ENJO founder Barb de Corti has turned to the internet to expand her party plan business, writes Kate Jones.
The internet has reshaped ENJO, but founder Barb de Corti refuses to let it crash the cleaning company's party plans.
Despite ENJO enjoying household-name status in Australia for almost 20 years, the company only launched its online shopping site in September.
De Corti says she had a tough time persuading her "ENJOpreneurs" that going online wouldn't kill their sales.
"I was very open to it, but it took a bit longer to convince 1000 women who weren't that enthusiastic about it," she says.
To ensure the ENJOpreneurs - employees who sell ENJO direct - weren't left out of the equation, de Corti had to strike a compromise.
By marrying traditional direct sales with modern online sales, she came up with a hybrid model, where online shoppers have access to the full ENJO range and the website puts them in contact with local ENJOpreneurs.
The ENJOpreneurs offer in-home demonstrations as brief as five minutes - a far cry from the home parties that could stretch on for hours.
"People who work for you, you look after them," de Corti says. "So we had to find the right model for online and it had to go hand-in-hand with our existing model.
"So far the hybrid model is working really well for us. Our ENJOpreneurs are out there talking to people in the field and these people become online customers." More than 180 people have signed up to the online ENJO newsletter and, of its online customers, 42 per cent are totally new to ENJO. De Corti says social media is also producing results. "We are reaching a larger group of people on Facebook," de Corti says.
"And through Facebook or YouTube, people can watch a 30-second demonstration. We also offer e-demos on Skype." Clean queen de Corti may have ushered in a new business model, but she is adamant the ENJO empire will stay true to its party plan principles. "We truly believe in the direct-sales model," she says.
"Facebook reaches out to people, but to do it well you need real human contact. Sharing human life is what life is all about, not just going online. And we see that in our online shoppers, who like to be shown how things work but may not want to have a so-called party." De Corti has ensured ENJO's online shop continues to support her salespeople. The website menu includes "Host A Demo" and "Become An ENJOpreneur" options as well as "host exclusive" specials.
Perth-based de Corti says her sales force is mainly made up of women working from home, some earning as much as $200,000 a year or as little as $2000 a year.
"When I first started, I wanted a product that could be sold by women who loved spending time at home with their family but who wanted to earn an income so they could contribute to the household income," she says.
"I wanted to empower women to run their own businesses. And I disagree with [Deputy Opposition Leader Julie] Bishop - women can have it all" and successfully juggle family and career, she says.
One of Australia's earliest mumpreneurs, Austrian-born de Corti used $40,000 in family savings to secure the ENJO licence in Australia. "ENJO originally started because my son had asthma and I started looking at how to eliminate chemicals from our lives," de Corti says.
"I heard about this product in Europe, but I was a big bleach user and was pretty sceptical."
The product, a cloth made of microfibre, turned out to be a winner and de Corti was riding on the back of a new wave of environmentally aware consumers.
"ENJO had health, value and the environment; we had the trifecta," she says. De Corti ran the company single-handedly for the first year, going on to rack up 100 sales consultants by her third year.
"I didn't give it much thought beyond the five-year plan," she says. "In those first few years I was too busy. I was the packer, the orderer, I did demos - I did it all." After 13 years in business de Corti was literally cleaning up. She had become one of Australia's richest women, amassing $100 million in combined revenue.
De Corti won't reveal the company's current turnover figures, instead only revealing it is close to $100 million (after recovering from money lost in ENJO's US venture in 2006).
Early sales figures reveal ENJO sales are up 15 per cent, thanks to its online presence. Despite her success, de Corti is modest about her influence over Australia's female businesswomen.
"I learn from amazing women, including women who work for me," she says.