Gina Salazar sells Mary Kay products. She's throwing a party on a Sunday afternoon at her friend's house in South Sacramento…
As guests arrive, they walk into a warm living room adorned with Christmas decorations. And there's an array of cosmetic products on display. About six women have shown up…and one of them asks about Mary Kay's trademark reward for top salespeople.
Salazar says she started selling Mary Kay about a year ago…but not to get a pink Cadillac.
"I needed money and I like the idea of meeting people. I'm kind of shy and I want to work on that."
The married mother of two lost her job in 2008. She used to do clerical work for a West Sacramento company that makes gear boxes for tow trucks.
"They had to downsize. Unfortunately it happens."
She says losing the job was an emotional…and financial blow.
"You're used to a certain amount of income every month and then that happens and it hurts. It just doesn't hurt me it hurts everyone in the family, it affects everyone."
Salazar says she makes a 50% commission on the products she sells.
She's one of more than 2 million direct sales representatives in California. Nationwide, it's 16 million sales reps.
"We often look at the direct selling industry…we call it recession resistant."
Amy Robinson is with the Direct Selling Association or DSA, a Washington DC based industry group. She says during a recession, more people start looking for ways beyond a 9-to-5 job to make money…
"And they turn to direct selling because this is a great way that they can earn supplemental income, work on a part-time basis often in addition to another job that they may have. So we have seen over the past year definitely an increase in people who are joining direct selling companies."
According to DSA figures, in 2009 the number of direct selling representatives was up 6.6% from the previous year.
Amy Robinson: "People sometimes get into it for financial reasons whether that's short-term income, more of a long-term income, maybe a full-time career. Other people want discounts on the products they already use."
And for other people it's all about storing up a nest egg. Sherry Berjeron Oliver lives in Sacramento's Arden Arcade neighborhood and got into direct selling last year. She sells a line of skin care products called Nu Skin.
"The biggest reason that I first got into it is that when the economy began to collapse I had no retirement but I had a lot of real estate and we know what happened with the real estate market."
All the equity in her properties dried up. Berjeron Oliver is approaching 60 and says she needed to create another stream of retirement income.
"It's really insanity for me to think that over the next 10 years anything's going to be changing so with Nu Skin now I have leverage income and residual income. That's what you really need. If you're 40 years old and you don't have a retirement, it's really hard to catch up."
Back at the Mary Kay party in South Sacramento, Gina Salazar says the money she makes has been helping to take care of more immediate needs.
"I pay the credit card, I buy my Mary Kay products and other things - gas, stuff for the children. So it's been working good."
Salazar plans to keep selling Mary Kay even after the economy improves and she gets a full time job again. She may even go after that pink Cadillac.