FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Nancy Usui shows craft items she and her husband made while hosting a Big Yellow Box Crayola party recently at her home in Kaneohe. She is the first independent consultant in Hawaii for the company's home-party business.
Home businesses are growing in Hawaii and providing sellers with additional income
Home parties and other methods of direct sales feed a $30 billion industry.
That's a lot of Tupperware, laundry soap and vitamins.
Big Yellow Box is one of the newest home-party businesses to come to Hawaii. Nancy Usui, a full-time communications administrator, is the Crayola division's first independent consultant in the state and hosted her first party earlier this month.
Big Yellow Box customers decorate home accessories, jewelry, even soccer balls, using Crayola products.
Tupperware parties have been going on in the islands since before Marjorie Sasaki started hosting them more than 38 years ago.
You have probably heard the word "Tupperware" all your life, as the business was established in 1946, but this is no longer your mother's Tupperware company.
It still sells the familiar food storage containers, cups and sipping lids for babies transitioning from bottles, and Jell-O molds with changeable snap-in center designs.
However, the company has expanded its product line to include high-end cookware, knives, kitchen gadgets, silicone baking mats and sexy serving ware for entertaining.
Big Yellow Box and Tupperware are just two of nearly 350 members of the Direct Sales Association, a Washington., D.C.-based national organization of companies engaging in direct sales. Other members include Quixtar, the multilevel marketer formerly known in the United States as Amway; Herbalife; and Avon, which was among DSA's first members when the organization was founded in 1910.
Its members sell everything from air filters to cosmetics, and scrapbooking materials to wine and wine accessories.
Its sales force of independent consultants is 80 percent women.
Extra money is just one reason people get into the home-party businesses.
Often, people get into it for one reason, but they stay in it for another, said Amy Robinson, director of communications and media relations. Some like the social contacts, the fun and fellowship with friends, old and new. Others just like to have a little better vacation each year and fund it with the home-based business income, she said.
For Sasaki, being a Tupperware lady enhanced her family's lifestyle.
"Our quality of life has been very good," Sasaki said. Her husband, Ronald, is a mason and she worked full time or part time while raising four children.
She wanted extra income, but she didn't want the extra work to take her away from her children.
"Someone asked me if I'd like to (sell Tupperware) part time," and she was off and running. Through her life, the time spent on her home business has fluctuated. "It let me change according to what I wanted or needed," she said. "It's very flexible, in Tupperware."
Usui never imagined herself "doing something like this," she said of her home-party business.
"But when I heard Crayola had launched this new opportunity with Big Yellow Box and I heard no one in Hawaii had been doing it, I thought, 'what the heck, I'll be the first,'" she said.
Her husband, John, "encouraged me to check it out and has been very supportive."
Usui also liked the unique products to craft and personalize. "When I go to the craft store, I don't know what to buy, but (with this business) everything comes in a big yellow box and they take you all the way through it."
Usui's first party started with a giveaway of Crayola products. Guests then reviewed a catalog and many placed orders for items to make at home later on.
A piggy bank and step stool Usui and her husband prepared for the party were displayed and guests had a choice of projects to make, including one in which pewter charms can be personalized with different colors.
Partygoers' orders arrived within two weeks and Usui and her husband got to reconnect with guests as they made deliveries.
Crafting Crayola creations is something Usui looks forward to doing with her 15-month-old daughter some day.
"I like the fact that the products offer family bonding, time away from the TV, are nontoxic and are from a highly reputable and trusted company," she said.
Her next party is in Mililani in a few weeks, and "in the future, I'd love to organize school fundraisers, or have groups do a girls' night out by placing orders for their products (in advance), and once they arrive, they can get together for a craft night and make the projects together!"
It also could work for a bridal shower, baby shower or kids' party, she said.
Sasaki is back to working full time for Asia Crown, a wholesaler of Hawaiian souvenirs, so she doesn't host too many parties these days. Then again, she doesn't have to.
"I have regular customers, people that refer back to me," she said.
"I still have people that need Tupperware because of children, or grandparents and the grandchild need something, or the auntie needs something."
As with many other home-party businesses, Tupperware partygoers are asked if they want to become consultants. There are as many as 75 people selling Tupperware because of Sasaki.
Sellers now have the Internet to place orders and perform other functions, though Sasaki handles her business by phone.
About 70 percent of the industry's annual $30 billion in sales are from person-to-person type businesses, such as Mary Kay, while the rest come through home parties, said Robinson. "The interesting thing about a lot of the companies is that the consultants will do a little of both." It is a matter of what fits best into their way of selling, she said.
There is no way to nail down how much money is made by Hawaii's direct sellers, or, by extension, the activity's tax revenue impact for the state.
The DSA doesn't track state-by-state sales figures. The state does track tax revenues from sole proprietorships and from retailers, but does not break out sales from home-party or other direct sales businesses.
The total probably isn't significant, according to Kaneohe Certified Public Accountant Ted Talbott.
"In my 20 years, I've never met anybody that made more than minimum wage," doing a home-party business, he said. "They may be out there, but they sure don't make it to my office."
Tupperware used to allow consultants to keep 35 percent of their sales, but now, as with Big Yellow Box, the compensation is 25 percent. Other companies' policies vary, Robinson said. Prices of starter kits also vary widely, as do sales targets.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Nancy Usui, a consultant for Big Yellow Box's Crayola division, says the ability to craft and personalize products is appealing to partygoers.
The business operation and tax-compliance end is up to the individual, though the companies do offer some guidance, she said.
"A lot of companies do have an educational element to work with consultants," Robinson said. "They make sure to provide different tools to build their businesses," often at the companies' conventions.
"It isn't just about selling product, but about developing business skills so you can effectively sell the product," she said. People making full-time salaries on direct sales "didn't start yesterday."
Regulation of home-based businesses in Hawaii is negligible and is more about taxation.
The state does not require that an independent consultant, or sole proprietor, register as a business with the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, said spokeswoman Christine Hirahara. The law does, however, require them to obtain a general excise tax license, she said.
Unreported income among independent consultants is a concern for the direct sales industry, but the Internal Revenue Service has told the DSA it believes compliance is high for the most part, Robinson said.
Sasaki couldn't say how much she has made over the years, as she's never tallied it up. Usui's goal is $300 each quarter.
One thing is clear. In choosing a home-based business, one must consider how much of the product one wants around the house.
Sasaki's children, now grown, "are Tupperwared out," having been around the business all their lives, she chuckled. However, that doesn't stop Mom from giving them the newest, coolest Tupperware as gifts at Christmas and on special occasions.