Mary Barber and Sara Whiteford are identical twins who started building their network marketing business almost four years ago. Based in Marin County, California, they are happily married and count five children between the two of them.
In their previous careers, Mary and Sara were food writers and culinary consultants, and today they still own Thymes Two, Inc., a San Francisco-based food consulting and cookbook authoring partnership.
North Carolina natives, the twins have been cooking together since they were five years old. Their passion for food led them to Peter Kump’s Culinary School in New York, followed by stints at La Varenne in France and in four-star restaurant kitchens.
Authors of eight cookbooks, with over a million books sold, Mary and Sara have been featured on NBC’s Today Show, Live with Regis, San Francisco’s Bay Café, and the Food Network’s Cooking Live Primetime. They also authored numerous articles and recipes for a wide variety of publications, including Bon Appetit, Food and Wine, Fine Cooking, and Health magazines.
Yet, it wasn’t all joy and glory being stars in the publishing world. When a friend introduced the twins to a health product and a business model based on leverage, collaboration and paying it forward, the twins jumped in with all four feet. Today they are happy and grateful to be working with their best friends in a positive environment, offering people healthy nutrition and growing a global network marketing organization.
Sara (left) and Mary (right)
With Julia Child in 2001.
Finding a Better Way
One day in August 2009 Mary and Sara’s common friend Lila Steinle came over enthused about a nutrional product and business opportunity.
“Lila is a Harvard grad and was captain of the Harvard LaCrosse team when they won the national championship,” says Mary. “She is a total health fanatic and brought us a sample bag of a raw food she had just discovered. She said she wanted Sara and me to be her guinea pigs because she wanted to make sure the product had the same integrity she felt the business model had.”
“Coming from a business background, Lila was drawn to the idea of creating passive income,” Sara adds, “and she wanted us to give her the thumbs up on the product. Lila knew we were working on our latest cookbook, called Super Charged Smoothies, and how committed to health we were.”
The product consisted of a blend of chia seeds, once considered the miracle food of the Aztecs. Since the twins were already using chia seeds in their diet, they were happy to test Lila’s brand.
After one month of consuming the product daily, the twins were noticing undeniable health benefits.
“We felt high on life with more energy, increased mental clarity, and better sleep,” says Mary. “I actually had a health issue that was going to require a surgical procedure but resolved itself after adding this new blend of seeds to my diet. All I could think of was, how can I share this food with as many people as possible?”
Sold on the product, the twins went to a business presentation by Lila’s upline, Katie Fredricksen. A Stanford grad, Katie was already earning $7,000 a month after just six months in the business.
“We thought that was amazing,” says Sara. “When you write cookbooks for a living, $7,000 a month sounds fabulous!”
Mary remembers having a private conversation with Katie, telling her she had no experience in network marketing whatsoever, but that she would love to learn to make that kind of income sharing this powerful health food.
“I would love to show you the way,” Katie had answered.
The twins say it was the conviction of two amazing women, Lila and Katie, that convinced them to join the business, in addition to falling in love with the product.
“I saw their enthusiasm and belief in what they were doing,” says Sara. “When they said, ‘Come with us!’ we jumped in without hesitation.”
The twins happened to be at a point where they were open to a better way of making a living. They had been in the cookbook writing and consulting business for fifteen years. Prior to the publishing business, they had a catering business called Thymes Two Catering and before that, they worked for restaurants after going to culinary school in their early twenties.
“We were at a place in our life where we felt trapped in a tough business model,” says Sara. “Writing our eighth cookbook, we felt like hamsters on a wheel. It started with the proposal phase, then going through the editor, getting it approved, and then it was waiting for weeks just to get the publisher to finally say, ‘Okay, you can write the book.’
“Next, we’d have a year to write the book while we’d be promoting our previous books and writing the next proposal. One of our passions is working with people, and just the two of us toiling over words and tinkering in the kitchen felt a little insular.”
Despite wearing many hats, the twins were seeing diminishing returns for their efforts, with Internet search becoming the number one way to find recipes and people no longer buying cookbooks. The editor would try to cheer them up by telling them,”You’re in the top two percent of cookbook authors in the United States!”
“This had the opposite effect,” says Mary, “as it confirmed our feeling that we were in a business with a glass ceiling. When we looked at the concept of network marketing and leveraging our work, we were totally game.”
With company founders Jim and Sherri Wear.
The Sting of Rejection
As little girls, Mary and Sara used to be the servers at their parents’ parties.
“They were big entertainers,” says Mary. “Our mom was an extraordinary cook. She went to La Varenne back in the seventies and had been cooking and preparing food for many years.”
“Mary and I always had a powerful connection with food,” Sara adds, “and we also felt a strong connection with people through food. What made us feel passionate about this business is that we saw it as a new vehicle for serving people through food.”
“We didn’t have one ounce of experience in network marketing and it was scary in the beginning,” Mary continues, “because in the cookbook writing career we’d been seasoned for twenty years. Our entire life we’d been studying cooking. I cut my finger off with a chef’s knife when I was six, trying to cut an onion.
“We felt completely out of our comfort zone as we were jumping into a spanking new career and it definitely took a leap of faith. Fueled by a mix of fear and excitement, we were humbled by how much there was to learn.”
The first prospecting call Sara made was to her mom.
“Mom was extremely proud of us for being bestselling cookbook authors. She loved the status that gave us, and when we told her we were going to give that up and join network marketing, she was furious. She went off on me like a bottle rocket.”
Mary says the same thing happened with their sister-in-law and many good friends. Some would join to try the product and quickly drop off. Some would carefully ignore the topic whenever they would get together.
“Some people really thought we had joined a cult,” says Sara. “I think this business is largely misunderstood, especially by those who have never been involved in it.”
The twins quickly turned the pain of rejection into we’ll show you!
“We held our head down, focused on our goals,” says Sara. “We started reading books like The Compound Effect and Mach II With Your Hair on Fire, absorbing the success language and adopting new thought habits. To strengthen ourselves, we plugged into the personal growth component of the business.”
“These books really kept us afloat in the beginning,” says Mary. “Every time I felt under attack by friends or family, I would go home and reread sections I had highlighted.”
One paragraph in Mach II With Your Hair on Fire particularly stood out for her, where Richard Brooke writes:
I’ve changed. I’ve changed my thoughts. I’ve changed the people I pay attention to. I’ve changed my mind, I’ve changed my habits, I’ve changed my attitude, I’ve changed my clothes. I’ve changed my opinions about me and you. I changed what I read, what I watched on television and what I listened to. I changed those deep-rooted decisions about who I was and who I would become. It wasn’t easy but it was just as simple as the decisions I made early on. I just decided to be different and to do different things, and then I kept deciding the new decisions over and over and over again, until they caught hold. Then, all I did was hold on.
Sara also remembers learning from Mark Yarnell’s books that to be successful, you cannot care one bit about what other people think.
“It’s human nature that we do,” she says, “and I did early on. But soon I adopted that philosophy that we just can’t be concerned about what others are saying about us. Be really clear about your why and just run off in that direction as fast as you can.”
In addition to relying on books, Sara and Mary also turned to each other.
“Not everybody has a twin sister,” says Mary, “but the message is, grab a friend you can talk to, or find an accountability partner. Certainly your upline is always there for you to confide in if you’re having a bad day. It’s imperative to have somebody you can go to when you are feeling down and blue, because rejection is absolutely part of the course.”
Sara and Mary sharing the stage.
LOVE shot with Sara Whiteford, Susan Caray, Iwalani Isbell, and Kimmy Everett.
Home Challenges and Family Benefits
Another challenge the twins faced was working out of the house. Looking around, all they could see was a garden that needed weeding, roses that needed clipping, and laundry that was piling up.
Early on, they sat down with a life coach who told them, “You girls just twist in the wind, don’t you? You just go from one project to another.”
“I always felt productive and was task-oriented,” says Sara, “but never had a lot to show for it at the end of the day. This completely changed as I learned how to time block, prioritize, and kill distractions.”
The coach used the analogy of filling a bucket with rocks, pebbles, and sand.
“If you put the pebbles and the sand in first, the rocks won’t fit,” says Mary. “Our rocks were prospecting, reaching out to new contacts, following up, attending leadership calls, and so on. Learning to put the big rocks in first was enormously helpful.”
When the twins started their network market-ing business, they were still very much steeped in the cookbook world, promoting their books and consulting for res-taurants. To create extra time, Sara started to set her alarm an hour early every day.
“It’s easy to talk yourself out of having the time to do the things you don’t want to do,” she says, “like calling people and knowing you might get the phone slammed in your face. Most of us prefer to stay in the rejection-free comfort zone of our distractions.”
For Mary, the solution was having a vivid why.
“We always find time for what we value,” she says. “I created such clarity about my why that I felt like I could reach out, grab it, and taste it with my tongue. I had become completely intolerant of my financial situation, and come hell or high water, I was going to find a solution. It wasn’t just about making more money; I also visualized what we would do with it and who we would become along the way.”
Over time, the twin’s husbands became completely supportive of the business, even though in the beginning there was a little push-back about mom being gone at night.
“We would do meetings at Katie’s home once or twice a week,” says Mary. “My family wasn’t used to me being out after dinner. I remember my nine-year-old saying one day, ‘This business has ruined my life!’”
Now, almost four years later, the twins’ children are fully aware of the benefits their mom’s new career is bringing to the family.
“It’s empowering for me to know that I’m role-modelling a strong woman who’s contributing to our family income and paying for amazing vacations,” says Sara.
She remembers dancing in the kitchen waving her first paycheck for $27 with her husband and children looking at her in disbelief. She told them, “We are going to build an income! It has to start somewhere!” They looked at her as if she was crazy.
“I feel so proud of how business has morphed over time,” she says. “It’s been a gradual process and I think it’s an incredible learning experience for the children to see that wealth is not accumulated overnight. There is nothing easy about it; it takes dedication. I don’t necessarily love tucking them into bed and having them ask me, ‘Are you going to work more?’ and answering, ‘Yes, Mommy’s going to do more work.’ But I love that they see me working hard to fulfill my dream to get them properly educated, to travel with them around the world, and to show them what’s possible.”
Besides enjoying the financial benefits of the business, the twins’ children also recognize how satisfying their moms’ career is to them and how that raises everyone’s happiness at home.
Sara says usually when her kids ask, “Dad, how was your day?” he goes, “It was okay for a Monday.” They then ask, “And for you, mom? Another great day, I bet?” They know the answer is, “Yup! I spent another great day with my best friends, teaching people how to enhance their health and create prosperity for their families.”
“It’s amazing to be in a career where Friday doesn’t feel any better than Monday,” she adds. “In my prior career I always felt I had a term paper hanging over my shoulder. I was dragging my feet to sit down to write. I love cooking, but formulating the recipe requires a different kind of discipline. I just want to cook free-form, putting a little of this and adding a little of that.
“There also is a stark contrast between working with a grumpy editor who always seemed to critize our work or look for ways to delay payments, and our current leader Katie Fredricksen who says, ‘You can do this! Why don’t you try this? Have you ever thought about that?’ She always lifts us up, offering ideas and suggestions. This feels liberating and makes us so happy with what we are doing that people can feel it and want to jump into this journey with us.”
With company leaders Mary Barber, Rachel Garcia, Kimmy Everett, Iwalani Isbell, Katie Fredricksen,
Trish Muehlstein, Sherri Wear, Susan Szabo, Susan Stuart, Susan Caray, Sara Whiteford, Nicole Bush,
Following a System and Building a Team
Having grown up in North Carolina and gone to culinary school in New York City, Mary and Sara started building their business by making early morning calls to childhood and college friends on the East Coast. They would start the conversation with sharing their love of the product and end it by offering to send a free sample.
“We would tell people we were actively growing our business and that we would visit there in the summertime,” says Mary. “After they consumed the product every day for thirty days, we would check in and have a chat to continue developing the relationship. Then we would filter in what an incredible business opportunity this was, referencing Katie Fredricksen and how much money she was making.”
“What helped us was our posture and conviction, apparent in our tone of voice,” Sara adds. “Reading all these books, we felt on top of the world, and when we said, ‘Come with us, we’ll show you,’ people responded. We told them we would have fun together, make a true difference in the world, and make good money in the process.”
When they got started, the twins led with the product because that felt more natural to them given their culinary background. Now, four years later, they lead with the business opportunity as frequently as they focus on health benefits.
“I listen and try to gage what the person in front of me would resonate with more,” says Mary. “If I’m at a yoga center, I talk more about wellnesss, and if I’m in a real estate office, I talk about business. It comes down to delving into relationships and letting your intuition guide you. A friend of ours came up with an acronym for gut feeling: God Uttering Truth. We always listen to our gut.”
Of the people they sent free bags of product to, about one in ten joined the business.
“We signed up a lot of people rapidly in the beginning, but six months into it we hit a brick wall,” says Sara. “The problem was that we didn’t have a system in place, so the people who joined us didn’t experience success and dropped out. We quickly discovered that without a system, there is no duplication. We’d always heard that, but we had a little bit of an I’m going to do it my way attitude.”
Another factor that made duplication difficult was that the twins’ company was young and didn’t have many tools for them to share. Today, fortunately, this problem has been resolved, thanks to the collaborative relationship the company has developed with its field leaders.
“Our company owners and executives listened to our needs and delivered,” says Sara, “This has been a big part of our success, even though it didn’t happen overnight. Today we have a call every week with corporate and a small group of leaders where we get to explain what it is we need and want. Creating attractive, cutting-edge tools that we resonate with is a work in progress, but we’ve come a long way.”
Today the twins lead a team of six thousand people, and they says it’s easy to get consumed with answering messages and to go into managing mode.
“We recently made a pact to recalibrate our day,” says Mary. “Before we turn on our computers, we make sure to pick up the phone and talk to two to three new people every day.”
Both moms of young children, the twins find it easy to meet people at after-school activities.
“Mary has three boys who play football, basketball, and LaCrosse,” says Sara. “I have athletic girls who are involved in dance and all sorts of activities. Being out and about is how we mostly find people. We also have an active social life and love to talk to people at parties about what we do.”
“I’m getting really good at asking friends for referrals,” says Mary. “I made three calls this morning to existing relationships, asking, ‘Do you mind watching this video and helping me out? I’m looking to expand my business in your neck of the woods.’ When I feel solidarity with someone, asking for help gets me a great response because it takes the focus off of recruiting them. Often they circle back and ask, ‘Why aren’t you inviting me into the business?’I like going through friends because it feels like bringing warmth to a cold market.”
The twins have also occassionaly attended health and wellness expos where they set up a table and offer treats that let people sample their product.
“We host in-home tasting parties as well,” says Sara. “It’s a fun way of introducing the product and the business. But we also like to let our prospects decide on a time and date that works for them instead of us always scheduling meetings. People have very full lives and showing the business to them on their terms has proven to be very effective.”
In-home or in-office tasting parties typically attract seven to ten people, but the twins also give presentations at a local coffee shop or restaurant to one person or a couple of people at a time.
“We sit at a table with our little earphones, get a splitter on the computer, and watch a fifteen-minute video together” says Mary. “For a long time we felt frustrated having just one big event every week and trying to bring people to the meeting. Today we still have one big event at Katie’s every month which is now more focused on community building. In the meantime, we teach people there is no need to wait for the event; all they need to get started is their computer and a little enthusiasm.”
Sara & Mary as little girls.
Lucy & Ella Whiteford.
Ella Whiteford, Jackson Barber, William Barber, Lucy Whiteford, and John Barber. With identical twins as mothers, Mary and Sara´s children are cousins, but genetically they are half-brothers and half-sisters.
On a Roll and Going Places
Four years into the business, the twins have mastered the basics but remain just as dedicated to their personal and professional development as when they started, reading books and attending as many generic trainings as they can.
One challenge they face today is team members comparing themselves and being disappointed with how long it takes to develop a significant monthly income.
“We tell them this is an earn-as-you-learn business,” says Mary. “When I jumped into the culinary career I had to go to school, do an internship, then work under a chef for minimum wage. We have to remind ourselves in network marketing we’re getting a free education and we’re actually getting paid to learn.”
“Patience is a big part of this business,” Sara adds. “It takes years and years of honing your verbal and listening skills to where you feel 100 percent comfortable talking about your business in any situation.
“When I first started, I was nervous, embarrassed, frantic, tripping over my words. Brutal honesty about your personal experience is helpful for others to hear. Even today as a One-Star Diamond Ambassador in the company, I still have days when I think, ‘Gosh, I didn’t really do so well prospecting that person.’ There are so many nuances in this business and it’s a continual growth process, which is an aspect I love.”
The twins keep reminding their team members network marketing is about learning from mistakes and dedication to continuous and never-ending improvement. Even the twins’ children are getting an education about what it takes to be 100 percent responsible for your results.
“I’ve had my kids watch all of Tony Robbins’ Breakthrough episodes,” says Mary. “Then we sit down and talk about what they learned. It’s so exciting for me to let this information seep into the family.”
“My kids totally start finishing my sentences now,” says Sara. “One of them will start slinging negativity, and the other one will say, ‘You just chose to think of it that way—are you aware of that? What if you thought about it this way?”
The twins believe the money they make is a by-product of personal growth and service to others.
“At the end of the day, I just love what I do,” says Sara. “I wake up every morning grateful that I found this incredible career where we can help people create abundance in their lives and work on themselves. It makes me so excited I can’t sleep at night.”
The twins’ vision is to touch hundreds of thousands of people’s lives by showing them the way to better health and allowing them to dream again.
“Before we found network marketing, Sara and I had stopped dreaming,” says Mary. “I just figured we weren’t going to be able to send the kids to private school, travel together to amazing places, or build the house of our dreams. We were resigned to living a life that was comfortable—but not expansive.”
As much as the business has opened doors for the twins, to the same degree they want to pay it forward to as many people as possible around the world.
“I get up every morning and water my plants outside my door,” says Mary, “reminding myself that giving is such an important part of life and of this business.”
The twins hope to make an ever greater charitable contribution to local public schools and organizations they resonate with. They also want to build a team in India, Africa, and other regions where they can help change women’s lives and provide better nutrition for the children.
“I can’t wait to take my kids to third-world countries,” says Sara. “I want them to see that everything is not like Marin County, and that the world needs our help.”