Thrive Life: Is it a Pyramid Scheme, MLM, or Something Else?

Thrive Life is a company that sells high-quality food storage and emergency supplies. I became a Thrive Life consultant a while ago and have been very happy working with them.

Of course, I get a lot of questions about what I do with them, and whether they are in fact a MLM company or a pyramid scheme. So, below are some details to give you more information about Thrive Life.

Is Thrive Life a pyramid scheme?

Thrive Life is not a pyramid scheme at all. Pyramid schemes are in fact illegal, and what they are doing is not only legal – but is helping many people, like me.

A pyramid scheme (by the legal definition) does not reward its distributors for selling products but instead rewards them for recruiting others into the pyramid of distributors.  In many cases, there is no real product being sold at all. 

If they do have a product, it is typically sub-par and/or sold only to those within the pyramid, not the general public.  In other words, there is a “fee” that you must pay to “join” before you can purchase the product (if there is a product at all). 

This fee is typically quite substantial.

So, if you were to join a pyramid scheme, you are not rewarded for selling products but are instead rewarded for getting others to “join” the selling pyramid.  Once people realize that the promises of a great product are untrue, they quit.  There is no sustainability in a pyramid scheme and they are absolutely illegal.

Thrive Life has hundreds of high-quality products that its consultants sell to the general public.  In fact, the vast majority of those who purchase Thrive Life products are not consultants. This one fact alone means they are absolutely not a pyramid scheme.

So that question is very simple to answer, the next one is a bit more complicated.

Is Thrive Life an MLM?

Yes, by definition Thrive Life is in fact an MLM.

But, do not let that scare you off!

What is an MLM?
MLM stands for “Multi-Level-Marketing.”  Basically, if you are a distributor/consultant for an MLM company, you are rewarded for (1) selling the product AND (2) for recruiting others to sell the product.

The compensation you earn from your “team,” or “downline” (those you recruit to sell the product with you) can come in two forms. Some MLMs reward you in both ways, while others only reward you in one way or the other. 

The two ways are usually: 

  • A reward simply for having a certain number of people on your team
  • A percentage of the product your team sells

When I first learned of Thrive Life in July 2010 (it was actually called Shelf Reliance then), I was very interested in their food. I had no interest in becoming a consultant. 

My reason?  I had a fear of all multi-level-marketing companies (aka MLMs). 

Before attending law school, my husband had worked for a different MLM for nearly 8 years. He did not sell their products as an independent consultant/distributor, he actually worked for the main company. His job was to monitor all the independent distributors in the United States and parts of Asia to make sure they were selling the products legally and according to company policy. 

He saw firsthand how very difficult it can be to become successful in an MLM. I also had friends who were distributors for various MLMs and I watched them struggle with their businesses.

For those two reasons, there were a lot of things that concerned me about joining an MLM.  In fact, it took me nearly 4 months to decide to join Thrive Life as my husband and I worked through our concerns. 

Thrive Life products for a bowl of soup

My Thrive Life concerns

I’d like to take a minute to share with you the concerns I had – and the answers I found to put my concerns to rest.

Before I list out all my concerns about MLMs, I’d like to insert a little disclaimer. 

There are many, many good and legitimate companies out there that market their products through some sort of MLM plan. For various reasons, none of those companies worked for me in my life and circumstances and with my personality. But that does not mean that they haven’t or can’t work for others. Some of my concerns may not bother you and that is okay. 

I simply want to tell my story and why this particular opportunity worked best for me!

Is THRIVE Life’s Commission plan overwhelming?

Most compensation plans that I have seen for MLMs are very difficult to understand. 

There are often 10+ ways to make money. A few examples: Commission up to 10 or more levels, bonuses for starting quickly, rebates, car packages, matching bonuses, leadership bonuses, “fast track” advancements, group volume bonuses, team volume bonuses etc. 

Overwhelmed yet?

In addition, you often have to meet all sorts requirements in order to earn anything. This might include minimum # of parties or events, minimum number of consultants on your team, a minimum # of certain consultants with a certain number of people on their team etc. 

It can be very overwhelming and disheartening.

The THRIVE Life commission plan is very simple. 

I could explain it to you in 5 minutes or less.  In addition THRIVE Life provides a very realistic “commission calculator” as part of their training program.  Using this calculator, you can enter what you plan to do as a consultant (# of parties you will have each month, # of Qs you think you will sell etc) and it will tell you how much you will earn over time.  As you change what you plan to do, your projected earnings change.  This can be very helpful in understanding exactly what you need to focus on each month in order to earn!

Do I have to be “at the top” to make money?

This is a claim often made by those who do not trust the MLM idea.  I used to be one of these people! And the truth is, it does seem to be true and quite unfair!

Those who have only been in the business for a few months or even a year aren’t making much compared to those “at the top” with large teams.

In some MLMs this occurs because the company limits the number of people you can “enroll” directly underneath you. This means that the only way to earn money is to create a TRUE pyramid (you enroll 5 who all enroll 5 who all enroll 5 and so on).  But since you only earn a small percentage of your “team’s” sales (say 1%-7% typically), only someone “at the very top” of a LOT of people earns a real income.

Thrive Life lets you enroll as many people directly under you as you wish, or you can enroll none at all. My Thrive Life team is actually an upside down “pyramid” meaning I have a LOT more people directly under me than I do a few levels deep.

With the THRIVE Life commission plan, you can easily be profitable in month #1.  And even if you never decide to “build a team,” you can still make a great supplemental income (a couple of car payments each month) on just your own sales.

Don’t MLMs have crazy product claims?

Some do. But not Thrive Life.

They are very transparent with their products, how they are made, and what the nutritional value is for your family. They do not make false promises or talk up anything at all. It is one of the reasons I was really drawn to them.

Don’t MLM products cost a lot?

It is true that many products are sold through MLMs at very inflated prices. Lotions, cleaning supplies, candles, vitamins, etc. can all be found at the grocery store for significantly less than what you’d pay for a similar item through a MLM. 

For example, I love NuSkin products, especially the face wash. I get it for free because my sister-in-law works there. But if I were to buy it on my own, I’d pay nearly 500% more than face wash at the grocery store.

Thrive Life pays 10% commission on most purchases. Yet their products are reasonably priced compared to similar products on the market (other freeze dried foods / emergency supplies), meaning most everyone can afford to purchase them instead of a competing product.

Plus, you are selling food and everyone needs food!  Thrive essentially eliminates food waste because of its shelf life, so customers can actually save money on their grocery bill each month by swapping out some of the more perishable products.

Won’t I have to keep finding new parties to sell the product?

If the MLM sells a non-consumable product like jewelry, kitchen gadgets etc., then yes you will need to keep working at it to find new sales outlets. I have many, many “kitchen gadget” products from a certain MLM and I love them! They are a fantastic quality, so much so, that once I’ve bought what I need I never need to purchase again. 

But the poor consultant I purchased from is now looking for a new customer!

As a Thrive Life consultant, you are selling food! Thrive is the ultimate “healthy convenience food.”  It allows people to serve healthy meals to their family in half the time without sacrificing taste or spending more each month.

Because of that, people use the food and then need to buy more: regularly!  In fact, there is an auto ship program customers can join. They choose recipes they like and the food for those recipes gets shipped to them each month. 

You are not constantly looking for new customers! Unless you want to make a lot more money of course.

Final thoughts

After about 4 months of research I was able to remove all of my concerns. 

I realized that Thrive Life was not a typical MLM. None of the concerns I had were a part of how Thrive Life did business.

I decided it was “safe” to join, but was still cautious. I was really only hoping to earn $50-$100 in free products each month. I was not even thinking about “building a team”.  But things went really well.

I held 3 parties in my first week and a half as a consultant which completely paid for the cost of my starter kit and start-up costs.  I used the food I got for samples at my next parties. Within about 6 months, I still hadn’t added anyone to my “team,” but I made around $800 from just my own personal sales. 

And I had 4 kids ages 0-3 so I didn’t have an enormous amount of time to invest.  It was at that point (about 6 months in) that I truly became converted that this was a “work from home” opportunity that would really work for me.

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Becky is a wildlife enthusiast and pet and livestock care expert with a diploma in canine nutrition. With over a decade of experience in animal welfare, Becky lends her expertise to Simple Family Preparedness through insightful info about pets, livestock, bee keeping, and the practicalities of homesteading.

29 thoughts on “Thrive Life: Is it a Pyramid Scheme, MLM, or Something Else?”

    Beware do not dare to give your credit card information to this company they are frauds. Thrivelife is a bunch of crooks. Three months ago I tried to cancel my monthly order and it said it was canceled and then they promptly charged me again anyway. As soon as I got the charge notification I contacted them and they said too bad you didn’t cancel it so you’re stuck with the order so I told him that I did cancel it and I made them go in and actually cancel it themselves and I accepted the $200+order anyway. THREE months ago by and then suddenly I get a notification that they charged me again, out of the blue. I haven’t been to the website since I dealt with their last fraudulent charge so I certainly didn’t set up another order they just took it upon themselves to set up a whole new order and start charging me again. I am now in a battle over email with them to get my money back because I’ll be damned if I’m paying for this order. So I recommend no one give them your credit card information because you cannot guarantee when in the future you will suddenly be charged again when I guess they’re short on money.

    • accepting the order gave them the right to charge your card even though you had been through a lousy ordeal. Business is all about debits and credits. They charged your card even though you tried to cancel the order. Of course they sent the shipment regardless trying to force you to take the product. You accepted it and they kept your money. Best thing to have done is to have rejected the package and not give them legal reason to debit your card. Sorry you had this experience. I will learn from your experience and not follow through with an order. Thank you for the heads up:) Your post was valuable.

  2. I’m interested in what you have to say but why not put your letters in BLACK for easier reading? They are so light in color and small. For my reading some of your paragraphs I needed to copy them and paste into MS Word, and enlarge them and make them in BLACK for easier reading.

  3. Misty,
    PLEASE put your type in black, bolder type so I can read it without having to ruin my eyes. What I must do is to copy your info onto Word, enlarge it and give it a bolder black in order to read it. Why do you put your type in such small, faded, hard-to-read type? I am not trying to be a complainer but it’s irritating to try and read your info.

    And, by the way, I am a valid prospect. Thank you.

    • I’m so sorry for your trouble Art. In five years I’ve never had anyone else mention having an issue. The text is very dark grey (one step away from black) so as to be more inviting and less “in yoru face) and the font is 16 pt. You should be able to adjust the color settings on your screen and use cntrl + to make the text bigger!

  4. Wow, nice sales pitch. Interesting approach. Good way to try and obtain trust in the consumer. This is still a pyramid schemez in my book. Ive been involved with MANY of these companies, they’re all the same. Love how you say this product is unlike any other MLM product thus not making it just another ‘pyramid scheme’, then pretty much avoid talking about the product, lol. I’ve known a few guys on a corporate level for these comoanies. Even for companies with GREAT PRODUCT, like Cutco knives, and let me tell you, they ALL say the same exact thing. These companies make almost ALL their money off their ’employees” friends and family.

    Just be sure to make an informed decision before you get into any of this. Especially supplements. Everyone and their brother in wants in the supplement business because there are so many gullible people out there that are VERY easy to take advantage of. Good luck!

    • Thanks for your 2 cents Ryan. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. A few things though. This particular post doesn’t talk about the product, no. That is b/c it is answer a question I was asked. However, if you look around my website. 95% (or more) of the posts / pages that talk about Thrive talk about the food, not the business opportunity. I sell 10-20x in product volume what I do in “new consultant starter kits.” I like it that way! This type of business (MLM) isn’t for everyone. By the legal definition, this is not a pyramid scheme though I understand that many simply think MLM = pyramid scheme period. That is up to how you define it. I’m using the legal definition here. Also, I personally know the owners of this particular company very well and I can tell you that they are far from rich. They invest nearly everything they earn back into the company, consultants and employees. One still lives in a small townhome with his 5 kids. They aren’t out to get rich, but truly to help people. Also, Thrive Life doesn’t sell any supplements at all. They sell food and emergency supplies. That’s it. Nothing fishy. No crazy claims. You may have been thinking about Thrive Le-vel. Have a great weekend!

    • Ryan, Not only is this not a pyramid scheme… there is nothing illegal or unethical about network marketing. It’s grown up as an industry and become very professional and viable… easily one of the very best business opportunities on the planet. Check out Network Marketing Pros or what Robert Kiyosaki and other experts have to say about it. This is not a subject which can be debated. And frankly, your opinion of what it is doesn’t matter. Truth is truth. Sadly, you and others like you perpetuate negative and untrue perspectives which serve to hurt others (unintentionally, I’m sure). No disrespect intended, but you’re far too ignorant to be so opinionated. My advice is to either learn more… or don’t say anything at all.

  5. Pyramid scheme: You sign up other members and make a commission off their sales. That is a pyramid scheme. MLM no matter how you spin it is a pyramid scheme. There is nothing wrong with that but don’t mislead yourself or others into thinking there is a difference.

    • I guess that all depends on your definition of “pyramid scheme.” The legal definition is one where eventually the beneficiaries outgrown the contributors so there is no opportunity for long term success and is completely illegal. I am trying to clarify that Thrive Life does NOT fall into that category at all. But if you go by your definition of signing up others and making commission on what they sell, then yes, it is.

      • Corporate America is a pyramid scheme. Network Marketing is taught in business schools across the country including Ivy League colleges as a viable business model. Normally those who say its a scheme are the ones who wanted a free ticket to riches and glory but didn’t want to do the work to build the business, just like any other regular business. People network market all the time without getting paid a dime for it.

      • I was hired as a paralegal to work for a law firm. I bill my time to clients and in return get a salary. The difference between what I bill and my salary the law firm keeps. It’s not a pyramid scheme, but sounds similar. Someone is getting paid off my efforts.

        However, the law firm got the clients, paid for the marketing, paid for the office space and all that goes with running a business.

        I do not see much difference with this consultant recruiting, training and supporting their team than the law firm hiring me, training me and supporting me and earning something from my efforts for their efforts.

        Don’t join if you don’t like it. Simple solution.

    • I agree with Eric. What does that even mean? The guy at the top outgrows the people working for him/her????? That’s a shady definition, sorry.

      • Sorry, I could have been clearer. What I mean is that there are more people trying to sell than there are wanting to purchase. There isn’t a real product so you can’t build a customer base. It is based on lies. It collapses. In the case of Thrive Life, that isn’t possible b/c of the way it is structured. There is a real (very high quality product) and the vast majority of sales to the public are simply to customers. No on HAS to become a consultant to get the lowest price.

    • Read carefully, Eric. There is a legal definition that distinguishes pyramid schemes from legal direct sales and MLM. Your definition is not correct.
      It’s exhausting explaining this to people.

  6. I’ve been trying to find out what’s in Thrive for medical reasons. I’ve been asked to try it and recommend it. I can’t do that without first knowing what’s in the product. I, and many of my friends, have medical conditions that make it imperative to know what it is we are taking. Either because of the conditions themselves or because of possible interactions with meds we may take. I’ve been to the Le-Vel site several times and also did a search on the internet and I can’t find info anywhere about what’s in it, other than the generic list of “Vitamins, Minerals, Plant Extracts, Anti-Oxidants, Enzymes, Pro-Biotics, and Amino Acids”. That is not enough information to make an informed choice. Please, can you direct me in the right direction?

        • No problem! Send me your email and I will send it to you….they are pdf documents and it won’t let me attach them here. 🙂

          • Sorry Carla. That was me (Misty) saying thanks, not Maria. I actually did email her a link to the price list when she first commented, but never heard back. I just wanted you to know I appreciate you reaching out to my readers and helping me out!

    • Misty and Carla, Maria is confusing this with Thrive by Le-Vel, they do supplements. Maria if you’re receiving the replies via email, this is a completely different company and product. It’s THRIVE Foods and consists of freeze-dried food and emergency preparedness items. To be honest I’m starting to hate the name because of all the products, books, companies named Thrive.

  7. Thanks for doing this series. Your answers are clear and helpful.
    I’ve been in MLM’s in the past, but only to buy product at a discount. Even then, product is usually too high priced. I also dislike the emphasis on recruiting others. Sure, some may buy product or even become distributors, but the numbers game puts me off. Plus, it always rubbed me the wrong way when conference calls were heavily promoted, and they often featured somebody who’d just come back from a Hawaiian vacation, seemingly to flaunt the possibilities for success.

    • Kim, I agree with what you have said about Direct sales in general. However, this is a post about Thrive Life, not Thrive Le-Vel.


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