Daryn DeZengotita is an Avon sales representative serving as one of its “faces of Avon” in an advertising and marketing campaign.

First of all, I feel like I am the last person on earth from whom ANYONE should take financial advice.  But, I realize that many of us feel that way.  It was just this past few years that I have decided to pull up my big-girl panties and say good-bye to my past as a financial failure.  I was really comfortable in that role, so it’s hard to shake.  And, it’s hard to find good support when you don’t have a track record – or a bank balance to show.  With that said, here are my carefully considered answers . .

1. How did you get started selling Avon?
When my partner and I adopted our sons, we really needed to tighten our belts financially.  I had been a long-time user of high-end department store cosmetics and I just could no longer justify the expense.  I saw an ad for Avon products online and the prices were so good, I figured they were worth a try.  I was hooked immediately and became a really, good customer.  In addition, I found myself telling others about my big new discovery.  Finally, the light bulb went off in my head and inquired about starting my own Avon business.  At that time, I had an IT  consulting business.  In addition to needing to save money, I also needed a more flexible business.  It all just fell into place!

2 Growing up, were you always into makeup?

Pretty much!  I’m a girly girl.

3.  What’s the best thing about being self-employed?
Flexibility!

4. How did you finance your business? savings? loans? credit cards?
Well, starting an Avon business only costs $10!  So it is absolutely an opportunity for ANYONE.  And, honestly, that’s it – there is no minimum inventory, no mandatory orders, no quotas, nothing.  And our marketing materials are ridiculously affordable – even the iconic Avon catalog only costs .20 in bulk, and .50 max!  Our samples are 10 for $1.  It’s just a really low-cost operation.

Regarding opening the retail store, unfortunately, we did it the way most women do boot-strapping, credit cards.  Not recommended, but I know many, many women fall into the same trap I did.  It’s just easier!  When you have fifty million decisions to make and orders to place and contractors to manage and so on, and so on, it’s just so easy to pull out that plastic and make things happen.  Plus, it’s impossible to get a bank to even look at you until you have two years of business under your belt.  They are really there for you – except when you need it most.

One other thing I did, also not something I was thrilled about.  I did a cash advance against receivables in order to pay for additional inventory.  If you’re not sure what that is, just google “loan sharkery.”

5. When you were just starting out, how many hours a week did you put into the business to make it profitable for you?
Not enough.  Unfortunately, I think Network Marketing companies spend too much time selling a dream lifestyle that can be yours for just working ten hours a week.  I think it’s complete bunk.  I’m proud that at Avon, we always say that our opportunity is equal to your ambition.  Work a little, make a little.  Work a lot, make a lot.  You must work this business at the same level of intensity as any other.  And, really, wouldn’t you want to?  Think of all the jerk bosses for whom you worked your fanny off.  Wouldn’t you work that hard for yourself?

The beauty of it is that you can do it on your time, at your pace.  All of our lives have cycles during which we can put more into it than others.  When you are working for someone else, there is little allowance for that.

Back to your original question, I was working the business 20 – 30 hours per week, but I did not have any mentoring, and I wasn’t doing the most profitable things.  I was busy, but not making money.

6. What age group is the largest consumer of Avon?  How do you personally market to them?
We have something for everyone, so my customer base is very diverse.  A few years ago, we launched a trend line called “mark.”  www.meetmark.com and that brought us a new audience in the 14 – 25 age range.  Regarding marketing, Avon does an amazing job of providing us with very high quality marketing materials.  Also, we have major national television advertising for products and first-rate celebrity endorsements like Reese Witherspoon, Courtney Cox, Derek Jeter and Patrick Dempsey.  On the business side, we have Suze Orman, who endorses our career strategy.  In fact, next month, I’m shooting an infomercial that will feature Ms. Orman.

7. For other women starting businesses, what piece of advice can you give?
GET STARTED!  I believe in two metaphysical laws – GO BIG and STICK TO IT.  If you start off in a half-hearted namby-pamby way, I believe the Universe listens to that and rewards you in kind.  Also, pick a plan – any plan – and stick to it.  Your adherence to a plan is more important than the quality of the plan itself.

8. What is the one personal item that you will always splurge on?
Coffee, chocolate and pedicures.   Preferably all together!

9. If you are cutting back on either business or personal expenses during these tough economic times, then please tell us what and why?
I began to feel the downturn in October.  At that time, I had two staffers and I let one go.  Shortly after that, the other one quit to take another job.  I was not quick to replace them because business was so slow.  At this point, I still haven’t replaced them and I am working my store single-handedly.  I cut back store hours so that I can get home to my family.  On Sundays, I give my partner a break and bring my sons to the store with me.  I put them to work and they love it.

For any of your readers who have employees, I must say that it’s kinda nice to not have any!  But, I don’t feel good about that.  One of my greatest professional development challenges is to become “a good boss.”  My Partner and I are a lot alike in one regard . . . we agree that delegating is highly overrated!

10. What’s the one makeup item every woman should have in her purse?
Oooh.  That’s a tough one.  I think every woman would answer it differently.  I think if I could only have one item, it would be a neutral lipstick.  You could make it work on your eyes, cheeks and lips!

Read other Queercents interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.