Is Young Living a pyramid scheme? I don’t believe it is a pyramid scheme, according to my findings. However, this multi-level marketing scheme has many practices that make it a poor option for people seeking an extra income source.
Let me ask you this. How would you like a 0.4% chance to make a minimum wage? You would think I’m crazy.
Well. Welcome to Young Living, where you help realize other people’s dreams.
Young Living is one of the leading multi-level marketing companies that specialize in essential oils. The company has amassed over 6 million members and has developed a sales model that appeals to a wide range of people.
In this guide, I will discuss how Young Living recruits new members, how much you can earn, and the various pros and cons of working for the company.
I hope to tell you everything you need to know about Young Living to help you make a smart decision about joining the company.
We worked with a former Young Living Consultant to produce this article.
Table of Contents
My Personal Experience
Thanks to my Aunt Anne, I’ve known about essential oils for a few years. My mom’s sister always had a New Age hippy side to her, and she regularly delved into the world of “natural” products. For this reason, it isn’t surprising she eventually stumbled onto essential oils while browsing an Indian marketplace.
Aunt Anne picked up a small bottle of Lavender oil and Peppermint oil and brought them home to us. She described how people from ancient cultures used Lavender oil to relieve stress or Peppermint oil to energize the body.
She then showed us how to use these products by applying a couple of drops to her palms, rubbing them together, and inhaling. I was skeptical about the product claims my Aunt described, but I couldn’t deny that these oils really did smell nice.
I looked at the bottle’s packaging and saw “Young Living” printed on the label. My general curiosity definitely got the better of me, and I found myself browsing the company’s website later that day.
I was surprised to see that the company had dozens of oil blends and many other products such as moisturizers and blush. I then noticed a “Become a Brand Partner” button near the top of the page and clicked on it. It took me to a webpage that described the benefits of signing up with Young Living and selling its products.
I wasn’t interested in selling essential oils initially. However, the sales pitch on the page was enticing. It talked about how you could be your own boss and work at your preferred pace. The company also touted many tools and resources to help Members make sales and grow their business.
I had a part-time job as a librarian at the time and was interested in making a bit of extra cash. So I went ahead and signed up with Young Living.
I ordered their Premium Starter Kit and received a set of essential oils, product brochures, and samples in the mail five days later. I spent the next six months selling the company’s products before throwing in the towel.
I had sold a large volume of products and recruited half a dozen members in that time. However, I felt like I wasn’t making nearly enough money given the amount of effort I was putting in.
I jumped into Young Living, looking for an easy way to make cash. So it didn’t make sense to spend dozens of hours a week looking for prospective customers or new recruits for the meager amount I was earning.
My experience with Young Living felt like a letdown, and I want to warn people who are thinking of joining. The company draws you in with a convincing pitch, but you probably won’t make as much money as you were expecting.
In this guide, I’ll examine Young Living’s business model, how much you can potentially earn as one of their partners, and the various controversies they have faced over the years.
What is Young Living
Young Living is a large multi-level marketing company based in Utah. The MLM company has been operating since 1994 and is known for selling essential oils.
Young Living relies on direct selling to generate revenue and refers to its independent salespeople as “members”. There are over 6 million Young Living Members globally. The company ships its essential oils and other products to over 100 countries.
Young Living reported $2.2 billion in revenue in 2020.
To put thoughts in perspective, the market for essential oils is worth more than $5 billion in 2020. This means Young Living has more than 40% market share.
Young Living’s was founded by Gary Young and his wife Mary Young in 1994. Gary was a visionary who embraced essential oils and fully believed in their potential. He had suffered a logging accident that ended his career prematurely, and he sought out alternative forms of treatment. He discovered essential oils and began using them for relief. However, he was disappointed with the quality of oils available in the market.
Mary Young had previous experience in the direct selling industry. She encouraged Gary to start an essential oils business using that business model. The couple then purchased farmland in Idaho and Utah.
They initially planted herbs on a farm before distilling their oils. . This included peppermint, lavender, clary sage, and Melissa . The Young couple performed this distillation process at a state-of-the-art oil distillery. They also used techniques that preserved the oils’ potency and integrity.
Asuay University in Ecuador then invited Gary to create a natural medicine program in South America. He found many unique plants in the region and helped develop a 2,300-acre farm.
Young Living grew at a rapid pace in the years that followed. They presently have three farms in the United States, one in Oman, one in France, and one in Ecuador.
Young Living presently offers over 600 products. These consist of pure essential oils, oil mixtures, skincare, makeup products, and diffusers. The multi-level marketing company has gone on to become one of the largest essential oil producers and retailers in the world.
You can learn more about Young Living’s origins in the following Youtube video:
CEO and Staff
Mary Young is currently Young Living’s CEO. She first entered the direct selling industry in 1985 and used her experience to help found Young Living. Young has played a vital role in establishing the company’s farms in different countries.
She is responsible for Young Living’s philanthropic ventures and leads the company’s global outreach efforts.
Young Living’s Chief Sales and Operations Officer is Prasad Gankanda. Gankanda was born in Sri Lanka and pursued higher education at Utah State University. His background as a mechanical and aerospace engineer has helped him troubleshoot many of the hurdles Young Living faced.
Young Living officially has around 14,000 employees, according to its LinkedIn profile. This number excludes the 6 million Members that promote and sell its products.
Is Young Living a Pyramid Scheme?
So is Young Living actually an illegal pyramid scheme? It doesn’t qualify as one for a few reasons. Let’s look at the Securities and Exchange Commission’s pyramid scheme definition to understand a bit more.
According to the SEC, a pyramid scheme is “an investment fraud in which new participants’ fees are typically used to pay money to existing participants for recruiting new members.”
The SEC states that pyramid schemes typically possess each of the following characteristics:
- No genuine products or services are sold;
- Members are promised high returns in a short period of time
- Members are told the business model allows them to make easy money or passive income
- There is no demonstrable revenue generated from retail sales
- Members must make a purchase to sign-up
- The business has a complex commission structure
- The business model places a high emphasis on recruiting
Why Young Living Isn’t a Pyramid Scheme?
Plenty of people believe Young Living is a pyramid scheme for various reasons. This includes:
#1. No Genuine Products or Services are Sold.
Young Living is synonymous with the essential oil products they sell. The company has hundreds of products and isn’t shy about promoting them using extraordinary claims.
I have used and sold their products, so I can confirm they offer genuine products.
#2. Members are Promised High Returns in a Short Period of Time.
Young Living doesn’t try and rope people in with promises of “high returns”. Instead, the company pitches different benefits. This includes being your own boss, selling “healthy” products, and empowering communities.
#3. Members are Told the Business Model Allows Them to Make Easy Money or Passive Income
Young Living doesn’t promise anything about “easy money” or “passive income”. They refer to your member business as an “income-producing activity”.
This implies the business model is a vehicle for producing income without making claims about how easy it is.
#4. There is No Demonstrable Revenue Generated from Retail Sales.
Young Living reported an annual revenue of $2.8 billion at the end of 2020. The company’s 6 million members sell its products, so it is definitely earning revenue from retail sales.
Why Do People Think Young Living is a Pyramid Scheme?
People believe Young Living is a pyramid scheme for numerous reasons. This includes:
You Have to Make a Purchase to Sign-Up
Young Living requires you to purchase a startup bundle to begin selling. This bundle typically contains samples, marketing materials, and a few products.
In addition to this, Young Living requires you to reach a minimum sales volume each month to earn commissions. You can reach this sales volume by purchasing products yourself, finding people to purchase products or a combination of both.
Many pyramid schemes rely on having their members make purchases to function. This is one of the reasons why some people might view Young Living as a pyramid scheme.
Young Living Has a Complex Commission Structure
Young Living can have a complex commission structure depending on your rank. As mentioned earlier, you need to reach a minimum sales volume to receive any commissions in the first place.
Calculating this commission amount can also be complicated. This is because you receive a commission from multiple sources. I’ll discuss this in greater detail later in the guide. You should be aware that you might struggle to estimate your earnings given this complexity.
How Much Money Can You Earn from Young Living? In short, you are the 0.4% if you reach a minimum wage.
So how much money could you actually earn from Young Living? The company is open about how much members at each rank earn per year.
As you can see, Young Living’s members earned an average of $283 in 2020. The members at the lowest rank earned an average of $3, while members at the highest rank earned $1.6 million.
This implies that a significant number of members at the lowest rank have likely made $0 after losing money purchasing the company’s products. Around $88 of the company’s employees fall under the Associate ranking and take around 15 months to reach the next rank.
The earnings at the next rank aren’t much better. Members at the Star level earned around $248 per year. Only 12% of members have ever reached this rank or beyond, which implies that Young Living has a high failure rate.
So what rank would you need to reach to start earning a livable wage? Members at the Silver rank earned around $16,000 per year, which is close to the amount you would earn working minimum wage. However, only 0.4% of members ever make it to this rank or beyond.
This means 4 out of 1000 Young Living members ever reach a rank comparable to earning minimum wage.
So if you thought Young Living was your ticket to making big bucks, think again.
How to Earn Income Through Young Living?
Young Living offers you an opportunity to make money in three ways. These are:
- Earnings from directly selling products
- Commissions from your recruited members’ sales
Method #1. Earnings from Directly Selling Products.
As a Young Living member, you will be able to earn money by selling Young Living’s products to prospective customers. You can purchase these products at a discounted rate and then sell them at whatever price you wish.
As a Young Living wholesale member, you will receive a 24% discount. If you run an actual retail outlet, a spa, or a salon, you can sign up as a professional account and receive a 40% discount.
Method #2. Commissions from Your Recruited Members’ Sales
Young Living encourages you to recruit new members by offering a cut of their commissions. You can also earn commissions from the people that your recruits recruit.
If you get enough people working under you, you can make money without worrying about having to make sales yourself. However, you will need to meet a certain personal sales volume.
If you’re at the Associate rank, you can earn an 8% commission from the sales a person you recruited makes. You can also earn 5% commission from the sales the people they recruit under them make.
Once you get to higher levels, you become eligible to earn commissions from additional recruit generations.
You can learn more about Young Living’s compensation schemes in the following Youtube video:
3 Key Advantages of Becoming a Young Living Member.
Pro #1. Different Income Generation Methods
The Young Living model’s biggest strength is the fact that you can make money in different ways. If you’re good at directly selling products to customers, you can devote your time to this task. If you’d rather take a backseat, you can focus on recruiting members and subsist on the commissions from their sales.
You should note that you will still need to maintain a minimum monthly sales volume to earn these commissions. However, you can reach this sales volume by purchasing products yourself.
Pro #2. Be part of a cult-like community, wherein you might find meaningful…
Young Living offers many resources to help you make sales. This includes promotional materials, training resources, and samples. You will need to pay for these resources. However, you might be able to improve your sales game significantly if you’re willing to learn.
3 Key Disadvantages of Becoming a Young Living Member.
Con #1. High Failure Rate
Young Living has a relatively high failure rate. As we’ve seen so far, members at the company’s ranking make an average of $3 per year. This implies that many of them have made losses selling products for the Young Living company.
88% of members also fail to ever make it past the starting rank. This means your chances of reaching a rank where you’ll make minimum wage are slim.
Con #2. High Essential Oil Prices
While the benefits of essential oils are debatable, it’s obvious that these products are steeply-priced. To make matters worse, Young Living charges a lot more for its essential oils than other producers and retailers.
For example, a 15mL bottle of Young Living’s Lavender Oil retails for $35. You can purchase a 10mL bottle of Lavender Oil from a different brand for only $12 on Amazon.
This price difference is quite significant. So you might find it difficult to sell essential oils to people who aren’t already loyal to the Young Living brand. You can attempt to target people who are new to the essential oils world and don’t know how much these products cost. However, that might feel unethical, especially if you’re selling products to close family and friends.
Con #3. Rocky Reputation
Young Living doesn’t have the best reputation, even within the multi-level marketing world. The company’s founder was involved in questionable activities, such as practicing medicine without a license.
The company has also received numerous lawsuits in the last three decades. It’s difficult to predict if the company will be involved in anything controversial enough to shut it down. However, the risk of this happening is always there.
The ClassAction.org has an extensive list for this, where I picked a few.
- Questionable business practice. The company pleaded guilty in 2017 to trafficking rosewood and spikenard oil illegally and paid $760,000.
- Questionable ethics. In 2018, Young Living was ordered to pay $1.8 million in a “bad faith” lawsuit against a competitor
- Doubious diagnosis. A clinic in Tijuana, Mexico diagnosed an undercover reporter with cancer based on the report’s fake blood samples from a chicken and a healthy tabby cat.
Major Young Living Controversy.
As mentioned above, the list of Young Living controversies is quite long. I’ve chosen to talk about three of the highest-profile controversies and cases against the company below.
No Medicinal Benefits Lawsuit
Young Living was hit with a class-action lawsuit in 2022 for misleading customers about their products’ supposed benefits. The MLM company touts its products as having “therapeutic” benefits, but studies have shown that these products don’t live up to these claims.
This lawsuit was preceded by a similar one filed by the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) in 2020. This lawsuit ended with the National Advertising Division (NAD) recommending Young Living to stop using the term “Therapeutic-grade” for its products.
Young Living ignored this recommendation which led to the recent lawsuit they are currently facing.
Illegal Plant Oil Trafficking Controversy
Young Living investigated its own importing practices in 2014. They uncovered that they had illegally trafficked spikenard and rosewood oils. The MLM company was fined $760,000 and placed on probation for five years following the revelation.
Young Living was fined $10,280 after seven safety violations were uncovered at their Utah farm. This investigation occurred after one of the company’s distillers exploded. The explosion fatally wounded one of their employees.
As you can see, being a Young Living member isn’t as glamorous as you think. The company might have over a million active members, but your odds of making big bucks through the company’s business scheme are slim.
As mentioned earlier, only 0.4% of Young Living members ever reach a rank that earns minimum wage and beyond. It also takes around three years of effort to reach this rank.
Young Living has survived for over two decades despite its high prices and lawsuits. Therefore, the company will probably still be around in the near future. However, many of its ex-members have spoken out about the company and are gradually tarnishing its reputation.
I left the company after six months because I wasn’t making much money. I was also tired of having to maintain a minimum sales amount each month. The company claims you create a flexible business under their model. However, the constraints they place on you really limit this flexibility.
Who Would Young Living Be a Good Fit For?
It’s difficult to say whether Young Living would actually be a good fit for anyone. The company’s prices are extremely high, and you would need to seek out uninformed customers to ever make a sale.
That being said, if you firmly believe in the power of essential oils, you might enjoy promoting Young Living’s products. You might also find it easier to attract customers if you’re already an “alternative medicine” or “natural wellness” influencer.
Try out this income idea if you want to try your hand at selling essential oils. Just don’t expect to make a lot of money while doing it. I hope my deep dive into Young Living has helped you make an informed decision about joining.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Young Living’s Products Overpriced?
Young Living’s products are incredibly overpriced. Some of its essential oils retail for double the price of competitor products. The company charges these high prices despite there being no proof that their products are better than competitors’.
Can You Lose Money as a Young Living Consultant?
You will definitely lose money as a Young Living Consultant if you can’t make up for your startup bundle costs. If you have recently joined the MLM company and are thinking of quitting, you should stick with it until you recuperate your startup costs.
Does Young Living Offer Product Refunds?
You can return unopened Young Living products within 30 days of receiving them. The company offers a full refund for these products, so your chances of making a loss are relatively low.
- Joining Young Living: Become a Brand Partner
- Young Living Members Numbers: Young Living 25th Anniversary Newsletter
- Young Living Revenue: Young Living Named To Top 10 of Direct Selling News Global 100 List
- Young Living Founding: Our Journey
- Young Living CEO: Executive Management Team
- Young Living Employees: Young Living LinkedIn Profile
- Young Living Earnings: Income Disclosure Statement
- Young Living Earnings Methods: Compensation Plan
- Young Living Philanthropy: The D. Gary Young, Young Living Foundation
- Young Living’s Lavender Oil Price: Lavender Essential Oil
- Plant Therapy Lavender Oil Price on Amazon: Plant Therapy Lavender Essential Oil
- No Medicinal Benefits lawsuit: ‘No Medicinal Benefit’: Young Living Hit with Class Action Challenging Essential Oil Health Claims
- National Advertising Division Ruling: NAD Recommends that Young Living Essential Oils Discontinue “Therapeutic Grade” and Health-Related Claims
- Illegal Plant Oil Trafficking Controversy: Essential Oils Company Sentenced for Lacey Act and Endangered Species Act Violations
- Distiller Explosion News Story: Blast kills Santaquin man at Young Living Herb Farm