By Erica Thomas, managing editor
TRUSSVILLE — If you have been to any specialty show at any civic center in central Alabama over the past decade, chances are you have seen Debbie Pitts Palmer there. Palmer is an independent sales consultant for Scentsy, a company that produces products including wax warmers, and the coronavirus has hit her business hard.
Like many people working for a multi-level marketing company, Palmer has made her business unique. From the beginning, she decided to make her business about people. Being a caregiver for two family members, she knew she wanted to do something profitable but also something that could become a family business.
“I take care of my special needs brother, he’s autistic,” Palmer said. “I take care of my special needs nephew. They don’t work, so having events to go to with me, they have something to look forward to.”
Palmer decided to focus on attending as many events as possible. She has been to the Trussville Home and Garden Show, the Southern Women’s Show and even the World Deer Expo, to name a few, to network and let her business be known.
Palmer said even her daughter has benefited from helping out at shows.
“I am able to train her to become an entrepreneur, so the skills she is getting from working at events is very valuable,” Palmer said.
But along with the coronavirus pandemic came mass cancelations of events across the nation. The change has been devastating to Palmer’s Scentsy business.
“I am missing the face-to-face,” Palmer said. “Those connections you make, hugging people and embracing people. Making a difference in people’s lives, that’s what I miss.”
Palmer said over the years, she has met the majority of her clients and friends at special events. She has even made friends with other vendors and has been able to connect with thousands of people from across the state and the nation.
“When I first started this, I only had about 20 Facebook friends and now I have close to five-thousand,” Palmer explained.
After realizing her business model would have to change, Palmer started thinking about ways she could reach her clients. She brought in large shelves to make home displays and she hopes to reach more people online. She is also offering porch-pickup.
Palmer said she is still working to make each customer’s experience unique. She came up with a way to offer personalized links to her website, which allows customers to earn reward points.
“I want it to be personal to them,” said Palmer. “I had to come up with something to not make it so generic. People feel disconnected when you ask them to just go to your website.”
But selling a scent online has its challenges.
“I have to bring it to life for them because they can’t see it and they can’t smell it,” Palmer said. I’m training myself as I do it.”
After a lot of research and trying new techniques, Palmer said she is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“I really thought my business was just going to go to nothing,” she said. “I was at a loss. I had to go teach myself. It’s scary. It’s really scary.”
Through it all, Palmer said she is still able to include her family, and for her, that is the most important aspect of her business.