DeAnne Stidham was a single mother of seven looking for a way to provide for her family when she founded LuLaRoe in 2013. But four years later, it’s not just women who feel empowered to become independent LuLaRoe retailers: Men want in on the action too.
While many of the narratives about men signing up with the brand are similar — a woman becomes an independent LuLaRoe retailer, and when her business picks up, her partner picks up some of the slack — there are men who have embraced the LuLaRoe sales culture as their own. They even have a name for themselves: “LuLaBros.”
One self-proclaimed LuLaBro, Landen Brower, recently quit his job at a car dealership, where he’d worked for 14 years, to become a full-time LuLaRoe retailer — which entails being recruited to purchase rounds of clothes to sell at your own pace — with his wife.
“If you would have told me a year ago I would be quitting my job to sell women’s clothes, I would have told you you were crazy,” Brower tells Yahoo Style. But his monthly LulaRoe income surpassed what he made at the dealership. And now, as it turns out, Brower says he loves his gig, not just because of the money, but also because he’s bought into the company’s motivational mantras.
“LuLaRoe focuses on messages of empowerment — not just women’s empowerment, though that is a part of it,” he explains. “Even more, it is family empowerment.”
The shift not only is marked for LuLaRoe, a company whose sales surpassed $1.8 billion in 2016, but also reflects demographic changes in the direct selling industry on a larger scale. In 2007, the industry in the U.S. was made up of 87.9 percent women, 12.1 percent men, according to data from the Direct Selling Association (DSA), an industry trade group. By 2014, 74.4 percent of the industry was made up of women, while the percentage of men working as direct sellers had more than doubled to 25.6 percent.
Still, the LuLaBro culture is unique. While LuLaRoe says it doesn’t have data that breaks down its independent retailers by gender, there has been an outgrowth of men’s interest in the women-focused apparel company, most visibly on social media. There are more than 20,000 “LuLaBro” hashtags on Instagram, and while that’s paltry compared with the more than 2.5 million “LuLaRoe” hashtags, it’s still worth noting.
And the sellers’ interest is not passive. Men involved with LuLaBro help manage their significant others’ inventory; they model LuLaRoe clothes for charity; and in some cases, they’re hosting pop-up shops on their own. While most LuLaRoe clothing is for women and children, there are three unisex shirts that are modeled by men on the company’s website, each given either a unisex or a masculine name: “Randy,” “Patrick,” and “Mark.”
In addition to dozens of Facebook pages created by individual LuLaBros, there’s a LuLaBro website, TheLulabros.com, created by two anonymous “bros” who say they are “the biggest supporters with an opinion.” On the site, there is a “LuLaBro Code,” mirroring the set of rules from the 1999 movie Fight Club, with a shameless dash of machismo (“1. Don’t talk about the LuLaBro Code; 2. Read rule #1; 3. LuLaBro’s don’t let other LuLaBro’s wear dresses,” and so on). A recent blog post is titled, “Top 10 Tips for LuLaBro,” and includes pointers such as “Play to Your Strengths,” “Be Handy,” and “Stay Macho.”
And for as much controversy as the company has attracted recently after being sued by sellers over the quality of the goods, both men and women independent retailers ardently defend LuLaRoe.
The LuLaBros did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
The LuLaBro love goes both ways with the company, particularly on “incentive cruises,” where LuLaRoe retailers and their spouses are invited to participate in networking, educational, and pep-rally-style events aboard a cruise ship, and where there are events held exclusively for men in the LuLaRoe community. During one such session, husbands are invited to participate in a question-and-answer session with the company’s chief executive Mark Stidham, who is also husband to founder DeAnne.
Just as Brower says he felt empowered by the LuLaRoe business model, men and women alike have watched their LuLaRoe businesses grow, and with them, more income. The DSA says that people involved in direct selling have a higher percentage (58 percent) of annual incomes over $50,000 compared with the number of all Americans (50 percent), and LuLaRoe has leveraged that selling point to attract more independent retailers, no longer limiting itself to women.
LuLaRoe declined to say how much profit, on average, its independent retailers make, but many retailers with whom Yahoo Style spoke — who have all had successful experiences selling LuLaRoe — say that their income is self-determined. In its income disclosure statement, LuLaRoe says of its vast network of independent retailers, roughly 27 percent were eligible to receive a bonus, which averaged about $2,064 in 2016. (LuLaRoe is a private company, and so it does not break out its sales, the size of its retailer network, or other financial information. The company did not respond to Yahoo Style’s multiple requests for information.)
In any event, the LuLaBros always have each other. From their code: “Skillfully recruit other LuLaBros, some will be resistant but with proper explanations, they’ll eventually wonder why they waited so long.”
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Alexandra Mondalek is a writer for Yahoo Style + Beauty. Follow her on Twitter @amondalek.