I was first introduced to network marketing 12 years ago through my mum, when I was still in college. Today, she is a successful leader with a major wellness and lifestyle company that is growing fast in Africa. Back then she was relatively new to the profession. I didn’t understand it fully, but I was excited about it and I shared the idea with my friends on my college campus, only to face ridicule and rejection. Disheartened by the experience, I decided to focus on making a career as an engineer, but as soon as I graduated, I was faced with the reality of unemployment, or as we call it in Kenya, “tarmacking.”
When I finally found a job, I realized the jobs available to fresh young graduates were lowly, underpaid positions with no opportunity for growth. Seeing the truth of employment (at least in Kenya), I knew it was not for me. That’s when I decided to take another look at network marketing. When I had tried it the first time, I didn’t have a clear understanding of the business or any experienced mentors. This time, I decided to approach it differently. I started by learning the ABCs of the profession and attending numerous trainings by my mum and her mentors.
That changed the course of my life. I have a lot to be thankful for in this profession. Not only have I achieved a lot for my age, I have also found a purpose. My goal has always been to go “from being a nobody to becoming a somebody.” I realized early on that only by “becoming somebody” could I make a difference, which is my mission. To do that, I had to become living proof of what I believed in and what I told others. My mum taught me that I must convince myself first before I can convince anyone else. I believe that just making an income is not enough. You must love what you do, and live and share your purpose every day. Your purpose must make a difference in the lives of others and only then you can achieve true success.
One of the burning issues many young Africans face today is unemployment and low starting salaries for college graduates. We grew up hearing the gospel, “If you study hard, get good grades, you can get a good job and have a good life.” In Kenya especially, it has been ingrained in us that education guarantees success and growth. You will find thousands of young Kenyans trying to raise money so they can go back to school in the hope of improving their lives. Students believe if they add one more qualification to their resume, it will improve their chances of employment. Those who are employed think adding another degree or certification will help them get a promotion or a raise.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying education is not important. The problem is that people are confusing having more skills with creating success. The reality of the world we live in, and of the economy in my country, is that competition is high and opportunities are scarce. Most people who have added educational qualifications to their CVs are still struggling with unemployment and low income.
Many in my generation have started to realize that this is no longer enough. Today’s world requires us to become entrepreneurs. A single source of income for life is no longer applicable or practical, and my generation is becoming aware of this.
In Africa, most people today live on borrowed money. Nine out of 10 people I know have taken loans for education, to buy a car, to own a home, or to start a business. They are enslaved to banks and financial institutions for life and think this is normal. My mentor says, “As long as you are in debt, you are not financially free.”
Network marketing can change this. My purpose is to relieve and free our young people from this vicious cycle of loans and hand-to-mouth existence; to help them understand that there is more they can get out of life, if they are willing to shed old ideas and habits, and embrace new ones.
Network marketing has helped my family improve and change our lifestyle dramatically. When I show how this business has changed not just my life, but has also helped us create many success stories in our community by giving people lifestyles they had never dreamed of, people in my generation start to pay attention.
Network marketing combined with the power of ecommerce and social media has allowed me to show others in my peer group that there is a way to achieve success without having to wait for decades; that there is a better option—one where we are in charge of our lives. I have had to work hard on creating that paradigm shift with my team, to get them to see that we control our destiny—and it is not to be in the 9-to-5 rat race.
I am grateful for the opportunity to empower many young Africans with the ability to dream. Network marketing has made that possible.
Born in Kenya, SWARNA MWNAIDI KRISHNAN moved to Malaysia to study engineering at the University of Nottingham. She became a network marketing entrepreneur in 2008, inspired by her mother Asha Krishan, featured in the Mar/Apr 2012 issue of Networking Times. After completing her degree, Swarna returned to Kenya from where she is now leading and expanding her global team.