Can five-dollar accessories change the world? Maybe not, but thousands of bargain jewelry-wielding Paparazzi consultants are willing to try.
Many of today’s hottest brands had humble beginnings. So too was the genesis of Paparazzi Accessories, an unassuming company turned jewelry powerhouse who began as little more than a pastime for sisters Misty Kirby and Chani Reeve. While their kids played around them, Misty and Chani would make headbands in their living room. When their schedules and budgets allowed, they would pack up their creations and sell them at vendor fairs and arts and crafts shows.
Their creations gained attention, so Misty and her husband Trent, as well as Chani’s husband Ryan, traveled to China in search of the right manufacturing partner to expand and streamline their distribution process. Locking arms with a manufacturer who could tick all the boxes they deemed non-negotiable (lead- and nickel-free materials, ethical working conditions and rock-bottom pricing) took three trips, but that successful connection was the turning point that helped the two families transform their small business into a booming organization.
But even as the company flourished, the founding families endured plenty of growing pains in those early days.
On a recent Facebook Live event, Chani Reeve reminisced after they officially launched and became Paparazzi. “We had six orders that came in, and we thought we would die. It was just the four of us trying to fill these six orders, and we had kids running around everywhere. We didn’t have a receptionist, we didn’t even have employees at the time, so all the phone calls were coming to our cell phones with kids screaming. It took us all day long to fill those six orders. And as I look back, I think it’s fun to see that we started with those six orders and no employees, and now we have a lot of employees and thousands and thousands of consultants all over the United States.”
Paparazzi began building a reputation as a brand that emphasized classic jewelry for women of every generation at an accessible price of $5 per piece, and within six months, the company grew 900 percent according to their website. In January 2011, the Kirbys and Reeves decided to extend that sense of accessibility to their infrastructure as well through the direct selling business model.
Their low price point attracts consultants from diverse financial backgrounds. Earica Cole, a consultant whose team sells more than 750,000 pieces of jewelry each month, was a director of mortgages for an organization in Atlanta when she joined the company in 2017 after seeing her friend mention the opportunity on social media. It was a leap Earica almost didn’t make because she wasn’t known to wear or buy jewelry at such a low price point.
“I joined Paparazzi thinking I’d make a couple of hundred bucks and use it as a tax advantage,” Cole says. Seven months later, she relocated her family to Alabama after being promoted to vice president, only to quit her day job five months after that when the income from her Paparazzi side gig drastically dwarfed her traditional income.
For the company’s top consultant Geraldine Souza, Paparazzi entered her life in the wake of a costly divorce that left her renting out the bedrooms in her home to make ends meet. For her, selling five-dollar jewelry as a side gig became her own personal challenge. “I wanted to prove to people that if you put in the hard work and the energy, you don’t need a large team with large commissions to make your dreams come true,” Souza says.
Within three months, she incorporated her business and today pays a full-time staff to handle her shipping and billing, while she maintains her previous full-time job. This led the founders to announce two new ranks created specifically for Souza, who had out-earned and outsold all the company’s existing levels. “It’s really important for people to know that I built this one piece of jewelry at a time—not off of my team commissions, but solely off of my sales.” While her day job’s salary can’t compare to what she earns through Paparazzi, she enjoys the opportunities it provides her, and Paparazzi has erased her debts. “I don’t have to think about my retirement,” Souza says. “It’s beyond something I can’t even fathom.”
The House that Bling Built
The five-dollar price tag may be the company’s ‘It’ factor, but with no brick and mortar retailers or sales outsourcing, consultants are the fuel revving the company engine. It’s this person-to-person interaction that provides the advantage a product like Paparazzi’s needs. With clearance rack pricing, customers might be quick to dismiss the products as cheap or irrelevant but seeing the jewelry firsthand from a friend or online connection helps customers witness the quality and trend-chasing that Paparazzi prioritizes. Cole, who admits that the bargain bin price almost turned her off initially, now sees the power it wields. “I never have someone who just buys one item from me,” Cole says. “Most ladies hear ‘five dollars’ and they want at least four. People usually spend $20-$100.”
Feeding that Paparazzi “five-dollar habit,” as it’s known among consultants, has caused a need for rapid corporate expansion. “We call it crazy, unpredictable, exponential growth,” Misty said via Facebook Live at the ribbon-cutting for the company’s new headquarters in St. George, Utah in April. Speaking to a crowd of consultants eagerly waiting to tour the new offices, she explained that in the time it took to construct the new headquarters—a building doused with cascading chandeliers that look like earrings and showrooms filled with the latest jewelry collections—the company had already outgrown its footprint. What was intended to simply be a ribbon-cutting, instead doubled as a groundbreaking for a new 260,000 square foot warehouse.
As with any direct selling company who experiences rapid growth and expansion over a short period of time, they still have some work to do when it comes to communication with unhappy customers and distributors. They currently have an F rating with the Hurricane, Utah Better Business Bureau for failing to respond to 34 complaints against the company.
One Life to Lead
Celebrating these milestones of growth has manifested in the Paparazzi Passport Vacation, a lavish getaway that has also become a way to give back through service opportunities, like the playground and school refurbishment the founders and consultants did while in Bayahibe, Dominican Republic this year. It’s an effort that reinforces the company’s mission statement: “While five-dollar jewelry may not change the world, we believe those who wear it will.”
At Paparazzi’s annual convention in August, consultants crowded into the MGM Grand Resort and Casino in Las Vegas to learn how to better live out that mission statement. One Life 2019, named after the idea that each consultant has only one life with which to make a mark on the world, was filled with training, shopping, networking and a Jonas Brothers finale. As the week came to a close, Misty gathered Paparazzi’s top consultants on stage beside her—a dozen women who represented millions of items of jewelry sold—and described the potential within the Paparazzi opportunity that the women on stage symbolized: “They are walking examples of those who build a retail empire out of five-dollar jewelry.”
Paparazzi corporate leaders declined Direct Selling News’ multiple requests to be interviewed for this article.