Imagine: you’re a recent university graduate in the middle of a pandemic. Though you weren’t planning to land yourself a stressful job this year – if you could even find that opportunity – you are coming to the realisation that you will somehow need to make money to pay rent.
While you scroll through never-ending job sites and click on Facebook ads offering jobs, you think about what would make you happy for a living. If you could work on your own terms, how would you do it? What are the things that would make you happy?
I knew I wanted to have a certain degree of freedom. The freedom to decide where in the world you live and work and the freedom to decide your own working hours are pretty essential for me. Thank Covid for the rise in remote working, which makes it so much easier to work wherever you want, whenever you want.
I also want to do something good. Something that feels meaningful to me and that has a positive impact in some form or shape. Something that improves people’s lives, the environment, and society.
Most importantly, I want to tap into my passions. I love writing, I love scuba diving, I love travelling. I like creating content, photography and design. I am passionate about mental health, sustainability and international affairs. Those are the things that drive me.
Now let’s start off by saying I don’t think I am a naïve person. My general knowledge and understanding is pretty decent, and it is in my nature to do lots of research and ask for advice before making any decision. If anything, I didn’t think I would be the type of person to fall for something close to a pyramid scheme.
That was until I saw the dreamy island-life that girls on Instagram were living while making money being a “business mentor”, an “elevated entrepreneur” or simply “tapping into the flow of the universe”.
It seemed like these girls have it all: their own kick-ass business, an abundant flow of money, all the freedom in the world. So I took a look into this world, where it seemed like any island girl could tell you how to live this life with a simple click on a button or by dropping a word into their DMs.
I wanted to know how exactly these people were making money. And while it wasn’t easy to dive deeper and find out what it was that made them a living, I eventually found out that all of them were selling water machines. Yup, that’s right. These influencers with their perfect lives were distributors of something that “ionises water”.
Now you will find loads of information, “facts” and incredible stories about how this water can prevent cancer, how bottled and tap water is toxic for your body and how the water has cured chronic illnesses. How the water machines have a positive impact on the environment and your health.
I won’t go into the details of the extensive health scam that it is. However, there is no actual scientific proof that the “electrolysed” and “hydrogen-rich” water has any health benefits whatsoever.
As if the benefits of the product they are selling aren’t fabricated or even fictitious enough, the cost of it will actually make you want to gouge out your eyeballs. The overarching company, Enagic, priced this supercalifragilisticexpialidocious machine at a stunning amount of $4980. That’s right, five grand for a water filter.
Now some of us simply cannot afford to be that delusional. But I wanted to know how Enagic and distributors are managing to make money of this. So I had a look at the business model. While most influencers will stubbornly deny this, Enagic is a so-called Multi-Level Marketing business.
These MLM companies target those that struggle with income, sometimes even in crippling debt (I personally might or might not have a student loan of a couple of grand, too). You will spend five grand on a water machine, which will be rebranded as an “investment”, after which you will also be promoted to a sales agent for this overpriced buffoon of machinery.
It’s an ingenious idea. The lives of these influencers are filled with surfing, smoothies, and snake oil in Hawaii, or Bali, or any other tropical island destination. And as none of them will explicitly advertise the water ioniser, it is their lifestyle that they are selling. Or promising to sell, at least.
Alas, it’s not that easy to become a “girl boss” or an “elevated entrepreneur”. It turns out chances of making decent money through this business are pretty slim. If you manage to sell a bunch of those machines to other people that are able to sell them too, awesome. But only a small percentage of everyone in this business manages to do so.
I thankfully realised that definitely isn't for me, and I'd rather make money in a more legitimate and sustainable way. While Enagic is not a scam per se, it's tricky business. So I'm grateful for my friends that were sceptic from the start, and my ability to research before "trusting my gut feeling” and “changing my life NOW!”.
I might not have a great-paying job (yet), but at least I wasn’t lured into a scam that, besides asking you to spend $5000 on a ludicrous piece of machinery, also asks you to distribute the thing to unsuspecting individuals.