Bonvera Comprehensive Review: Products, Pricing, & Compensation Plan
Update 5/2018: Bonvera has made some massive changes to nearly every part of their business since this review was last updated. Here is a new, up-to-date review of the company. https://medium.com/@HomeBasedReviews/bonvera-review-a-second-look-10a38351f1a0
Update 6/2017: It has been over a year since I’ve taken a look at what Bonvera is doing, so I decided to take another look. There seems to have been some major changes on the product/service offerings and overall company messaging. From what I’m seeing, these changes are positive and show a path that will set the company apart from other companies and specifically the network marketing industry.
One of the changes, and I think the biggest change, is the “Collaborative Commerce” focus. Bonvera has put a massive focus on finding “exceptional emerging companies” and giving them a nationwide presence in the most efficient manner possible. Basically, they’re partnering with small and medium businesses and moving those companies’ products through Bonvera’s network of associates nationwide. The benefit for these companies is that they get access to thousands of people who earn money by driving sales of the emerging businesses’ products and services and the businesses don’t pay for that access, but instead share a portion of the resulting sales revenue with Bonvera. From the handful of examples I looked at, the percentage going back to the Bonvera community is MUCH higher on average than the prodcut examples I looked at over a year ago when the company launched (detailed below). Overall, this seems like a major positive for the company. It creates a great win-win situation for the small businesses and the Bonvera Associates.
My original opinion of the company is positive, even though it had some issues. The company has improved tremendously since the original review. I look forward to seeing how well they develop their Collaborative Commerce platform.
Bonvera popped up on my radar during its pre-launch phase. It seemed interesting, so I decided to do my own independent research into the business and opportunity. This post is my review of what I’ve found so far. I will update it periodically as new information comes out. For now, this review covers Bonvera’s products, pricing, and compensation plan. At the end of the post I will provide my opinion on the company based on my research and findings. I will make sure to note any edits or changes of opinion. TL;DR? Skip to my conclusion on the company.
Bonvera is a new company that focuses on moving various household, personal care, and food & beverage products through a network marketing type structure. As with any business type, there are good and bad apples within network marketing/mlm. The purpose of this post will be to determine if Bonvera is a good, legitimate network marketing company, or if it should be avoided. This is not a post weighing into the network marketing model as a whole. Full disclosure: I believe network marketing can be/is a viable model, but feel that many companies fail to provide a decent, fair opportunity for participants. We’ll see if Bonvera is one of the many or if it is an outlier (which would be a good thing).
Bonvera’s Product Offering
Bonvera’s product offering can be broken down into 3 categories: proprietary “private label” products, name brand goods, and partner stores.
Private Label Products
As of this writing, there seems to be four private label products available called Phyzix: two energy drink flavors (tropical and acai) and two meal replacement bar flavors (chocolate and vanilla with Greek yogurt). The energy drinks are sold in 24 pack cases for $60.00 with 44 BV. (I’ll explain BV [Business Volume] in the compensation plan portion of the article). The bars are sold in boxes of 30 for $60.00 with 44BV. That breaks down to $2.50 per drink and $2.00 per bar.
Name Brand Products
There are a number of products available from familiar brands for sale through Bonvera. From the numbers I’ve seen, the pricing is competitive when compared to other large e-commerce sites for the exact same product. Some of the brands that were available at the time of this review include: Jack Links Jerky, Tide, Alo, Old Spice, Xyience Energy Drinks, Oh Yeah! Nutrition, Glade, Shout, Redline, Ziploc, Windex, Drano, Mrs. Meyers, Pledge, Crest, and many others.
The BV varied on each particular product. From the sampling I was able to obtain, the BV to Dollar ratio ranged from 0.2BV per dollar to 0.7BV per dollar. A random sampling of 22 different products yielded an average BV to Dollar ratio of 0.4 BV to $1.
Partner Store Products
Partner stores are other e-commerce websites that are connected to Bonvera’s. When a customer or associate of Bonvera wants to shop for their products, they are redirected to the partner store website. The purchases are tracked and BV is passed back to Bonvera’s system for commissions and bonuses.
At the time of this writing, I was only able to check out the products and pricing through one partner store. The store carried three main product lines — pet treats, accessories, and food, dollar store items, and groceries. There were thousands of products available. Here’s a list of some that I found interesting: Best Breed, Diamond, Premium Edge, On The Border, Nature’s Bakery, Lays, Starburts, Spitz Sunflower Seeds, Malt-o-Meal brand cereal, various jerky and coffee brands, Colgate, Dove, Rigley’s, bread, Halls, Airwick, etc. Over 500 items are priced at $1. Overall, the pricing seemed very competitive. I would like to do an in-depth review of pricing in the future.
From a random sampling of over 20 products, I found that the BV to dollar ratio ranged from 0.12 BV per dollar to 0.45 BV per dollar. On $1 items, the BV was always 0.25. The average of the sampling I took is 0.29 BV per dollar. Overall, I’m quite impressed with the amount of BV given from 3rd party partner stores.
Bonvera’s Compensation Plan
Bonvera’s compensation plan pays on both sales to non-participants (retail sales) and the sales generated by a team of people called Associates. I’ll dive into the retail sales portion later.
To determine the bonuses based on the team sales, Bonvera uses (or created) a unilevel-style compensation plan. I say unilevel-style because it has some significant differences from any other unilevel type (or any other type of compensation plan in general) that I’ve seen. Even though I’m very familiar with various compensation plan types, this one took me a moment to understand because of a few unique aspects to it that I had not encountered before.
Before diving in, I want to mention a quick thought I had on the compensation plan once I understood it. The plan seems to be designed to overcome one of the biggest shortfalls in network marketing: lack of true leverage through team work. Through my research, I found that The Sheffield Group, respected compensation plan consultants, helped design the compensation plan. It looks like they built it to help make sure that the newest, least skilled Associate receives individual help and support from experienced associates through building depth (adding people to the new Associate’s sales team with, for, and through them) while still making sure that those that are performing bonus based on their effort. As I dive into the different aspects of the compensation plan, I’ll explain this in more detail.
In order to qualify for commissions all Bonvera associates must be active. An Associate is active if they have 100 Personal Business Volume (PBV), which is the total Business Volume (BV) resulting from that Associate’s retail, Smart Shopper, and personal purchases.
Additionally, an Associate must meet one of the following customer (non-participant) sales requirements to qualify for bonuses on group sales volume. There is a 12-month grace period for new Associates to meet this requirement.
1. $75 per month.
2. Maintain 5 individual non-participant retail customers per month.
3. Two (2) Smart Shoppers with a total minimum of $50 per month.
It’s important to note that personal purchases by Associates are not required to achieve active status. Active status can be achieved through customer volume alone. Based on the product pricing and the fact that many people already buy the exact brands and products offered, active status should be easily achieved and maintained through retail and Smart Shopper sales.
Beginning Retail Commissions — 1st way to earn income
When products are sold to customers, the Associate makes the difference between wholesale and retail pricing plus a bonus on the BV on the product. Bonvera will drop-ship the product to the customer and the associate will get paid a commission at the end of the month equal to the difference between the retail and wholesale price of the product(s) sold plus a minimum of 5% on the BV generated through the sales. The price difference in addition to the bonus paid on the BV can yield commissions as high as 30% depending on the particular product(s) bought by the customer.
Smart Shopper Program — 2nd way to earn income
A customer may become a Smart Shopper by paying a $19.95 yearly membership fee. Or, they can get the fee waived and become a Smart Shopper for free by enrolling with a replenishment order. Smart Shoppers get the same wholesale pricing (up to 20% off retail on private label products) as Associates.
The Associate that enrolls a Smart Shopper will receive a commission equal to 5–20% on any BV that the Smart Shopper generates through their purchases. Customer and Smart Shopper commissions arepaid out through the “Enhanced Commissions on PBV” detailed directly below.
Enhanced Commissions on PBV — 3rd way to earn income
Personal Bonus Volume that an Associate generates (through personal, customer, and smart shopper purchases) in a given month will be paid out according to the following commission schedule:
100–199 PBV → 5%
200–499 PBV → 10%
500–999 PBV → 15%
>1000 PBV → 20%
Enroller Bonuses — 4th way to earn income
When an Associate personally enrolls a new Associate, the sponsoring Associate is the Direct Enroller of the new Associate (E1). As a Direct Enroller, the Associate will earn a bonus equal to 5–8% (depending on rank) of the BV on all of the sponsored Associates (E1) personal purchases.
Unilevel Bonuses — 5th way to earn income
This is where things get a little interesting compared to traditional unilevel plans.
First, let me explain how a traditional unilevel pay structure works. Traditional unilevel plans place every personally enrolled Associate on Level 1. Associates personally enrolled by Level 1 Associates are placed on Level 2. Associates personally enrolled by Level 2 Associates are placed on Level 3. And so on.
Bonuses are paid based on a percentage of the BV generated on a given level. An Associates rank will typically determine how many levels they are paid on and at what bonus percentage.
In a traditional unilevel, everyone in a given Associate’s team is directly linked back to personally enrolled Associates. In other words, an Associate’s team begins to grow only through their individual work. Additionally, every single personally enrolled Associate is placed on the enrolling Associates first level. Two large problems arise from this arrangement: First, if a new associate doesn’t have the confidence or competence to begin building a sales organization, they will see no progress, make little to no income, and eventually lose belief and quit. The second problem is related to those Associates that DO posses the confidence and competence to build a sales organization. The problem arises when they personally enroll many other Associates. Because each of these new Associates are placed in a new “team”, many of them will likely go without individual coaching and help due to the enrolling Associate’s time being spread thin. In practice, those Associates languishing with the first problem are the least likely to get help from competent Associates because the competent Associates are likely spending their limited time with those that are already getting some results. Overall, these two problems not only plague traditional unilevel plans, but virtually every network marketing company in existence, regardless of their chosen bonus structure.
Bonvera’s unilevel bonus structure is unique in the industry, from what I’ve seen, because it is structured to fix the above problems.
Before I can adequately explain how Bonvera’s plan works, you’ll need a couple definitions directly from the Bonvera Compensation Plan:
“Bonvera tracks two different relationships among its Associates:
Enroller: An existing Associate of any rank that first explains the Bonvera product offering or business opportunity to a potential new Smart Shopper or Associate, and subsequently helps that person enroll as a Smart Shopper or Associate.
Placement Sponsor: An Associate of any rank who is immediately upline from a new or existing Associate, and is generally responsible for the day-to-day coaching, encouragement, and assistance of the Associates immediately below them.
The Enroller and the Placement Sponsor of a new Associate can be the same person, though they do not have to be.”
In layman’s terms, what this means is that an Associate may enroll a new Associate and place them below and into the team of an existing Associate. Just this change solves both problems listed above. First, it allows an Associate that lacks confidence and/or competence to see growth and progress in their team. It will also help them start to bonus according to the unilevel bonus chart (shown and explained below). Second, it allows the confident and competent Associate to focus in a given team (or leg) by directly enrolling new Associates and placing them in depth below existing Associates, thereby creating a team that works together and can leverage each other’s strengths and make up for each other’s weaknesses. This is in large contrast to placing each directly enrolled Associate in separate teams (or legs) thereby placing them in competition with each other and diluting the leverage and help of the enrolling Associate. This is an interesting and exciting paradigm shift for the network marketing profession.
Here is a graphic explaining the different Associate ranks, the qualifications for each rank, the bonuses paid on each level, and how many levels an Associate is qualified to be paid on.
Here is a visual example to help you understand how levels work:
Leadership Depth Bonuses — 6th way to earn income
Once an Associate reaches the rank of Senior Builder, they are eligible to earn a leadership depth bonus. This is a bonus paid on all legs beginning at Level 5 and continues into unlimited depth unless interrupted by another Sr. Builder or higher rank Associate on a given leg.
The bonus is a stair-step/bracket bonus based on the differential between the Associate and downline associates at a given level. See the chart above for the bonuses at each rank and the differential based on downline associate ranks.
Personal Leader Generation Bonus & Executive Generation Bonuses — 7th & 8th way to earn income
Once an Associate reaches the rank of Executive, they are eligible to earn two additional bonuses; The Personal Leader Generation and Executive Generation bonuses. The Personal Leader Generation bonus is a 2% bonus on all BV of an Executive or higher’s entire downline organization through unlimited depth that has not yet qualified as an Executive. If another Executive or higher rank is found in the downline, the 2% Personal Leader Generation bonus ends, but it is replaced by a 3% BV Generation 1 bonus beginning on that Executive or higher rank Associate’s entire organizational volume down to the second Executive or higher rank Associate in that leg. That is defined as the first (1st) Generation.
Once an Associate reaches the rank of Senior Executive, in addition to the Personal Leader Generation and Generation 1 Bonuses, they are now eligible to receive a second generation bonus of 3% on all Executive or high rank Associates. The Generation 2 bonus will be earned on the entire second generation Associate’s group volume down to the next Executive or higher rank person in a particular leg.
Upon reaching the rank of Ambassador, an Associate is now eligible to receive a third Generation Bonus equal to 2% in addition to the earlier bonuses.
At Presidential Ambassador, an Associate is eligible to receive, in addition to their personal Leader Generation Bonus and Generation 1, 2, and 3 bonuses, a fourth Generation Bonus of 2%.
Here’s a chart showing the qualifications for Executive and Ambassador ranks.
National Bonus Pool — 9th way to earn income
When an associate reaches the rank of Senior Director, they qualify for a share in the National Bonus Pool. They will receive a share in the pool each month they maintain the “Paid-As” rank of Senior Director or higher.
The National Bonus Pool is made up of 4% of total company BV and is split into three smaller pools. The amount in the pool is then equally divided by the number of shares in the pool. Here’s how the pools are split up:
-Sr. Directors and above: 1.75% of total company BV
-Professionals and above: 1.25% of total company BV
-Senior Professionals and above: 1% of total company BV
Note: No more than 40% of any National Bonus Pool may be earned by one Associate. In the event this cap is activated, or if no one qualifies for a particular pool, the unredeemed funds in that pool will be equally distributed into all lower rank pools. If no one qualifies for any of the Pools, all of the funds in each pool will roll forward in their respective pools of origin to the next month.
At the end of the day I use three factors when determining whether I believe a network marketing company is worthy of mine or anyone else’s time.
1. Are the products retailable (competitive pricing, market demand) and does the company place a strong focus on retail sales?
2. Is the compensation plan fair and balanced? Does it create any perverse incentives?
3. Is it likely that a new person in the network marketing profession can participate in the company and earn a profit in a reasonable amount of time with a reasonable amount of effort?
Are the products retailable?
Bonvera is the first company I’ve reviewed where the vast majority of the products for sale are literally the exact same products that big box stores sell at competitive prices. I say competitive because they’re in the same range as offerings from competing stores. Some seem to be bit less and some seem to be a bit more. It’s hard to nail pricing comparisons down perfectly since different big brick-and-mortar stores in different locations price the same products differently. E-commerce comparisons are just as futile since pricing changes often and there are tons of different e-commerce companies.
Regarding the store brand (Phyzix) products, they seem to be fairly priced at $2.50 each. The bars are at a very competitive $2.00 each. Not the most expensive in the market by a long ways, especially when compared to other energy drinks and bars offered by other network marketing companies. They are also not the lowest price. Overall, the Phyzix products should be retailable.
My verdict: Yes, the products offered from Bonvera are retailable.
Does the company place a strong focus on retail sales?
This is a very important question. One of the main things that determines whether a company is healthy in the network marketing profession is its focus on retail. Bonvera surprised me with its retail customer requirements to get paid on team volume. Very, very few companies in network marketing have a website with a hard-coded retail sales requirement that cannot easily be gamed. Bonvera is one of the exceptions in this regard.
Secondly, it was very refreshing to not see any personal purchase requirements anywhere in the compensation plan. If you’re not familiar, a personal purchase requirement would be something like a rule stating that an Associate MUST have an autoship of a certain dollar amount to be qualified for commissions. That is not the case with Bonvera. There are personal volume requirements, but they can be met with customer purchases alone. That, coupled with the fact that an Associate must have customer sales to get paid, means that there will be very little to no incentive for an Associate to purchase product solely to qualify for bonuses. The purchases an Associate makes will be because they want to consume the product themselves and/or use some for sampling to customers.
My verdict: Yes, Bonvera places a strong focus (and requirement) on non-participant retail sales.
Is the compensation plan fairly balanced? Does it create any perverse incentives?
Given that the plan has some unique features to it, time will tell how fair it is. Uni-level plans are traditionally width based, not depth based. With the stair-step added in for depth based commissions, every level in the plan should be paid fairly for their effort and responsibility. The mid and top level bonuses (Leadership Depth, National Bonus Pools, and Leader Generation bonuses) should fairly compensate the bigger sales leaders in the organization. Big leaders need to be fairly compensated or they will move elsewhere. The biggest unknown is with the new style uni-level plan for those in the middle. We will have to see how it plays out. When an income disclosure statement comes out after they have been around long enough to gather the data, we will review this section. My gut feeling is that it will work well.
My verdict: Leaning toward yes. Theoretically the plan looks very balanced. Based on some back-of-the-hand models I ran, it seems good. Double back here after a year or so of using the plan in practice and I’ll have an update based on actual, real world, data from an income disclosure statement. I don’t see any perverse incentives in the plan.
Is it likely that a new person in the network marketing profession can participate in the company and earn a profit in a reasonable amount of time with a reasonable amount of effort?
This one is much more of a personal opinion answer. The way I form my opinion on this one is if I feel like an average person from a non-sales background could find people to be customers and associates without a large learning curve. The things that weigh into this answer are product type, selection, and pricing.
With most network marketing companies, the products for sale are usually obscure and/or high-priced compared to similar products sold through traditional retail channels. As a result, many people have to spend a lot of time selling people on the product and business. Bonvera is unique in the sense that the vast majority of the thousands of products that they’re selling are literally the same products and brands people are already spending money on, just available through a different store. Therefore, a new person doesn’t need to sell a prospective customer or associate on the product, but merely the store through which they buy the product. Since the pricing is competitive, this seems like a relatively simple sell. With the option to sign up a retail customer for no cost or a Smart Shopper for $19.95 (or free if a recurring order is set up for a single product), it gives Associates a great way to gain customers sales for people willing to give the store a shot. There’s no risk involved with the products, as they are familiar brands and products to the general population already. This should generate a good amount of customer sales and allow the Associate to earn a modest income with a bit of effort in a reasonable amount of time.
My verdict: Yes, I believe a new Associate has a high probability of earning a supplemental income if they simply extend some effort (share Bonvera with people) and give it an adult time frame to learn the ropes.
I feel comfortable giving Bonvera my stamp of approval. If anything changes as time goes on, I will add it to my review and adjust my opinions accordingly. For now, Bonvera looks like a solid network marketing opportunity.