After more than 20 years of working for software companies, Winston Salem native Jennifer Turnage decided to branch out into entrepreneurship with the multi-level marketing business Rodan + Fields skincare. But managing her contacts and to-do list proved more difficult than she anticipated, so she created an app to make her life easier.
Now she has a second business.
Called myBeeHyve, the app is a mobile-friendly and web-based customer contact management system for those involved in multi-level marketing (also called network marketin) companies like Avon, Herbalife, Isagenix and Mary Kay.
“It’s primarily based for people in network marketing and direct sales,” Turnage said. “That market is about 90 percent women, so as women entrepreneurs, that’s a great fit for us.”
Along with myBeeHyve co-founder Megan Sumrell, Turnage released the product in June, and the company now has nearly 1,000 customers from more than 20 of the top network marketing brands. They have offices in both Wilmington and Raleigh.
The app offers features similar to a virtual assistant such as daily task scheduling, automated reminders and advanced goal tracking. It works on any browser or mobile device. The cost ranges from free to $19.95 a month, depending on the user’s needs.
“It can list names of who you need to talk with that day and what you need to follow up with them about,” Turnage said.
This helps network marketers keep up with their customers, so no one slips through the cracks.
Although it’s not available on the Apple Store yet, users can open the website from a browser on their phones and create a shortcut for quick access.
“It’s designed to be very simple and very easy to use from your phone,” Turnage said. “Most of us work on-the-go these days.”
But what makes it different than just keeping a physical or online notebook with the same information?
Turnage explained that the app is backed up online, so you don’t have to worry about losing your lists. As your contact lists gets bigger, myBeeHyve allows you to sort and filter it, based on your contacts’ profession, products purchased and products wish list.
From software to network marketing
Both Turnage and Sumrell have backgrounds in the software industry. Turnage worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers for 10 years, followed by positions as the chief financial officer of eight investor-backed companies, seven of which were in the Triangle. Sumrell held jobs in the software industry for 20 years for companies like Compuware and Mosaic ATM.
The two met while working together at ChannelAdvisor, an e-commerce company in Morrisville. In 2014, Sumrell decided to take on a multi-level marketing role at Rodan + Fields because she wanted to explore her entrepreneurial side. After two years, her business grew and she left her software job to focus primarily on multi-level marketing because of the time flexibility it offered.
At the same time, Turnage was serving as CFO of the Durham-based company Spoonflower, when she decided that she wanted more control of her time and lifestyle. Sumrell introduced her to Rodan + Fields, and she was hooked.
“It was not a business model I was familiar with,” Turnage said. “I was intrigued, so I jumped in and enjoyed it.”
There are more than 20 million network marketers in the U.S. and more than 103 million network marketers globally. Many are women, who like that they can set their own hours, especially if they have family obligations, Sumrell said.
“You don’t have a to be a specific type of person to do well in this business,” Sumrell said. “It’s about finding a brand that you are passionate about.”
The business model is also attractive because many traditional advertising models are not effective anymore, as customers turn to online shopping over brick-and-mortar stores.
“People are really trusting the recommendations of their friends and family over traditional advertising,” Turnage said.
As the two of them became close and shared their stories of day-to-day struggles, they realized the opportunity to create myBeeHyve.
“I was frustrated with the lack of technology tools to help me with my business,” Sumrell said. “It was always in the back of my mind.”
They enlisted the help of Raleigh-based software company Big Pixel to actually create the app. Now, Sumrell lives in Cary and works primarily in the Raleigh office, while Turnage lives and works in Wilmington.
The self-funded company currently has only three employees but is looking to hire two more and leverages contractors for product development, online digital marketing and design.
Turnage explained that myBeeHyve appeals to more than just the network marketing community. Their app has several users who are self-employed and need a way to keep up with their contacts, such as those who own a consulting practice or lawncare business.
The company’s next goals are to get myBeeHyve featured in the Apple Store and to build relationships with more network marketing companies.
“We’re considering trying to raise some capital to allow us to grow even faster,” Turnage said. “We’re excited that we’ve got some good momentum and traction.”