it right."
"I wasn't a leader when I first started," says Sonya, "but my vision and skill set grew from doing the day-to-day activities. Today my focus is to show others what is possible in this business. Our company is open right now in only four countries, and it's really exciting to imagine where we will be ten years from now. We have many years left to help others and grow as we go."