Businesses For Moms: The Difference between Direct Sales, MLM & Creative Business Ownership

I was chatting with a few members of our Confidence Coaching Collective recently about our creative dreams and how to bring them to fruition. It brought up a very heated conversation about what it means to be a mom owned business and what actually constitutes a “real” business.

Before starting the business you see here, the one that you know as Momtography – I tried my hand at a few other paths to becoming a business owner. I tried the MLM (multi level marketing) / direct sales path selling make up and hosting scrapbooking gatherings. I eventually started my own creative business selling portrait photography sessions to families.

But, which type of business is right for you? It can be confusing to find your right path to business ownership when there are so many options out there! Not to mention that the terms MLM and direct sales are often confusing to differentiate and come with some contentious opinions both positive and negative.

The bottom line is, each type of business – MLM, direct sales, and creative business ownership – comes with their own unique pros and cons. I’ve tried them all and each of them taught me skills that have brought me to where I am today.

Which is why today I’ll be breaking down each type of mom owned business and sharing some of the pros and cons so you can choose the right path to business ownership for YOU!

What is a Direct Sales Business for Moms?

Direct sales businesses are ones in which a distributor or representative sells directly to a consumer. When your friends proudly declare they have started a business selling handbags, books, candles, or skincare it’s likely that they’ve joined as a representative of a direct sales company. When a direct sales rep sells a product or service they earn a percentage of the sales of that product.

Pros of starting a direct sales business

Direct sales businesses are attractive to moms because they check off several important boxes that make them accessible and simple to start.

First of all direct sales businesses typically have low startup costs and include products with the startup kit. If a mom loves a particular direct sales company or product already, the idea of spending a bit of money to get products and potentially earn back the investment is a win-win.

Direct sales companies can also provide a fun social outlet for moms and women as well. Gathering with other women in person or virtually to socialize and shop is fulfilling personally beyond the monetary rewards of earning commissions from sales.

Cons of starting a direct sales business

Direct sales companies vary widely in how their commission structures work. With many of the companies you’d need to sell A LOT of products in order to earn a decent commission check. It’s important to look at the details of the company and how you earn money before you join.

If you are an introvert or don’t have a large network of contacts it can also be tricky to sustain your business. Your friends may tire of hearing about your products if they aren’t as passionate about them as you are. And it can take more energy than you anticipate to make new connections and keep your current buyers returning for more products.

mom owned business

What is an MLM or multi level marketing business?

I like to think of MLMs as a branch of many direct sales companies. MLM stands for “multi-level-marketing” and is a business model where a direct seller or representative earns a higher commission as she recruits new sellers into the business.

For example: let’s say Suzi is a rep who sells scrapbooking supplies solo. Suzi will earn 20% on any sales she makes directly to clients. But, as her clients become excited about the products she then begins to recruit them to join her team of scrapbooking “all stars”. As those “all-stars” sign up as reps Suzi will begin to earn 5% of the sales of their products.

Pros of starting an MLM business

Because MLM models are a type of direct sales the cost of entry is once again fairly low. It’s a reasonable risk for many moms to make, especially if they are already a fan of the company and their products. Plus everything needed to start the business is given to you with a start up kit – products, sales and marketing tools, a community network of other sellers.

For social or extroverted women, the idea of building a team and having a community growing around a common purpose or sales goal is also exciting! And, when the team wins everyone in the business wins because the opportunity for earning incomes increases as more women join the team.

Cons of starting an MLM business

If you are not super social or struggle with networking this is likely NOT a viable income earning option for you. The reason for this is because in the MLM model, if you don’t grow a team you’ll reach a bottleneck in your earning potential.

MLM businesses can also come with some very heated opinions attached to them. MLMs are also often confused as “pyramid schemes” (most MLM models do NOT fall under that umbrella and are perfectly legal).

We’ve also all been on the receiving end of being invited to a “party” or “shopping event” that we just aren’t interested in or were invited to by a fringe acquaintance who is messaging everyone under the sun. It’s a tricky balance as a rep to grow our network in tasteful and authentic ways.

raising your hand for a mom owned  business

What about starting a mom owned creative business?

Creative business ownership is when YOU are the sole owner of your creatively minded business. Makers or artists, photographers, writers, graphic designers, coaches, etc…would fall under my personal definition of creative business owner. In this mom owned business model you hold your own business license, you take payments, you price your products, you own your website. The business is 100% solely yours.

Pros of starting a creative business

Being a creative business owner is super rewarding personally to see to fruition. You are seen as unique and original in the eyes of the consumer and when done right your mom owned business is an extension of your unique skills and strengths. This a GREAT for introverts who would prefer to connect through writing a blog or sharing photos rather than lots of in person networking.

The sky is also the limit with your earning potential. You can stay a solo business owner and price your products or services up or down to cover your expenses and earn a rewarding income. You have the freedom to easily pivot or shift what you offer based on client feedback as you learn and grow. There’s also the option of growing a team if you desire as the business grows.

Cons of starting a creative business

Being the “CEO” and making all the pricing, design, product, marketing and sales decision can be overwhelming, especially early on in the business. If you have a hard time taking action when there are too many decisions in front of you, then your progress may stall.

Starting a creative business can also feel very vulnerable. If you are putting our art, or writing, or photos out into the world, you open yourself up to criticism that can feel very personal. Creatives can often times be sensitive souls and this process to objectively put your work into the world can be a challenge.

There can also be a higher financial investment needed when starting a creative business. You’ll need supplies or equipment for your creative field. You’ll potentially need to invest in web hosting, a shopping cart or payment processor, business education or software, coaching or mentorship.

you've got this -- mom owned business

We’ve created our Momtography Coaching Collective to be a hybrid model of direct sales and creative business ownership.

We know how BIG and raw and vulnerable starting or growing your creative passions into your own business can feel.

Which is why we’ve created a hybrid process allowing you to leverage the Momtography brand as a direct sales rep, helping you practice essential visibility and marketing skills while playing with the details of your dream and getting mentorship behind the scenes until it’s ready to soar.

Here at Momtography we value…

CONNECTION: We show up present and not perfect. We aim to look at life with a lens of creativity and see dream building as a grand experiment and not a definition of our worth as a human.

COMMITMENT: We take responsibility for our needs and strive to improve how we show up for ourselves and our creativity each and everyday.

CONSISTENCY: We see a gift in gratitude and work to see the silver linings even when things are not going our way. In other words, we work our resilience muscle so we can continue to pick ourselves up and move forward in the direction of our dreams.

We believe in your ability to start the right business for YOU and can’t wait to help you bring those dreams to life.


Are there any key pros or cons that I missed? Please let me know in a comment below.

Want to learn more about how to confidently start or grow your creative business dreams?