Is Univera a good opportunity or just another multi-level marketing company? The direct sales company, Univera, promises you a pathway to prosperity and the chance to fulfill your dreams, but there’s more to the story. Here’s what you need to know
Is Univera a good opportunity? Contrary to the DSA Code of Ethics, Univera does not provide sufficient information to enable a reasonable evaluation of its opportunity, as such, we assume the probability of success with the Univera opportunity is no better than the industry average of .4%.
If I gave you a check for a million dollars, wouldn’t you want to know if it was real? Univera promises you an opportunity. In this article, we’ll prove if it’s real or not.
Is Univera a Good Opportunity?
Univera has a squeaky-clean website filled with an abundance of optimistic messages about fulfilling your dreams. However, it withholds the information you need to know BEFORE you sign a contract and give Univera your money.
Univera uses sophisticated copywriting and misdirection to create the illusion of an opportunity.
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Univera Hides Essential Data
With any prospective business venture, you want to know how much it will cost you and how much you might earn.
Univera has been in business since 1976 and has used a multi-level salesforce since 1998. It knows how much it pays its distributors because it is obligated to compile this information for tax purposes.
There must be a good reason why Univera is not publishing the information needed to make a proper analysis of its opportunity.
Maybe if the real numbers were known, it would be evident that the opportunity isn’t genuine and that most distributors fail.
Does Univera Ignore the DSA Code of Ethics?
As a member of the Direct Selling Association, Univera is expected to follow the DSA Code of Ethics.
Look at the bottom of the Univera website, you’ll find a paragraph about how proud Univera is to be a Code Communications Initiative member of the DSA.
As a CCI member of the DSA, Univera is expected to “promote adherence to the Code” within the company.
Univera, a Failure of Ethics?
In Section A of the DSA Code of Ethics, Paragraph 8 “Earnings Representations,” Subparagraph 5.b.3, it states “…prospective independent salespeople must be provided with sufficient information to enable a reasonable evaluation of the opportunity to earn income.”
Sufficient information means a historical and verifiable record of how much Univera distributors earned at each level or rank, the average length of time required to reach each level, and the percentage of the total number of distributors at each level.
This historical record of earnings is often called an Income Disclosure Statement or an Earning Disclosure Statement.
Some multi-level marketing companies do publish this information. However, I’ve never known an MLM to do so without first fudging the numbers to make them look better than they are.
Apparently, Univera doesn’t bother to publish anything useful in that regard. Instead, it presents “hypothetical” income figures in its Compensation Plan.
To be clear, a “hypothetical numbers” are imaginary numbers.
In a moment, we’ll look more closely at these “hypothetical” income figures because they do reveal a disturbing detail, but for now, let’s pull back the curtain and see just what Univera is.
What is Univera?
Univera, previously known as Univera LifeSciences, is a privately-owned direct sales company based in Seattle, Washington. Because it uses a multi-level compensation plan to motivate and reward its distributors, most people would probably refer to it as a multi-level company or MLM.
MLMLegal.com and Npros.com both describe Univera as a multi-level marketing company. I believe most people would describe Univera as an MLM.
However, Univera does not identify itself as an MLM, perhaps because the MLM industry has such a horrible reputation and deserves it.
In its policy and procedures document, Univera refers to itself as a direct sales company.
“Direct sales” is a broad term and includes any type of business that markets directly to the consumer, including companies that offer their salespeople, protected territories, a compact sales organization, and the chance to earn a comfortable income solely from commissions made on retail sales.
A traditional direct sales company earns ALL of its revenue from retail sales to the end-user, the customer.
Univera is a MLM.
Univera does not offer its salespeople a protected territory, and its sales organization is expansive with 9 levels. Also, it would be challenging to earn a comfortable income solely from commissions on retail sales of Univera products.
Another important detail about traditional direct sales companies is they do not require their salespeople to buy products or to “qualify” to earn commissions.
Unlike traditional direct sales companies, Univera DOES require its salespeople to buy products, lots and lots of products. And, they must “qualify” each month to earn commissions and bonuses.
Univera earns a large percentage of its revenue, perhaps most of its revenue, from sales to its distributors.
Univera’s Unstated Goal.
If you visit the Univera website, you might get the impression that the company was created to help you succeed.
Univera is a corporate business. As a corporation, its primary goal is to maximize profits.
Maximizing profits is the goal of every corporation that is managed by competent executives. A look at the men and women at the helm of Univera is impressive. They know what they’re doing. And that’s a problem
Like every other MLM, Univera has rigged the game against you.
The Univera business model and the rules distributors must follow, benefit Univera more than they help the distributor.
There is only a very slim chance you can succeed as a Univera distributor in spite of these rules.
Before you can succeed, you must first contribute to Univera’s bottom line by buying lots of products. Buying products is excellent for Univera, but it puts you, as a distributor, at a distinct disadvantage.
Think about it. Univera promises you an opportunity but delivers a substantial expense instead.
In 2012, Univera reported it had a salesforce of 50,000 Distributors and annual revenue of $121 Million. On average, each distributor that year contributed about $2,400 to Univera revenue.
In a moment, we’ll see how much of this may have come directly out of the distributor’s pockets.
Who Owns Univera?
Univera is owned by the investment holding company ECONET. ECONET also owns Unigen, Hilltop Gardens, and Aloecorp.
ECONET is a sole proprietorship, thought to be owned by the family of its founder, Yun-Ho Lee.
Bill Lee, the Chairman of Univera, is the son of Yun-Ho Lee.
It worth noting that through the vertical integration of all of ECONET’s holdings, they control most of the development, supply, and delivery of Univera’s products.
Univera Life Sciences and Dr. Taylor
Although Univera does not publish an income disclosure, in 2011, Dr. Jon Taylor published his analysis of 300 MLM companies, including Univera Life Sciences, now known as Univera.
Dr. Taylor estimated that the annual cost of an effective recruitment campaign was about $2,500 and that approximately 99.6% OF ALL DISTRIBUTORS LOST MONEY.
In other words, only .4% earn a profit. That’s not far from zero.
Dr. Taylor’s research is published on the website of the Federal Trade Commission.
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Univera’s markets supplements for energy, stress management, weight loss, and general health support. It also offers a line of personal care products.
Although priced towards the higher end of similar products, the cost of Univera products is consistent with competing products found on Amazon.
Also, most Univera products could easily be incorporated into any lifestyle.
To Univera’s credit, you can find detailed information about their products on the Univera website.
Unfortunately, Univera products are also available on Amazon and eBay, which might make it challenging to keep a customer once a distributor finds one.
Also, Univera products on Amazon and eBay may indicate former distributors got front-loaded with more products than they could sell.
While the Univera products serve established market demand, similar products are offered in retail outlets both online and off, and by competing MLMs. In every product category, there are less expensive options available.
Finally, every Univera product is non-essential. Plus, many of the products have no proven benefit, only anecdotal claims.
Because the Univera products are non-essential and rather expensive, it will be one of the first things a customer jettisons if they need to tighten their spending.
How Much Does It Cost to Join Univera?
There are a few expenses you must consider if you want to be a distributor for Univera.
First, there may be a fee to join as a distributor. However, I could not find a specific price mentioned anywhere on the website or in the Univera Associate Agreement.
There was mention of a $20 annual membership renewal fee in the Univera policy and procedures document.
The only requirement to join is to purchase a starter kit. There are several starter kits to chose from, and the price ranges from about $122 to nearly $1000.
In addition to purchasing a starter kit, you will be encouraged to enroll in the Univera auto-ship program known as the “Convenience Plan,” or CP.
The minimum enrollment for the CP is 40 PV. PV means personal volume, which is Personal Volume, or the purchases you make for yourself and not sales to customers.
A Univera Associate must meet the 40 PV requirement each month to “qualify” to earn commissions. Naturally, Univera offers an easy way to do that by enrolling in the Univera Convenience Plan for at least 40 PV each month.
How Much is 40 PV? Univera doesn’t say. You’ll have to talk to a Univera distributor to find out. However, I would guess that 40 PV equals $40.
When we add together the cost of buying $40 worth of Univera product each month with the price of a starter kit, your first year as a Univera associate could cost at least $600 to $1,500, not counting additional business expenses.
Remember earlier when we discussed Univera’s unstated goal of maximizing profits?
We saw that in 2012, Univera earned about $2,400 per distributor. The required purchase of a starter kit and enrollment in auto-ship may be a substantial part of Univera’s revenue, which raises the question.
Are you in business, or are you a customer?
You Are the Customer.
We’ve seen that before you can make your first dollar as a Univera distributor, you must first spend a considerable amount of money on products.
In other words, you start out in the hole.
That’s a lousy way to start a business. Granted, most businesses require upfront expenses, but only in the MLM industry are expenses forced on the distributor, and only in the MLM industry are these forced expenses beneficial to the company.
Doesn’t that make you wonder?
We don’t know how much of Univera’s annual revenue comes from its distributors, but logic would suggest it’s a large percentage. Few retail customers would spend more than $1,000 on products, and yet, a distributor is expected to purchase a starter kit that costs about that much.
Ask yourself, would you buy a Univera starter kit filled with Univera products and would you enroll in auto-ship to spend $40 a month on more Univera products, if you knew you would never earn a profit with the opportunity?
Most people wouldn’t.
That’s why Univera must sell the dream of opportunity.
Univera Sells a Dream.
Most people would never spend hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of dollars on nutritional supplements and personal care products unless they are convinced that somehow, by spending money, they can make money.
It’s a completely insane and upside-down notion of how business works. Yet, it’s a proven strategy for selling tons of products. That’s why Univera sells a dream of opportunity and success.
It’s not real. It’s just marketing.
The vast majority of distributors throughout the MLM industry lose money on the opportunity. They spend more on products than they ever earn in commissions.
They lose money because they have allowed themselves to become mesmerized by the promise of opportunity when really all they have is the chance to spend money.
How to Understand the Univera Compensation Plan.
The purpose of the Univera Compensation Plan is to create the illusion that you can be successful with the Univera opportunity.
The Univera Compensation Plan is just marketing.
It is NOT a legal document.
Instead of a proper Income Disclosure or Earning Disclosure, Univera has some “hypothetical” income figures in a table of the Compensation Plan.
Before we analyze the “hypothetical” income figures, let’s talk about the Univera Compensation Plan in general terms, so you will understand how the compensation plan manipulates your emotions and feeds you into the Univera machine.
The Univera Compensation Plan is Complicated.
When looking at the Univera Compensation Plan, just focus on the first two or three levels of the plan. That’s as far as most distributors get. Then they quit.
Don’t let the promise of luxury cars and tens of thousands of dollars each month influence you because the odds are you will never get remotely close to those levels.
Really, all you need to know about the Univera Compensation Plan is in the first two levels.
However, you can see there is much more to it, and it’s complicated.
Why is the Univera Compensation Plan so complicated? For two reasons.
- Complication shuts down your logical mind
- You need an experienced distributor to explain it to you.
Complexity Shuts Down Your Thought Process.
Intentionally making the Univera compensation plan complicated is a psychological trick of persuasion. It shuts down your ability to make a logical decision and forces you to rely on your emotions.
By promising you an opportunity, Univera excites your emotions, and by overwhelming your logical mind with complexity, you are left with only your feelings to guide you.
When you make financial decisions based on emotions, the result is usually disastrous.
You Need an Experienced Distributor to Explain It.
We’ve seen that by overly complicating the Univera Compensation Plan, you are put at a disadvantage.
The complexity of the Univera Compensation Plan requires that you speak to an experienced Univera distributor who can explain it to you.
And that’s the point.
Mesmerized by the promise of opportunity and left to rely on your emotions, you are vulnerable to being manipulated by a Univera distributor experienced in recruitment.
Expect this distributor to try to talk you into buying the most expensive starter kit you can afford. They will probably try to persuade you to put it on your credit card and may promise you can make the payments from the money you made with your business.
Remember that private conversations are not regulated by the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC does regulate what Univera can say on its website and in promotional literature and video. However, it cannot regulate the conversation between you and another person, even if the conversation is over the phone or Skype.
To get you to purchase the largest starter kit, a Univera distributor may promise you things that are just not true.
The Univera Compensation Plan Hypothetical Numbers.
Respecting Univera’s copyrights, I will not reproduce its Compensation Plan here.
You can read the Univera Compensation Plan in a new tab and follow along as I point out some details you should know.
Open the Univera Compensation Plan in a new tab.
Univera Fine Print and Commission Range.
Once you have the Univera Compensation Plan open in a new tab, scroll down to page 13. You’ll find a table titled “Commission Range.”
Before we get into the table and what we can learn from it, scroll to the bottom of page 13 and read the fine print.
The first line of the fine print reminds you if you want more detailed information about Univera’s Associate Compensation Plan to see your Univera Associate.
Remember, one of the purposes of the Plan is to get you to talk to an experienced distributor who will try to persuade you to buy the most expensive starter kit you can afford or charge to your credit card.
The second line of the fine print is linked to the Average Monthly Earnings column in the Commission Range table.
The fine print explains that the Average Monthly Earnings are based on hypothetical and optimal conditions and should not be considered guarantees of your prospective earnings or profits.
In other words, I think it is fair to say these numbers are not real and probably represent the best you could hope for at the ranks shown.
It is essential to remember that these “hypothetical” earning figures are “imaginary.” They do not include business expenses, such as the cost of buying products each month “to qualify.”
At the top of the table, we see that the Bronze rank hypothetical average monthly earnings is $324. This figure is before deducting the $100 cost of buying products that month to qualify.
Earlier, we discussed the entry-level associate rank is required to buy $40 worth of product each month to qualify. This is true for the entry-level Associate, but the qualifying requirement increases to 100 PV per month at the Senior Associate rank and above.
Page 12 of the Univera Compensation Plan Quick Reference table on page 12 shows the Personal Volume Requirements at each rank.
In the absence of Univera’s information, it is estimated that 100 PV equals $100 US.
Once we deduct how much a Bronze distributor paid to qualify, we see that their average profit is no more than $224 a month.
Using the same logic, the Silver rank hypothetically earns an average profit of $704 a month.
The Gold rank earned a hypothetical monthly average of $1,721. It’s ALL hypothetical.
The Painful Univera Truth.
Univera only reports a “hypothetical” average monthly earning for the ranks of Bronze and above.
It does not report a “hypothetical” average monthly earnings for the first three ranks; Associate, Senior Associate, and Executive.
These three ranks undoubtedly represent the majority of Univera distributors. Did they not earn anything? Probably not.
In fact, if you subtract what they spent on products each month to qualify and the cost of a starter kit, they probably lost money.
And that is based on “hypothetical” ideal earnings.
It’s fair to presume that the first three Univera ranks lose money. In other words, if you become a Univera distributor, expect to lose money until you reach the level of Bronze.
However, depending on your total business expenses, you may not earn a profit even at the Bronze rank.
Dr. Jon Taylor reports that a typical recruiting campaign costs about $2,500 a year. When you deduct this expense from the hypothetical earnings, the prospects of success with Univera looks all the more doubtful.
At What Univera Rank Do You Earn More than Poverty Level?
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the poverty level in the lower 48 States and DC for one person is $1040 a month.
Using $1040 a month as a guide, we can see that the Bronze rank is well below the poverty level of the US. The Silver rank is also well below poverty level.
Based on the “hypothetical” Average Monthly Earnings Univera presents, you will need to be at least a Gold distributor before you can hope to earn more than poverty-level income.
Because Univera does not publish actually earning figures or how long it takes, on average, to reach a specific rank, we have no idea how long you must work and suffer a loss before to reach these levels.
At What Univera Rank Do You Earn More Than a Minimum Wage Job?
In 2019, the Federal Minimum Wage is $7.25 an hour. If you worked 20 hours a week at a part-time minimum wage job, you would earn approximately $580 a month before taxes were deducted from your check.
Only the Univera ranks of Silver and above beat a part-time, minimum wage job. Keep in mind that a part-time minimum wage job has little to no operating expense. Unlike your Unvera opportunity, that requires that you purchase a starter kit and enroll in auto-ship buying at least $40 worth of product each month.
If you worked 40 hours a week at a minimum wage job, you would earn $1,160 a month considerably more than the Univera rank of Silver.
The Last Word on the Univera.
Univera earns $121 Million a year while approximately 99% of its distributors lose money.
I do not see how Univera can ethically claim to offer you an opportunity to live your dreams unless your dream is to lose money.
I appreciate your desire to earn more money and to improve your life, but I don’t think Univera is the answer.
Still, if you want to try the Univera opportunity, I encourage you to first try their products as a customer for 90 days. During this time, try to get a clear understanding of the business and how you would work it.
Also, understand that you may have to support your Univera business out of pocket for years or before it is profitable.
Even then, if you somehow manage to build a profitable Univera organization, you will only have a business inside a business. You will still have to dance to the Univera tune like an unpaid employee.
And, if Univera goes out of business, so will you.
True Unlimited Income.
Univera and every other MLM is a highly sophisticated marketing machine that uses the dream of success to sell its products. It’s not really about an opportunity.
Unfortunately, MLMs like Univera ensnare innocent people who are just trying to make a better life for themselves and the people they love.
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