I recently read an article on Forbes/Yahoo regarding a certain Ryan Blair and his business ventures. I was drawn to the article because of the topic of entrepreneurship and the piece's focus on Blair's success -- specifically with his company ViSalus Sciences -- even despite his criminal past. In the first paragraph, I was particularly impressed by the fact that the company was on the brink of bankruptcy but Blair was able to make a last ditch effort to save the company -- and not only save it, he invested a million dollars and the company was able to convert it into more than $150,000,000 a year in revenue in only 16 months. Now that got me really curious, so I read on.
However, the article itself revealed very little about the company ViSalus but was instead geared on promoting Blair's book "Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain." So, I began to do a little research on the net, especially after a number of comments on the article cried "scam." And I didn't have to look far to confirm the suspicion.
Apparently, ViSalus promotes and sells a multi-vitamin pack, not much different from standard supplements you'd find at Wal-Mart or a drug store -- except in price. A 30-day supply of ViSalus' vitamin pack costs about $150 - $170, where as purchasing their equivalents at a drug store would only cost a fraction of that price (and might be more effective too, considering they are legit supplement companies). It is not surprising that ViSalus also provides a stack of scientific evidence to market their product to the ignorant (or scientifically illiterate, as explained by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson), who seem to be easy prey when exposed to mumbo jumbo and unrealistic claims along with maybe some extravagant before-after weight loss photos for added measure.
Except for the type of product being sold, it's really no different from another scam I previously exposed: FusionExcel. FusionExcel sells "special" rocks, while ViSalus sells "special" powder. Culturally, the Philippines being more superstitious probably explains why the rock is currently more popular there.
They call themselves MLMs or Multi-Level Marketing companies, but it's really a pyramid scheme / scam. The eight-ball method, Matrix scheme, and Ponzi scheme are similar fraudulent systems.
"The network marketing or multi-level marketing business has become associated with pyramid schemes as 'some schemes may purport to sell a product, but they often simply use the product to hide their pyramid structure.' And the fact while some people call MLMs in general 'pyramid selling' others use the term to denote an illegal pyramid scheme masquerading as an MLM."
"A successful pyramid scheme combines a fake yet seemingly credible business with a simple-to-understand yet sophisticated-sounding money-making formula which is used for profit. The essential idea is that a 'con artist' Mr. X, makes only one payment. To start earning, Mr. X has to recruit others like him who will also make one payment each. Mr. X gets paid out of receipts from those new recruits. They then go on to recruit others. As each new recruit makes a payment, Mr. X gets a cut. He is thus promised exponential benefits as the 'business' expands."
"Such 'businesses' seldom involve sales of real products or services to which a monetary value might be easily attached. However, sometimes the "payment" itself may be a non-cash valuable. To enhance credibility, most such scams are well equipped with fake referrals, testimonials, and information. The flaw is that there is no end benefit. The money simply travels up the chain. Only the originator (sometimes called the "pharaoh") and a very few at the top levels of the pyramid make significant amounts of money. The amounts dwindle steeply down the pyramid slopes. Individuals at the bottom of the pyramid (those who subscribed to the plan, but were not able to recruit any followers themselves) end up with a deficit."
If you look at ViSalus' website and try to shop for a product, you are prevented from proceeding until you identify the person who referred you. In fact, it's easier to gain shopping access to their advertisement tools and paraphernalia than it is to gain shopping access to their "magic" vitamins. In fact, you can just disregard their product, as it is purely a pyramid scheme, with the purchase of the product merely disguised as the investment ticket into the scheme.
Owner/criminal/scammer Ryan Blair may convince you that you have "Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain" as his book is titled, but I am telling you otherwise. Unless you are at the top of the pyramid, you are more likely to lose money -- feeding the pharaohs at the top.