How Young Living lures desperate people into its multilevel sales network, where 89% of members make, on average, $4 annually

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  • Young Living claims revenues of $1.5 billion a year from its network of 6 million members and celebrity endorsements from the likes of Ellen Pompeo, Jenna Dewan, and Kristin Cavallari.
  • Yet 89% of all its members sit on the company’s bottom rung of sellers, earning, on average, only $4 — that’s four dollars — annually.
  • While Young Living members worked to keep their businesses afloat, the founders of the company earned a lavish lifestyle in a $1.3 million 10,000-square-foot mansion, trips to far-flung countries, and private planes.
  • The company is being sued by plaintiffs who allege it’s “an illegal pyramid scheme.” The company denies the claims.
  • “Young Living disputes many of these claims as outdated, misleading, or exaggerated,” the company told Insider. “The company has instituted robust compliance practices and complies with applicable laws.” Read the company’s full statement here.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Jennifer, a 24-year-old stay-at-home mom in Vancouver, British Columbia, was scrolling through Instagram in late December 2017 when a post caught her eye. A woman she followed on the social-media platform was sharing information about essential oils and their health benefits.

Jennifer — who asked that only her first name be included in this story — had recently given birth to a baby girl and wanted to explore alternative medicine to ensure her daughter was healthy and safe. She sent the woman a message, hoping to learn more.

The woman replied instantly, adding her to several Young Living Facebook groups and sharing online classes to introduce her to the products.

Right away Jennifer was intrigued.

“I just thought the stuff they were sharing was really interesting,” she told Insider. “It’s funny, because I am a total advocate of researching. Anything I put around my kid I wanted to research it to the death.

“This — since it was on a more personal level and I wasn’t buying it at a store, but through someone nice and welcoming — I thought it must be great.”

Immediately, Jennifer was told by Young Living members that she should buy the company’s Premium Starter Kit, which includes some of its most popular oils. The kit sells for $200 Canadian dollars, and the company markets it to prospective members as a discounted gateway into the company. (In the US, the same starter kit sells for $165.)

Soon after, Jennifer was pitched on the possibility of starting her own Young Living business. She was told that, as a stay-at-home mom, it was an opportunity to earn extra income and help support her family.

After agreeing to the business, she told Insider, she was invited to even more Facebook groups — she was a member of at least 25, she said — which offered everything from mentorship on how to grow her business to brainstorming ideas on how to recruit new members.

She said her social-media pages were quickly flooded; every time she went online, anything and everything had to do with essential oils.

“Pretty quickly it becomes kind of a brainwashing tactic,” she said, while describing the barrage of Young Living-related messages. “And then it just kept escalating from there.”

For the majority of people, the dream never materializes

Multilevel-marketing companies, or MLMs, have been around for decades, attracting people eager for the financial independence and flexibility of owning their own business.

In theory, each MLM seller recruits people under them, to whom they will sell their wares. The more people you recruit into the network underneath you, the more money you can make in the form of commission. For new entrants to the scheme, with few recruits under them, making money can be difficult. Those at the top, however, are making substantial money.

At Young Living, new members are often told by their “uplines” — the term for the person who recruits them into the company — that, with hard work, they too can live the dream of unlimited earning potential. In Young Living, that means attaining the coveted rank of “royal crown diamond.”

As Cassie (not her real name) — a former member who was involved with the company for about a year, until the beginning of 2018 — explained, the royal crown diamonds often reiterate that if they can reach the top, anybody can do it. The oils, they say, sell themselves.

The exterior of the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City during Young Living’s international grand convention in July 2019.

Nicole Einbinder


“Everyone who is in your royal crown diamond’s downline or crossline you follow on Instagram pretty quickly, since you’re part of the community, so you see all these women staying at home with their children,” Jennifer told Insider. “It looks like their relationship is perfect, and they go to church and are building a home.”

In company lingo, the “downline” is the person you recruit to join, and the “crossline” refers to others who are part of Young Living but not in your downline or direct upline.

“You see that and think, maybe this can happen to me,” Jennifer said.

But, for the majority of people, that dream never materializes. Instead, most end up earning either extremely modest commissions or nothing at all, despite spending hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars on the endeavor, according to Young Living’s own income disclosure documents.

According to a 2011 study examining the compensation structures of 30 MLMs, 99% of participants actually lost money. Since 1997, more than 50 people associated with the company have filed for personal bankruptcy, court filings show. Half of those occurred since 2017. It’s unclear whether or not Young Living membership was a cause.

Read our three-part investigation

  • Some members of multilevel-marketing company Young Living are making questionable claims about ‘essential oils’ curing cancer and coronavirus.
  • Inside Gary Young’s criminal history, secret past, and his cultlike leadership of the Young Living ‘essential oils’ empire.
  • How Young Living lures desperate people into its multilevel sales network, where 89% of members make, on average, $4 annually.

Young Living is a wellness powerhouse that claims over $1.5 billion in annual sales by touting the natural benefits of plant essences. Founded in 1994 by an eccentric ex-convict named Gary Young and his wife, a former opera singer named Mary, Young Living has leveraged social media and multilevel-marketing strategies to become wildly successful.

It has more than 3,000 employees, claims 6 million members, and has celebrity endorsements from Ellen Pompeo, Jenna Dewan, and Kristin Cavallari.

Young Living Essential Oils and Jenna Dewan Tatum — actress, dancer, and avid Young Living fan — announced the brand’s “Scents Of Self” in September 2017 in New York.

Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Young Living


But a three-part Insider investigation involving interviews with more than 80 people and a review of thousands of pages of documents, obtained through records requests and from sources, about Young Living and its founder has suggested a dramatically different picture from the all-American story espoused by the company.

While many Young Living members poured time and money into businesses they desperately worked to keep afloat, the Youngs enjoyed a lavish lifestyle with a $1.3 million 10,000-square-foot mansion, trips to far-flung countries, private planes, and Young’s beloved horses, among other decadent splurges.

Young Living is being sued, with plaintiffs alleging it “operates an illegal pyramid scheme.” The company has denied the claims.

In a statement, a Young Living spokesperson said:

“Young Living disputes many of these claims as outdated, misleading, or exaggerated. These allegations simply do not reflect the company that Young Living has evolved to be today, instead referring to events that happened years (and even decades) ago to provide an inaccurate and sensationalized view of Young Living.

“We are saddened that past events and actions by the company founder who is now deceased are being dredged up and mischaracterized. We see many of the points in this article as irrelevant and outdated, and not reflective of Young Living as it is today. We are grateful that our members and customers appreciate Young Living and its products and practices. Young Living is focused on sharing the highest quality, purest essential oils with the world and giving back to the communities in which we operate in whatever ways we can. The company has instituted robust compliance practices and complies with applicable laws. As it is today, Young Living is a health and wellness company that strives to make the world a better place.”

The company’s full statement to Insider can be read here.

‘It’s like quitting smoking’

In the course of reporting on Young Living, Insider spoke with dozens of current members and four former members about what it was like during their time with the company, and, for those who left, what spurred them to walk away.

Cassie said that she spent around 20 hours a week dedicated to her business during the year she was involved, ultimately spending about $4,000 on Young Living products, in addition to buying supplies to host parties and promotional materials like fliers and business cards. She said that while she’s fortunate her husband makes good money, which helped offset what she lost during that time, not everyone has been as lucky.

“I know numerous women who started when I started, all in mini mentoring groups together, and three of them were single moms who were struggling with this investment, but were doing it anyways since they were convinced it would make them money, and then within four months they weren’t in the group anymore,” she said.

“Those first few months that anybody’s in there, they’re spending high amounts of money and they’re making money for the people above them. And then they stop.”

Aubrie Hooker, a 31-year-old in Quebec, who was involved with Young Living from 2016 to 2018, said she felt pressure to constantly purchase. During her first six months involved, she thinks she spent about $300 a month on products.

“It makes me feel really regretful in hindsight,” she told Insider. “It’s like quitting smoking. If you could go back and just put all your money away from when you spent money on cigarettes or something, like I wish I could have just put that money away in savings instead.

“My husband and I don’t talk about it because it makes him furious, still to this day, the fact that I spent thousands of dollars on essential oils. It’s shameful. It’s not something I like to talk about.”

Some say it’s really about recruitment, not oil



Hollis Johnson/Business Insider


While Young Living members can attempt to make money by selling essential oils to their community, some former members and experts believe the real profit tends to come from recruiting others underneath you and earning commission from those downlines.

Young Living designates each member with a different rank (there are 10 in total), with distributors, stars, and senior stars on the three bottom levels, and diamonds, crown diamonds, and royal crown diamonds making up the top.

Former members who spoke with Insider said there was constant pressure to recruit new people to earn more commission and move up the ranks — and to make sure the new people were constantly buying.

“The only people that are really successful, I’ve noticed, are the ones who keep recruiting and teaching people how to use these oils improperly, because the more you use, the more you buy. And if you’ve got a line of people in your downline, you’re gonna make money hand over fist,” said Melissa Armstrong, a 44-year-old mother of three in Oklahoma, who said she was involved with Young Living from 2012 until 2016.

“You absolutely have to be recruiting and getting people in your downline to do it.”

Melissa Armstrong reads a book about essential-oil safety at her home in Oklahoma City in June 2020.

McKinleigh Lair/Business Insider Today


Yet even those who do successfully recruit still face obstacles. For one, the member doesn’t keep all their commission earned, with most instead going to their upline and the person above them, up through the tiers. And to qualify for commission, Young Living requires members to spend $100 a month, to accumulate 100 points of “personal volume,” or PV.

‘The highest commission I ever got was $300’

“The highest commission I ever got was $300,” Cassie said. “But then I had to spend $100 that month too as a requirement, and I probably spent more that month, so, I mean, I never really made any money.

“You can’t make money on just selling the product. I can’t just get a bunch of inventory and take it to a party and direct-sell it. The only way to make money is to get people signed up underneath you.”

To qualify for the company’s Essential Rewards program, which includes “perks” like discounted shipping, accrual of points to earn free products, and automatic monthly subscriptions of products sent to your home, there is a 50 PV — or $50 — requirement each month. That option is popular among “preferred customers,” the members who, by signing up, receive discounts on the products but, unlike the “business builders,” aren’t recruiting and earning commission.

Robert FitzPatrick, the president of Pyramid Scheme Alert, a consumer group, told Insider that Young Living’s “preferred customer” designation doesn’t make sense. For customers to seek a discount on products, there needs to be a robust retail market of people buying the items at full price. But there does not appear to be a larger “unpreferred” group of people paying full retail for Young Living oils.

“If the product was that good, there’d be this incredibly robust base of people who have paid full retail for it,” FitzPatrick said. “They don’t exist. If it were that good, why wouldn’t it be on our store shelves or sold online? Why would you need all these recruiters to sell something this good?

“They’ll be ‘customers’ until they recruit somebody. We know that most of them will never recruit very many people, if any, so we call them ‘customers.’ When they recruit successfully, we’ll call them ‘salespeople’ or ‘business builders.'”

Former members told Insider that they were often encouraged by their uplines to spend even more money than the required $50 or $100 — usually hundreds more — to unlock monthly promotions or earn free products.

“Multilevel-marketing companies recruit people to purchase the goods as part of eligibility to join an endless recruiting chain,” FitzPatrick said. When there is a reliance on commissions over sales, “nobody makes a living selling it on a retail basis, so there is no retail market for this.

“There’s only one market, and that’s the contractors that are brought in on promises of income.”

MLMs have friends in the Trump administration

The MLM business model emerged around the middle of the 20th century, gaining prominence thanks to companies like Shaklee and Amway, which was considered the “great-grand-daddy of just about every MLM company that exists today,” according to Douglas Brooks, a lawyer who represents victims of deceptive schemes.

While these kinds of businesses have traditionally been known for door-knocking and in-home events — think Tupperware parties — they’ve been transformed by the social-media era. Members have unparalleled access to reach more people, post more videos and photos, and create virtual communities with others also trying to grow their own businesses and push out the products.

The industry is extremely well connected politically, particularly under the Trump administration. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ husband, Dick DeVos, is the previous CEO of Amway, and his father cofounded the company. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has given paid speeches for the nutritional-supplement MLM Mannatech, including at one point giving testimony about how the supplements helped him beat prostate cancer.

And, according to allegations in a suit filed in 2018 in federal court, Donald Trump and his children “deliberately” scammed Americans by encouraging them to invest in the MLM company ACN, a telecommunications marketing firm, and Trump Network, an MLM that sold vitamins. The case is still being litigated.

Dick DeVos watches as his wife, US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, takes the oath of office during a swearing-in ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, February 7, 2017, in Washington, DC.

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images


Even before Trump took office, MLMs had long been entrenched in the GOP. Amway and its executives have donated about $4.5 million to Republican congressional candidates since 1990, compared to about $56,000 for Democratic candidates. Past Republican presidents — including Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush — have spoken at Amway conventions.

MLMs attract those with close-knit community bonds

An MLM is considered legal as long as the main source of income for individuals derives from the sale of products — not the recruitment of people into the company.

Brooks told Insider that while the Federal Trade Commission can bring enforcement actions against an MLM if it believes the company is operating as a pyramid scheme or making deceptive-earnings claims, such actions are rare. He attributed the lack of enforcement to scarce agency resources and a dearth of political will to adequately scrutinize the industry.

In 2019, there were 43.7 million Americans involved with direct sales, either starting their own business or buying products, and the industry brought in $35.2 billion in retail sales, with 36% of products sold related to wellness, according to the Direct Sellers Association, the trade association representing the industry, and of which Young Living is a member. The majority of people involved — 74% in 2019 — are women.

Stacie Bosley, an economics professor at Hamline University who has studied MLMs, told Insider those numbers aren’t coincidental: Women are more likely than men to be seeking supplemental income and are often drawn to the social networks that can be formed through these companies.

For moms who want to stay home with their kids, an MLM can seem like the ideal solution. People who are involved with organized religion — or other close-knit groups with preexisting networks and tight social bonds — may also find an MLM enticing. There are more MLMs per capita in Utah, the Mormon capital of the world, than any other state.

Pinpointing a vulnerability in someone’s health to sell them oil

Once in, former Young Living members told Insider, the pressure is on to share their love of the oils to recruit people into the company. That could mean posting on social media, reaching out to family and friends, spending money on oil samples to hand out to people, or immersing themselves in new communities — everything from going to Mommy and Me groups to downloading the Bumble BFF app — to meet new people and promote the products.

The former members said that when they weren’t able to recruit new people or faced slow growth, their uplines blamed them and accused them of not trying hard enough.

Cassie said that, looking back, she went to what she saw as unethical lengths to recruit her downline. She often tried to pinpoint people’s health vulnerabilities as a strategy to sell them on why they should buy oils.

“The process of recruiting is designed to get people to suspend their disbelief, basically to get them to overcome whatever rational questions they might ask, and then just to get them emotionally and psychologically invested in the company,” Brooks said.

Bosley added: “It’s a belief structure in the products, a belief structure in the opportunity. It’s sort of a new awareness or understanding about how the world works, whether that’s a new way in terms of your personal health or it’s a new way in terms of commerce and retail and wealth.

“It’s an awakening of sorts, that they feel like they’ve experienced, and then that’s where it can almost take on a proselytizing aspect.”

Some former members, and family members of current members, who spoke with Insider likened Young Living — with its recruitment-driven culture and Young as charismatic leader — to a cult.

One former employee described the company’s structure as social Darwinism, since only those at the very top make money.

“By creating elitism and marketing on that elitism, it creates kind of a severe competition between all the distributors to meet those expectations of making money,” this person said. “You create only the survival of the fittest, survival of the most connected.”

A lawsuit alleges that Young Living is ‘an illegal pyramid scheme’ and ‘nothing more than a cult-like organization falsely peddling the ever-elusive promise of financial success’

In April 2019, a former Young Living member filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against Young Living in federal district court in Texas, claiming that Young Living “operates an illegal pyramid scheme created under the guise of selling essential oils for quasi-medicinal purposes. In truth, Young Living is nothing more than a cult-like organization falsely peddling the ever-elusive promise of financial success and an alternative lifestyle.”

Austin Tighe, the attorney spearheading the suit, told Insider that, if the class is certified, tens of thousands of people could join. In late April, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Texas ordered the case to proceed in district court.

Tighe said he anticipated that a hearing on class certification would happen in the spring of 2021.

“An illegitimate multilevel-marketing company is one where you make money primarily by recruiting others to join the company, and a fraudulent multilevel-marketing company is one where almost no one makes any money except those very, very few at the very, very top,” Tighe said.

“Our lawsuit alleges that Young Living is an illegitimate and actually fraudulent multilevel-marketing company.”

Tighe pointed to the FTC’s “70-30 rule.” Established in 1979, the rule requires any MLM member to sell at least 70% of the total amount of product they buy in a given month, to ensure they aren’t hoarding the inventory.

According to the FTC, there are two major signs a product is being used to hide a pyramid scheme: If there is “inventory loading,” meaning the company’s incentive program requires the member to buy more product than they could ever sell — often at an inflated price — and a lack of retail sales, meaning that the products are being sold only between people inside the company or to new recruits joining the ranks, rather than to the public.

Tighe told Insider that Young Living violates the 70-30 rule because money is made through recruiting, rather than outside sales. This violation, he said, also stems from the required $100 in personal volume that must be bought each month to be eligible to earn commission.

“That’s where the inventory loading comes in,” Tighe said. “You’re not making any commissions on what you buy for yourself for your PV, but you’re still having to buy that amount monthly, even if you’re not moving it, even if you’re not selling it, because otherwise you don’t have the opportunity to make a commission on the sales of the people below you.

“It just becomes a repetitive cycle of having to inventory-load in order to be eligible to make a commission.”

Armstrong, the former Young Living member from Oklahoma, told Insider that she loaded up on inventory while involved with the company. She said she ultimately spent about $2,000.

“I feel really dumb,” she said. “I was spending too much money on stuff that that was just sitting — quite literally just sitting — in my oil chest, and I wasn’t using it.”

89% of all members make, on average, $4 annually

At first glance, the annual income that Young Living members could make seems impressive, according to the company’s 2018 income-disclosure statement.

The silver level — the fifth tier in the company — can make up to $281,714 a year. The royal crown diamond, the highest of the 10 levels, can make more than $3 million annually. It’s worth noting that, according to the disclosure, silvers, on average, make $15,861 and, at lowest, $1,010. Royal crown diamonds make, on average, about $1.5 million and, at lowest, $633,222.

But the income-disclosure statement also shows that about 89% of all members attempting their own business are relegated to the company’s bottom rung, earning, on average, $4 — that’s four dollars — annually.

Those on the first three tiers — comprising 98.7% of Young Living’s total members — earn, on average, between $4 and $1,551 annually. The vast majority of Young Living members are earning somewhere between 30 cents and $129 a month, not counting the money they’re required to spend monthly to remain active with the company.



Skye Gould/Business Insider


FitzPatrick analyzed Young Living’s 2018 income-disclosure statement for Insider. He found that that the top 1% of members received more than 70% of all payments, due to a structure that primarily rewards those at the top. 

He said that many MLMs are nothing more than money-transfer schemes in which those at the top get the most money on every transaction, while the majority of those involved make almost nothing.

“When you see that 70% or more of the total commission wound up in the hands of the top 1% of salespeople, then you know that this plan, this formula, is reverse of sales,” he said. “It is 100% elegantly designed to reward recruiters, and the net result is that, with 70% of the commission on every transaction winding up in the hands of the top 1%, the other 99% have to be failures.

“The entire pay plan is designed to reward recruiting — recruiting is what the business is really all about. And by this design, to reward the most successful recruiters, it dooms the vast majority.

“The point is not to sell; the point is to keep getting salespeople. And they’re not really salespeople; they’re actually customers. They’re customers whose business will be to create customers.”

All members must sign a non-disparagement clause and confidentiality agreement



Young Living; Samantha Lee/Business Insider


Young Living requires all members — those actively attempting the business and the people who say they just want discounted products — to sign a contract to join. Under the law, customers who simply sought out cheaper items are considered Young Living contractors.

Insider reviewed a copy of one of these contracts, Young Living’s “U.S. Policies and Procedures,” published in 2019. The agreement emphasizes that the member “will not be treated as an employee” and avoids promising anyone an income. Instead, it says there is a “potential of earning income.”

All members must also agree to a non-disparagement clause and a confidentiality agreement, and they are prohibited from openly saying that a Young Living business could lead to a luxury lifestyle and financial freedom.

While Young Living tells prospective members that they could earn money by joining, the reality is that, the more of them there are recruiting in a community, the fewer people there will be for them to sign up, as the market becomes increasingly saturated with members trying to recruit.

FitzPatrick told Insider that many MLMs sell new members on this false notion of unlimited expansion, with members led to believe they’re entering into a non-diminishing market with an infinite number of people for them to recruit.

But markets are finite.

“There’s only a certain number of McDonald’s stores you can put in neighborhoods,” FitzPatrick said, by way of example. “After that, the new stores would take business from the old stores.

“They have people on the stage making millions of dollars, and you are told you could do the same. But that person sits atop a 300,000-person downline, and I’m sitting here in the crowd, and I’m one of those 300,000. Are you saying that all of us could do it?Yes, anybody can do it!But wait, that person has been in it from the beginning. I’m joining at the end.It doesn’t matter, it’s infinite, it’s unlimited.

FitzPatrick added: “So, if you can get people to swallow that story and come to believe that this product and this opportunity can make them millionaires, and they don’t have to work day and night, they only have to recruit a few people who recruit more people who recruit more, if you can get people into that state of mind — and they have many techniques for getting people to do that — you can get them to join and work for a while.”

Half of all members quit within a year

According to the income-disclosure statement, however, most don’t last long.

About 47% of all members who enrolled in 2017 and 63% of all members who enrolled in 2016 didn’t make any Young Living purchases in 2018, even though the company terminates all members who don’t make at least one product purchase in the span of one year.

In other words, about half of all members quit within a year, and nearly two-thirds of all members quit within two years. Despite claiming their love for the product, they fail to order just one bottle of Young Living oil throughout the entire year.

So, the data suggests, every couple of years the recruits on the bottom are replaced — funneled out of a system that appears designed for them to fail — while a new cohort of members join based on the belief that, through hard work, they will succeed.

In its statement, the Young Living spokesperson said:

“Business Insider’s allegations disparaging Young Living’s business model reflect a flawed understanding of the company. Young Living products are often sold through a membership and distributor model, but there are additional ways to purchase via retail channels and some specialty stores and spas. While some customers choose to benefit from wholesale pricing through a membership, they don’t actively sell or promote memberships and receive no commissions.

“To provide transparency to our members and ensure they understand the potential business opportunity, all Young Living members are required to provide a copy of Young Living’s Income Disclosure Statements (IDS) to contacts when talking about the earning potential of Young Living members. Young Living’s IDS is also publicly available on the company’s website. The IDS is clear and provides a realistic view of the opportunity for potential members. As in many other well-respected business models, the success of participants varies greatly. Young Living is committed to continuing to provide transparency to its members and potential members and long-planned updates to Young Living’s business plan will be rolled out in the coming months.”

A class on oils in the Bible that were used by Jesus

Jennifer said she fell deep for Young Living during her year and a half with the company.

She spent at least 30 hours a week consumed by her business — inundating prospective recruits with emails and text messages, hosting classes, connecting with people in real life, staying in contact with her uplines, participating in team calls, and watching videos posted in the business groups on Facebook.

Those in her upline had myriad ways to keep her involved.

She said her upline created a “virtual bingo” to encourage them to hit what they called IPAs, or income-producing activities. That could include spending $100 to earn the monthly PV, posting an Instagram story about how they were using the oils, pestering inactive people from their downlines and encouraging them to rejoin, and hosting Facebook classes.

Jennifer said all those classes were prewritten, and she believed they were crafted by those in the top three tiers — diamonds, crown diamonds, and royal crown diamonds — of Young Living. She said that, while she did write some of her own scripts, particularly because of differences between selling in Canada and the US, her uplines discouraged her from doing so and going off-script.

She provided Insider with three Young Living scripts, one for a “Spring Cleaning Class” about how to use Young Living products to clean the home, a class on the benefits of the drink Ningxia Red, and a class called “Intro to Oils.”

That class included information on how oils provide support for every system in the body, can be used as an alternative to toxic cleaning chemicals in the home, and mentions how oils are in the Bible and were used by Jesus. The class also featured a section on why other oils are so much cheaper than Young Living’s, concluding “most essential oils are sold more cheaply because companies cut corners.”

Then there’s the sales pitch: “Is all this a bit overwhelming? Let me tell you how I started my oils journey: with a Young Living Starter Kit. It is the only thing on the Young Living website that is half off! If you are a frugal momma like me, this is the best bang for your buck! It comes with 11 bottles of oil, 2 NingXia Red packets, Thieves Hand Sanitizer and a diffuser.”

Jennifer said that she first began questioning Young Living when, after voicing to her upline that she was experiencing difficulty growing the business, her uplines’ upline sent her an angry message ordering her to stop complaining.

Over time, she began to conclude that a community she once perceived as warm and welcoming might not be. From a financial standpoint, she noticed too how, despite spending thousands of dollars on products and other necessary materials for her business, she only made around $600 in commission over 18 months.

‘When you are at the dinner table and talking to your upline and downlines and crosslines and feeling like you have to answer right then and there, instead of being present with your family’

When Jennifer finally made the decision to leave Young Living, she initially felt depressed over losing the group of women she had spent most of her time interacting with.

“I stay at home with my daughter every single day, so I don’t have a ton of people to talk to out of my close circle,” she explained. “So to give up all those people that I talk to on the daily was kind of a big deal.”

But, she said, she and her partner instantly stopped fighting and, over time, she let go of the feeling of losing a community, instead comforted by the fact that she could look forward to a new beginning.

Today, she’s focused on school, where she’s studying to be a registered holistic nutritionist. Looking back, she said her biggest regret, more than throwing away money, is the time lost with her family.

“When you are at the dinner table and talking to your upline and downlines and crosslines and feeling like you have to answer right then and there, instead of being present with your family,” she said, pausing to add: “I just want my time back, and that’s not going to happen.

“I have to make the best of it, to not make the same naive mistakes that I did, and just enjoy the time with your baby, or just focus on school or whatever it is, instead of on a MLM.”

Read our three-part investigation

  • Some members of multilevel-marketing company Young Living are making questionable claims about ‘essential oils’ curing cancer and coronavirus. 
  • Inside Gary Young’s criminal history, secret past, and his cultlike leadership of the Young Living ‘essential oils’ empire.
  • How Young Living lures desperate people into its multilevel sales network, where 89% of members make, on average, $4 annually.

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