Ivy de la Cruz-Sepe is one of my ultimate idol mompreneurs. Despite her status and success, despite being a multimillionaire mompreneur, she has remained grounded, super humble, God-fearing, and family-oriented. She is a former SM saleslady who is now a Millionaire Missionary, empowerment coach, health coach, passive income mentor, and public speaker, as well as a mom to a 5-year-old. Her mission is to empower people to get to their dream lives through empowerment coaching and health mentoring sessions. I am really inspired by her and her story, that’s why I was so happy when she accepted my invitation to speak in our Mompreneur Mondays’ Mompreneuring Thru Crisis series.
“Many of us want something in our lives,” says Ivy. “But sometimes it takes a breakthrough. It takes a snap of a finger for us to say: okay, this time, I’m really decided.”
Ivy hails from Tondo, a place that people in the Philippines generally associate with poverty and crime. To get from the street to her house, one had to pass a path that was so narrow, some people had to walk sideways. But Ivy has no regrets about growing up there. “Sobrang saya ko naman,” she says of her childhood.
But that kind of an environment instilled in her a mindset borne of a simple, basic desire: to eat three times a day.
“I remember this moment in my life,” says Ivy. “We were eating at home. I was just a kid then, around 8 or 9. We heard a knock on the door and I remember we tried to hide what we were eating because it was just rice and chichirya.” The person who had knocked on their door saw what they were eating, left, and came back with a bag of canned goods.
“I think that was the first major act of kindness that was done to me,” Ivy muses. “I will never forget that day. It was when I told myself: someday, I will eat 3 times a day. I will make sure that whatever it is I want to eat, I can eat.”
A Turning Point
Like many Filipinos who want to succeed, Ivy worked hard as a student. She believed that “if we study hard, we will land a great job.” In high school, she pushed herself to get on the honors list. She wasn’t after the honors; rather, it was a matter of mindset. She just wanted to do her best because she knew that would lead her to success.
“But when I was in third year high school, my father got into trouble,” Ivy says. “He got imprisoned.”
It was a huge blow. Ivy remembers getting frustrated, wondering if she was going to have to experience every kind of suffering, asking God for a break. “But I told myself then: will I choose to break apart or will I choose to build myself up?” She was tired but she knew she had to go on. “I’m just thankful to my 15-year-old self for choosing the path towards building myself up.”
Ivy went to college on a scholarship from the SM Foundation. She recalls not even knowing that people actually had to pay for college tuition. She explains that she came from public schools; she thought college would be free too. Her relatives supported her financially as well, but she felt ashamed about having to always ask for things.
So, during Christmas and summer vacations, instead of making use of her free time to read a book or just take a relaxing break from her studies, she decided to work as a saleslady at SM.
“I guess I just had that kind of mindset,” Ivy says. “Hard work. I wanted to get out of where I was. I wanted to provide for myself, for my family, and for the future generations.”
She explains that she had to maintain scholarships as early as Grade 1. “Somehow that built in me a sense of responsibility. I had to work hard. I knew that if I didn’t do it, nobody else would do it for me.”
Ivy’s hard work paid off. She graduated from college with honors and found employment at a multinational company. But it’s no secret that she really made her fortune from network marketing.
Why Network Marketing?
“I did my research,” Ivy says. It was while she was working in a multinational company that her eyes were opened to the idea of starting a business. She realized that even a simple person like her, who didn’t come from a business background, could also do it.
“Pwede pala ako,” she remembers thinking. “Counted din ako.”
Ivy heeded the wisdom of not being afraid to try different things. First, she became a gadget reseller for an online brand run by another female. “I looked up to these women who made things happen. I also wanted it for myself.” She tried selling soap. She tried selling insurance.
What prompted her to resign from her job was the idea of going into real estate: snapping up foreclosed properties, renovating them, and then looking for buyers. It was a lucrative business…but she ran into a difficulty she hadn’t anticipated. “The properties I was looking at cost around 2 million, 3 million. With what I was earning then, it was hard for me to get approval from the banks.”
Unfortunately, she had already resigned from work.
Fortunately, she received an invitation to a network marketing orientation.
It was actually the third time she received the same invitation. The first and second invitations, she had ignored. “Honestly,” admits Ivy, “I thought of network marketing before as cheap.” She recounts that, initially, she felt it was beneath her. She was already working in a multinational company — “level up na ako,” she remembers thinking — and she admits she used to get annoyed when she received network marketing-related invitations.
A convergence of factors changed Ivy’s mind. One was the fact that she no longer had work. But what really convinced her was realizing that Rich Dad, Poor Dad author Robert Kiyosaki, whose book she had just read, had pointed to network marketing as the business for the 21st century. Network marketing was also being touted in the other book she was reading. “I think it was One Minute Millionaire,” says Ivy. Those were the two books that she happened to be reading just before she attended a USANA presentation — after three invitations! — and she thought, “This is it.”
She figured she could give network marketing a try while continuing her other raket.
“Eh, nag-work,” Ivy says with a smile.
From SM Saleslady to Multimillionaire Through Network Marketing
Ivy and I agree that network marketing is the ideal business model for busy, starting mompreneurs for many reasons:
- The system is already in place. You don’t have to build everything from scratch — the products, the branding, the marketing — which would just require double the effort.
- It can be done online.
- You don’t have to worry about things like accounting and logistics.
But Ivy wants aspiring network marketers to really give it a lot of thought.
“Before you go into network marketing,” Ivy says, “make sure that you really want to advocate the products. The system is basically word of mouth…. If you are using the products, you might as well benefit from it.”
She emphasizes that network marketing is a helping business. “When I resigned, what I was thinking was: I wanted a business where I could earn and also help other people. And when I saw USANA, I thought: oh my gosh, this is exactly the system I was looking for. I’m earning, I’m helping people become better, and they’ll be earning as well.”
Naysayers and a Bad Rep: Ivy Meets the Challenges of Network Marketing Head On
After eleven years in the industry, Ivy is well aware of the bad reputation that sometimes follows network marketing around. She acknowledges that some of the concerns have a basis.
“I think that all industries have a good side and bad side, and with any industry, there will always be people who abuse the system.” She points out that it’s a problem not only limited to network marketing but also to such industries as real estate or cryptocurrency. “But for me, as long as I am doing it from a place of service, as long as I am doing it ethically and legally, and I know what I’m talking about, I think I am in a good place.”
Ivy thinks it’s essential to correct a misconception about network marketing. “Network marketing is a system of moving products from the factory to the consumer through an organization of users, retailers and business builders. It’s not a system of investing and investing and investing, and the people above will get all the money. It’s not that kind of system.”
She says that people are either informed, misinformed, or uninformed. “I used to be misinformed. It took me 3 times before I made the effort to understand it. And when I finally did, the business had to be presented to me from 7 PM to 1 AM — that’s how many questions I had. I wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t be tarnishing my name.”
This is also why Ivy advocates becoming a network marketing professional: not an amateur, not an impostor, but a professional. She admits that when she started, she didn’t know how to present the business in a professional manner, and it turned some people off — a problem common among new network marketers. “We have to think about what is the right way of sharing these opportunities, what are the right words to use…. So now, as a leader in the industry, what we advocate is skills training, personal development, and leadership training, especially because we will be handling a team.” She points out that USANA has an ethics department. “Someone is monitoring posts to check if you are making unsubstantiated claims, or if your income claims are bloated. What we say is being regulated and that’s why I’m proud of the industry. It keeps on evolving.”
Ivy’s Advice to Aspiring Mompreneurs
Set a goal. Why do you want to start a business? What is your mission? “I believe that the people who are successful in this industry, we have a mission. My goal was to see people grow. I want to champion the growth of others. I want to see people succeed, not only in terms of finances but also in their life. Holistically.”
Look at the company itself. How are the products manufactured? Who is the founder? What are the values that the company upholds? What is the mission of these companies?
Before you start, especially if you’re doing network marketing online, look for your tribe. Look for people who are like-minded, people you want to work with.
Once you start a marketing business, you have to be open to attending trainings. “Trust me, a lot of your old belief systems will be shattered.” Ivy says she personally had a lot of breakthroughs in terms of finances, as well as leadership skills. “Be prepared to be responsible. For us to become successful entrepreneurs, we need to have personal accountability towards our own results and the results of our team.”
What would she say is the formula for success in the network marketing industry? “The first step is desire. When we desire something, there is usually a ‘why’ behind that. So stick to the vision.”
Ivy notes that the key to building yourself up is learning how to do things repeatedly. “Create a habit. In this industry, some people become successful in just a few months. And some people take years. I’ve seen it. And these people who took years, once they realized what they needed to do, and it became a habit, and then it became character, part of who they are, that’s when the floodgates of opportunity open.”
She also advises, “Start small. Set positive expectations for yourself. When you attend a training, tell yourself: next time, I will be the trainer. Because the network marketing business is essentially a duplication business.” Think of the person who introduced you to the business. Aspire to become like that person and then aspire for your team to become like that person. “You have to be intentional in growing yourself and developing your habits. And once you do that…before you know it, you will realize you’ve become successful.”
Ivy’s tips specifically for motivating prospects: “Prospects get attracted to who we are. They think; they ask, ‘What’s in it for me?’ For them to get attracted to this industry…make them want to work with you. How are you serving them even if they are not yet in the industry? Give them a heads up. Let them know what to expect. Do ‘visioning’ with them. Add value to them even if they are not yet part of your team. For example, nowadays, we are learning a lot from trainings. Share what we learn and how these are changing us as individuals. Don’t force them because we ourselves wouldn’t want to be forced; we wouldn’t want people invading our boundaries. Just show whatever it is you’re offering, and if it’s for them, they will grab it.”
And for mommies who want to start any business, whether or not it’s network marketing, but are finding it nearly impossible to juggle the innumerable demands of career and family life, Ivy has the following words of wisdom: “Respect the season you are in. Sometimes we have expectations of ourselves — and it’s good to have expectations — but we also have to care for ourselves. We have to be our own advocates. Especially in this industry, we are also givers. We are also servants. And we cannot give what we do not have.”
Ivy says she and her husband share responsibilities. In the morning, her husband homeschools their child, and Ivy works on her business. Immediately after lunch, it’s her husband’s turn to attend to his work, while she takes care of their son. But if you don’t have a partner with whom to share your responsibilities, Ivy recommends, “Just do time blocking. Have a routine.” In addition to helping you manage your time, it helps your children know what to expect next, which gives them a sense of security.
Another point that Ivy wants to make: “If we want to grow several areas of our lives, we have to identify which ones are our priorities. Define it. And then this: intentional attention. Because our marriage, our personal development, our personal growth, our businesses, all those will not grow unless we give them attention.” When you do time blocking, for example, and you’ve set aside a particular part of your day for your business, really use that time for your business.
Finally, Ivy reminds aspiring mompreneurs: “Don’t compare your chapter 1 with another person’s chapter 25. Because we are all a work in progress. We all have different paths to take. So just respect where you are. Do your best. Give time. And before you know it, what you want to happen in your life will manifest itself.”