Home Lifestyle Work Hard, Climb High: How Direct Selling Can Launch Your Post-Matric Success Story

Work Hard, Climb High: How Direct Selling Can Launch Your Post-Matric Success Story

by Zahid Jadwat

Unemployed youth are encouraged to take up entrepreneurship via a model known as ‘direct selling’. [Picture: Tech Financials]


The meme is back. If you have just completed matric, you probably know which one. This time, it’s the one about unemployment. In fact, someone just invited me to join a WhatsApp group of matriculants who have branded themselves ‘Unemployed Humans’.

Matriculating is widely considered as the big step from childhood to adulthood – hence the proliferation of ‘unemployed’ memes. It turns out, more than being just a hub for memes and venting, the Internet can actually be a space of opportunities.

“We see students struggling to get jobs,” says Imtiaz Ebrahim, Secretariat at Direct Selling Association of South Africa (DSA). “When they finish matric, it’s meant to be a new phase of their lives but they can’t get jobs.”

If not jobs, then what? Entrepreneurship. But don’t bother with those links telling you that these are the ‘23 ways you can start a business in 2024’. Those, I have come to suspect, are just copy-pasted from last year or, worse yet, Chat GPT-rendered fairytales of how to get rich, and quick.

SMread: What next for the Class of 2023, when the dust settles?

Direct selling

In a country where nearly half of the youth population (those aged 15-34) are unemployed, starting a side hustle has become the ‘in-thing’ in a way. There has been a push for youth to become job creators instead of job seekers. Fantastic in theory, a daunting task in reality.

But what is direct selling, exactly? It is a business model by which one buys products from a parent organisation and then sells it directly to customers. In a way, social media has long been used to promote products, dispelling any notion that this is a new trick.

“These business opportunities revolve around potential direct sellers – in this case, students – selling the products and services of our member companies and earning an income,” explains Ebrahim.

At this point, I remembered those aunties selling Sh’zen products (funnily enough, Sh’zen is a member company of Ebrahim’s association!). They plaster their profile pictures and statuses with never-ending promotions, keenly trying to sell skincare products. They sometimes do end up going on that umrah trip, after all.

This doesn’t sound very different from the usual understanding of how entrepreneurship works. You buy something, sell it, make a profit. Yet direct selling takes it a step further: “It centres around buying and selling products, but really with the support that the typical entrepreneur or franchisee would not be having in other scenarios”.

“The most important part of the whole formula would be the support by our member companies to these entrants; teaching them how to run different aspects of their businesses, teaching them how to interact, teaching them how to groom themselves and really be businesspeople.”

The DSA represents 23 direct selling companies that distribute goods and services through direct sellers – known as independent contractors – directly to individuals in a face to face manner generally away from a fixed retail location, according to their website.

The caveat: the novice entrepreneur must be ready to put in the hours, the effort and patience. “I have to stress ‘prepared to work hard’ because there’s no quick rich scheme. It’s work. Nothing that is good comes without hard work,” he says.

Perhaps the most daunting consideration before starting a business is the cost. “You have to spend money to make money,” is a common refrain. Direct selling, however, changes the game.

“With direct selling, there’s a very small amount required to enter and, in many cases, there’s no entrance fee. There [are] low barriers and no barriers to entering and I believe that’s very attractive.”

The thought of life after school can be quite intimidating. While some may have a clear-cut plan of what they wish to do, most do not. Furthering one’s studies looks like the natural next step, but the price tag can be discouraging. Entering the world of entrepreneurship, after all, might not be such a bad idea. Explore your options.

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