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How Avon turned me from a broke mum into a millionaire
Ding dong: Avon calling has long been a well-known urban stereotype, but Dorset woman Gail Reynolds was not only saved by the Avon bell, it completely transformed her life.
Thirteen years ago, she was living in Sussex with two young children from different marriages, alone and feeling friendless after leaving an abusive relationship.
Today, thanks to Avon, she is happily married to Brian, living in a £1million house in Preston, near Weymouth, and making an annual turnover of £7 million.
Not only that, but Brian, her three children Ashleigh, Libby and Rosie, her brother and sister-in-law and several other family members are Avon reps too.
Gail explained: “I was never academic at school and everyone thought I’d end up in a factory or stacking shelves. In fact I was the first member of my family to go off and decide I could do something better with my life.
“In 2002 I was living in Hastings because that’s where Brian’s family are from, working 20 hours a week in accountancy after going back to college, and a single parent. I was looking in the sits vac column of the local paper and saw that Avon was recruiting. I had tried it when I was 18 but was rubbish at it – I just did it for the money – but now I was 29 and I wanted to do it to meet people because I was so lonely.
“The first day I did it I was mobbed at the school gates because all the mums saw my Avon bag and wanted to know about it. Before that, no one had even spoken to me. That first month I just made £5 but I ended up with 12 or 15 people talking to me. After that, it was what got me up in the morning.”
After 12 months, Gail was making an average of £1,000 a month, which is when Brian decided to leave his job in holiday park management and join her.
“We sat down and did the sums and thought that if Gail could build it up that quickly, if I joined we could do even better,” said Brian.
“We did a lot of research and looked at Avon’s morals and values – the company has been going for 126 years and is all about helping people, about helping struggling young people make some money.
That’s why I love the company.”
As well as being philanthropic – albeit extremely profitably so – Avon’s success is largely based on two things.
It gives people the opportunity to work from home and around family commitments and build a wide network of friends and colleagues, but it also offers a quality product with an accessible price tag. There is no hard sell, potential customers are handed attractive, colourful brochures or directed online, and the products are created by highly qualified cosmetic scientists.
Gail and Brian sit at the top of a network of more than 2,000 representatives all over the country, who they coach and encourage to be the best they can. Don’t they ever worry that one of their protégées will come and steal their trade?
“If you are a plumber, you wouldn’t be worried about other plumbers, would you?” Brian reasons. “You go out and you make sure you do a good job, which is why we train our reps to be better than everybody else.”
When he started working with Gail, Brian was something of an oddity – a lone man in a very feminine world.
Today, that has changed considerably.
“The first Avon meeting I went to with Gail, there were 250 people there and just three men. Ten years later there were 150 men. Since the recession, I have had men phoning me up and asking about Avon because they have been made redundant.”
Gail, who you can find online at gailreynolds.co.uk and gailsreps.co.uk, believes that couples work well together and would like to see an increased network of partners.
”With us, Brian is the more analytical, all about getting the numbers right while I’m about the development side and organising training,” she said.
But there is much more to Gail and as well as selling for Avon, Gail is also a respected author – her autobiography Mum’s the Word won an award at last year’s London Book Festival – business leader and inspirational speaker.
She is living proof that if life hands you dud cards to start out with, you can always improve your hand.
“I left school at 15 with no qualifications and by the time I was 25 I thought I was done,” said 41-year-old Gail. “Even my family were telling me not to worry, to just claim benefits.
“When my eldest daughter was six I left an abusive relationship and then I realised that it wasn’t the life for me, that I wanted a private house with a garden for my kids. I met Brian six months later when I started working in a holiday complex shop where he was the manager and because of my start in life, I can relate to the girls and young women I recruit, who think they can’t afford to work because they have children and can’t pay for a sitter.
“It’s about telling them your story and showing them it can be done, that there is a life out there for them.
This story features in this weekend's Seven Days magazine. See more like it at bournemouthecho.co.uk/sevendays