Arbonne International Overview
Arbonne International, founded in Switzerland in 1975, is a network marketing company that sells more than 300 different products including a skin care line as well as weight loss, nutritional, and aromatherapy products.
The company moved to the United States in 1980 but did not abandon its commitment to quality products. Arbonne International’s cosmetics and skin care products are formulated in compliance with European Union standards.
Unlike the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S., European standards specifically ban the use of petroleum-based and estrogen-mimicking chemicals that are common in comparable products manufactured and sold in the US. This is a major selling point for Arbonne products and may help overcome customers’ resistance to the company’s relatively high prices.
Arbonne’s product lines are mostly plant based, and unlike most MLM companies that market supplements, Arbonne provides an extensive list of gluten-free products.
The holding company that purchased Arbonne in 2004, Natural Products Group, entered bankruptcy in January of 2007. The restructuring was completed in 37 days with no disruption of services or payments to individual consultants.
The company currently operates in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom and reportedly has a direct sales force of 750,000 consultants.
Arbonne Business Goals & Mission
The Arbonne International website does not have a mission or vision statement page. However, the company states its commitment to sustainability and quality in several places throughout the entire website.
On its “About Our Products” page, the company cites “The Arbonne Promise: To deliver pure, safe and beneficial products in line with our botanical tradition.” Arbonne devotes a page on its site to the Arbonne Institute of Research and Development (AIRD), a Swiss lab that formulates the company’s products.
The company’s “Botanical Glossary,” or primary ingredients list, reads like the contents of the highest quality food or skin and hair care products found in any high-end health foods store.
Finally, Arbonne stresses its commitment to sustainable business practices on it’s “Arbonne Green Commitment” page. The company’s green practices include supporting responsible harvesting of ingredients, minimizing packaging, using recycled products for packaging, and refusing to use endangered plant species in its products.
Arbonne is also no stranger to community involvement. In October 2009, the company donated more than $4 million worth of products to Operation Gratitude, a non-profit organization that sends care packages to members of the U.S. military. This followed a $642,000 monetary contribution in May of the same year.
However, unlike many other network marketing companies, there is no record that Arbonne International has a sustained program of corporate giving.
Arbonne International Company Management
Arbonne International is headed by CEO Kay Napier. Prior to Arbonne, Napier retired from a successful career with Proctor & Gamble, leaving the company as a Vice President in charge of the North American Pharmaceutical Division.
After P&G, Napier joined McDonald’s as a Senior Vice President, where she spearheaded a healthy lifestyles initiative and took charge of the company’s efforts to market to women and families. She joined Arbonne in August 2009.
Napier is credited with bringing Arbonne through its Chapter 11 bankruptcy while maintaining a solid relationship with the company’s independent consultants.
President Rita Davenport joined the company in 1987 as an independent consultant. In addition to her work with Arbonne, Davenport has received national awards as a speaker and hosted the show “Strategies for Success” for 15 years. Davenport has been inducted into the Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame for her work on the show, which was seen in more than 32 million homes.
Products and Services Arbonne Offers
There are products to help customers treat acne and fight aging as well as products for babies and teens.
On its website, Arbonne does something that this reviewer has yet to see on the websites of any other skin care company—before-and-after pictures showing results from the use of Arbonne products. The pictures show the results after use of the company’s Skin Conditioning Oil on a man’s hand after it had been in a cast for several weeks, the before-and-after photos of a woman who is working with the company’s Figure 8 Weight Loss Program, and the visibly clearer skin of a teenager after using Arbonne’s Clear Advantage Skin Care System.
Customers are encouraged to send their own before-and-after photos to the site.
Arbonne’s products are unusual among skin and cosmetic lines marketed in the United States in that the company adheres to European standards that ban petrochemicals and other harmful chemicals allowed by the US FDA. In addition, Arbonne International’s products are vegan, meaning that no animal products or by-products are used.
The company’s nutritional products are formulated without artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavors and are free of saturated and trans fats.
This high quality may help to make up for Arbonne’s high prices. For example, 1 oz. of the company’s Make Up primer retails for $36, and 3.5 oz. of Arbonne’s Clarifying Wash Acne Medication retails for $16.50.
Arbonne Compensation Plan For Consultants
Like many network-marketing companies, Arbonne International’s compensation plan is sufficiently complicated that the company’s policies and procedures manual contains a glossary of terms used in the plan.
Basically, the compensation plan starts with Preferred Clients. Preferred Clients are able to order Arbonne products at a 20% discount and receive a 4% “override” on the “override value” of their personally sponsored Preferred Clients and Consultants.
Consultants order products at a 35% discount, receive a 15% commission on the Retail Volume of purchases made by Preferred Clients that they’ve sponsored, and a 4% override on the override volume of their personally sponsored Preferred Clients and Consultants.
Override Volume is defined as 65% of the retail volume of products.
Like all network-marketing companies, there are additional bonuses and overrides paid based on the number of new Independent Consultants recruited. From Consultant, Arbonne representatives can rise to become District Managers, Executive District Managers, and up to Executive National Vice President.
Benefits at the higher levels include money toward the purchase or lease of a white Mercedes Benz and a life insurance plan.
In 2009, only 0.04% of consultants had achieved the National Vice President level.
Consultants are also encouraged to order products for retail sal, and are required to achieve 150 in Personal Qualifying Value points in two of any three consecutive months in order to stay active with the company.
It is important to note that Arbonne International has a very restrictive Internet policy for Consultants. Consultants are required to purchase a company-sponsored website and are not allowed to build their own Arbonne-related sites. The one exception is that Consultants can have unrelated blogs that “mention” Arbonne. Consultants are also forbidden from listing their Arbonne websites on site directories or with search engines.
These restrictive policies virtually force Arbonne consultants to rely on old-school network-marketing strategies and should be taken into account by anyone considering going into business as an Arbonne Independent Consultant.
It should also be noted that, despite company policies forbidding the practice, Arbonne International products are readily available on eBay for a fraction of the company’s retail prices. This fact may make it harder for Arbonne consultants who play by the company’s rules to earn a significant income.
The Public Record
Arbonne International is an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau with an “A” rating. The company is also a member of the Direct Selling Association, which awarded Arbonne its Education for Life award in 2007.
While the company’s bankruptcy was well publicized, there seems to be little lasting effect on Arbonne’s reputation as the company was able to complete the process in such a short amount of time with no disruption of services or of payments to consultants.
Ryan Nelson Notes
Arbonne International is a solid network marketing company with one of the highest quality products in its particular niche. As more consumers become aware of the potential dangers of personal care products manufactured to US standards, Arbonne is perfectly positioned to dominate the market niche of people who are looking for products manufactured according to the stricter European standards.
However, Arbonne’s products are also more expensive than standard American MLM brands. This means that people who are interested in becoming Arbonne consultants should be willing and able to reach out to a more upscale customer base.
In addition, Arbonne International’s Internet policies are very restrictive, to the point of almost forcing consultants to work their businesses using old-school MLM marketing strategies that may alienate friends and family and restrict their potential for success. And while it only costs $29 to become a Preferred Client and $109 to become a consultant, people looking for an MLM opportunity need to note that there are substantial add-on fees for a company-sponsored website and for instructional materials.
Overall, however, if you are the right kind of person and have access to the right market niche, you should be able to do reasonably well with an Arbonne International business.