Julia Pogasiy: MLM with Thompson Labs and Beyond 


We present an interview with Julia Pogasiy, businesswoman, fintech expert, manager of financial and investment funds. Yulia started her professional carrier in her third year at St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions where she studied at the department of multimedia program directing. Together with her classmates she created an event-agency and then studied by correspondence. Then she had experience of both creating her own business and working in a top position in one of the leading companies in Kazakhstan, which was a prerequisite for building one of the largest MLM companies in the CIS.   

Creation of MLM-business in Julia’s biography is a milestone – more than five years she tried to build a successful MLM-company, repeatedly starting all over again: rebranding companies, creating new marketing-plans, creating more and more new products, adjusting to the needs of “networkers”. however, without achieving the desired result, Pogasiy closed the business and stopped the activity, at the moment when new and actively developing business-trends appeared on the horizon. 

– During your time in the MLM industry you have had three companies. To begin with, how did you come into this business in the first place?  

– I was not going into the MLM business, nor was my partner Irina Akhmetova, who initiated the expansion of our activities and the development of new areas. At that time, it was 2010, in Russia and Kazakhstan there was a very limited range of shampoos, shower gels and other related products.  We decided to expand it. For this purpose, Irina invited me to go to an exhibition in Dubai, where products of American company “Thompson Labs” were to be presented. As we knew, Thompson Labs had cancelled its contract with an exclusive distributor who worked in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus.  At the same time, a sales network had already been built in these countries and sales were successfully carried out.   

In 2010 Triumph Technologies Group was founded, signed a contract with Thompson Labs and bought $2,000,000 worth of Thompson Labs products.   

-We can see that everything started very well: you became the exclusive distributor in three countries where you had already built up network and where was a demand for a product?  

-It looked like that at first glance, but in fact it turned out differently. First, the sales network turned out to be a myth, meaning that it was there but not in the way we expected.   

At the stage of signing the contract with Thompson Labs, the lawyers checked the contract, and we saw a sales network in the form of a huge number of IEs and LLCs, but in fact it turned out to be just regular “networkers”. We discovered this later, when excitedly hurried to share with our large network of distributors the good news that the “Thompson Labs” brand was back in business. In return, we encountered a wall of incomprehension; on the “other end of the line” they didn’t understand the point of our call at all. One of them got in touch, and it turned out that the sales network were members of a network marketing company, registered as a IE, and the large warehouses as an LLC. In other words, the business was built on the MLM model. And only when it was revealed, we were horrified by what was happening. We were faced with a cheating partner, but since the investment in this business was significant, we had to do something.   

-What were the first steps you took to master the new business model?  

-At that time, I associated the MLM business with the Oriflame company and the people who walk through the offices and sell books. I knew nothing else about it. We began to study it. There was plenty of information on the internet. We got acquainted with the leaders of the MLM-business, and since their contact information was freely published on the Internet, we decided to call them and invite them to cooperation. But we heard a categorical refusal from all of them. We didn’t understand what was happening and how we had to communicate with them. And one of them asked us a question: “Are you a “traditionalists”? We understood the point of that question much later. And at this stage there were many aspects that required clarification: the mentality, the characteristics of communication, the structure of the MLM business.  

-How was the first MLM company launched?  

-At the same time, the business model was being studied and put into practice, which meant that the staff was recruited, and a marketing plan was developed. But the most difficult thing was to find an MLM leader, who already had his own network. We were able to do this only after a year or a year and a half. In one way it was a success, but on the other hand, with her arrival we had to change everything, because our solutions were useless, and it did not matter that we had spent a lot of money. This stage took us about another six months. Sales began. Except for the trouble, the shelf life of the product was about to expire. And a new stage of testing started.   

My partner Irina Akhmetova decided that it was time to finish and went out of business. The second surprise awaited us from Thompson Labs – the company signed two contracts, and two more companies appeared in the market, where previously we were the exclusive distributors. One of them was very large, so we found ourselves in a difficult situation – we had no product, and it no longer made sense to buy Thompson Labs products, because we would not be able to compete in the market. We lost the exclusivity of our products.   

– How did you get out of this situation and why did you decide to continue?   

-I’m used to finishing everything. And this is not a very good quality in business, in my opinion. On the one hand it is a good quality, but on the other hand, in business you need to understand when you need to proceed and when to stop and don’t “break through the wall”. I did not stop and the total investment in the business was about a million dollars.   

We were starting all over again: we were creating a new marketing plan, developing a new line of products based on the unique clinical research of scientists.  We conduct rebranding and a new company “Marble” appears. We have already had a lot of experience in this area, and we are moving forward. It was already 2014. 

-What was the uniqueness of the new products?   

– I approached the development process of the new product line in a fundamental way. I invited scientists whose developments have been proven by clinical trials. In particular, Maxim and Vladimir Skulachev. For example, Maxim Skulachev is a researcher at Lomonosov Moscow State University. In the project “Practical Application of Skulachev Ions,” he led the development of drugs based on a new type of active ingredient – mitochondrial-addressed antioxidants. His pharmaceutical company then conducted clinical studies and brought to market the world’s only registered medication based on mitochondrial-addressed compound. He is the author of more than 40 articles in international scientific journals and more than 50 patents and patent applications in the US, Europe, Russia and other countries. He is the 2014 Scopus Award Russia winner for scientific innovation in biotechnology and medicine.  

His research on antioxidants formed the basis of a new line of nutritional supplements called “X”. Our products really improved health. A unique formula was developed that allowed the therapeutic properties to penetrate the cell structure. The problem with dietary supplements is that they are often just “empty shells”. The reason is that antioxidants and other beneficial elements simply cannot penetrate the cell because of the size difference. However, we have had this problem solved.   

-Why did another rebranding take place and Rilife emerged?  

– After the launch of the new product line in the campaign, sales got better. We began to make money. But by that time there was quite a lot of competition on the market, and in order to keep up with the trends, we were constantly developing new marketing plans, new products. Our lineup expanded considerably. We started to produce cocktails based on unique recipes, water based on advanced technologies, shampoos, creams, face and body scrubs, and all new developments were accompanied by clinical research.   New designs were created. All this required significant investments.   

Not only that, but we were trying to satisfy the demands of the “networkers”, who were constantly demanding more and more new products. But it was a mistake to follow their lead. That, by the way, is how the company name was changed from “Marble” to “Rilife” in 2015. Someone from the “networkers” said that “marble” means stone, so the development of the company is slow.   

– Why did you stop the MLM business and move in a completely different direction?  

-We came into MLM unexpectedly. There were no prior goals or desires to get into this line of business. However due to the circumstances and significant investments there was a need to learn and develop skills in this field. As a matter of fact with Irina Akhmetova we came into this business with $2 million worth of goods without any knowledge in this field. And it took a long time to learn the basics and develop our first marketing plan.   

The more I learned about this business model, the more I realized that everything is very different in this business. Not only in terms of the structure of the business model, but also in terms of the rules of communication and business networking. It is a different kind of environment with its own rules and laws, its own mentality. Many things from the very beginning were simply bewildering, because I observed a constant replacement of concepts.

Here is an example. When we tried to find an influential “networker” for the further development of our company, some “millionaire guru”, he was introduced to us as a businessman with a network of 1,000 people all over the world. And it was not so easy to reach him. The first meeting was terribly perplexing. The person we saw did not look like a millionaire at all. And it’s not just a question of some appearance, but also the characteristics of a person. We are used to the fact that such people are distinguished by willpower, by the ability to solve problems, to get out of crisis situations. After all, making money is one thing, but you also need to have the ability to retain it. Well, those “millionaire mentors” that we met, did not have the characteristics I mentioned. Not only that, but there were cases when they simply did not have the money to pay for their tea or coffee.   

At some point in time it was a turning point in MLM business when financial pyramids appeared. And one of the first such companies, which was considered to be a pioneer, was “Talk Fusion”. The company’s products were information innovations. They were video conferencing, electronic business card, video E-mail, the ability to create and forward video emails, video blog, video newsletters, video capture page, and others.  In essence, they were selling air.  x 

The emergence of this type of network company, where, essentially, there was no production and no need to sell goods, which was much more bothersome, led to the fact that all the “salesmen” moved into this sphere. The MLM industry changed dramatically. It was necessary to make timely changes and organize new sales channels, Internet sales. All this required huge investments, time and resources.   

But for what?  If today there are business areas that can be developed quickly and make super profits. I became acquainted with the crypto-business, where I managed to earn in a month the amount of money for which in the MLM-business could take a year.   

-Why do you think there is such a negative perception of the MLM model?  

-I just described one of the factors: the rise of financial pyramids. Second, in my opinion, not the least of these was the role played by the “networkers” themselves. In order to sell a product, they gave it some non-existent qualities and colorfully described the miraculous characteristics of the product, which it did not meet. Of course, when the consumer did not receive the desired result, there was disappointment, which formed a negative attitude towards the MLM Industry in general.    

-What would you recommend to those who would like to try their hand in the MLM business?  

– I would not recommend following this way at all, because now it is almost impossible to build an MLM-company without implementing a pyramid model in its basis.