With tuition fees and youth unemployment at a record high, students are finding alternative ways to make ends meet. Ruth Addicott talks to one student who’s made a career from selling Avon.

WORKING in call centres, delivering pizzas and pole-dancing are just some of the jobs students are turning to in order to top up their loans and cope with the rise in tuition fees. But when you’ve got a 9am lecture and a dissertation to finish, late nights and extra shifts aren’t always satisfactory.

After doing several stints in shops and call centres, Northumbria University business student Ruth Hinds wanted a job where she could be her own boss and choose her own hours.

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So, inspired by her mum, she decided to become an Avon lady.

Ruth, 24, from Durham, started her Avon business six years ago and has been earning a living from it ever since.

“I was looking for a way to earn a bit of extra cash to support my student loan and the rise in tuition fees and I wanted a job that was flexible and I could fit around my studies,” she says.

“My mum is an Avon sales leader so I was familiar with the brand and once I started, I really enjoyed doing it. The main appeal was the hours; if I was working on an assignment I could put it on the backburner and I wasn’t tied to going into work.”

IN the beginning, Ruth put in ten to 15 hours a week, selling makeup and beauty products to students in her halls of residence, before widening her reach and delivering brochures in her local neighbourhood.

“Depending on the hours I put in, I was making between £100 and £200 every three weeks which helped towards my rent and everyday living expenses,” she says.

“All students are worried about the cost of living and rising tuition fees at the moment. It’s not ideal, but you have to work. I know a lot of people who worked in call centres, bars and shops and chang their jobs regularly.”

Having begun as a way of making a bit of extra cash, Ruth didn’t imagine her Avon job would lead to a career.

After graduating in 2009, she got a place on a graduate training scheme doing human resources in Sheffield. She continued to do Avon in her spare time, then in October 2010, quit her job altogether and moved back to Durham. She now runs her Avon business whilst doing a Master’s degree in HR.

“My friends were a bit sceptical at first, but I’ve always wanted my own business, so I decided to give it a go,” she says.

Ruth has expanded her customer base and become an Avon sales leader and now runs the business with her mum. They have 100 sales reps between them and are responsible for recruiting and managing their team.

“I’m good at the computer side and my mum’s more organised with the orders and looking at who needs what. We work alongside each other to recruit our teams of representatives and being able to turn to her when I’ve needed support and advice has been really beneficial.”

What began as a short-term money earner to help Ruth get through university, now pays for her to have her own car and go on holiday (she went away three times last year).

“I think everyone’s familiar with Avon. I never tried to push it on my friends, it sells itself,” she says. “A lot of customers are quite loyal. I was allocated 100 houses when I started and six years later, I’m still covering the same territory.”

“The biggest challenge is making people see that it’s a viable business opportunity and not just something housewives do for a bit of extra cash.

It’s available to everyone, you just have to be self-motivated and have the drive to go out there and do it. It was really valuable for me as a student.

“ With the job market so competitive and youth unemployment at a record high, direct selling such as Avon has become increasingly popular with students as well as mums with young children looking for flexible hours and a chance to be their own boss.

Ruth is currently working a 40 hour week and says her goal for the end of the year is to earn more than £26,000. “Every year I want to increase it, I have a plan and know exactly what I need to do,” she says.

If former unemployed print worker, Debbie Davis, from Sunderland, is anything to go by, she could be on the right track. Back in 2010, Debbie became Avon’s first millionairess.