Juicy Rhino is the creator of ‘Ownership Motivation’; an Instagram meme page that satirizes motivational marketing memes with its own brand of anti-industry messaging.
He is also the producer of the Juicy Rhino podcast, a 7 episode series guiding listeners through the seedy underbelly of the direct marketing industry, and detailing the spread of ‘the business’ within his home city of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
We asked him why he started the ‘Ownership Motivation’ meme page, what he learned about ‘the business’ during the production of the Juicy Rhino podcast, and how we can leave a lasting online impact about the realities of the direct marketing industry.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST INTERACTION WITH ‘THE BUSINESS’?
My wife had one of these fake marketing companies move into her office share and totally take the place over. But nobody could figure out what they actually did. So I spent some time researching, and every time I answered one question I seemed to find ten more. I was a year into my podcast before I even realized that I’d worked for one of these sham companies for a couple of days ten years ago.
WHAT WAS IT ABOUT ‘THE BUSINESS’ THAT MADE YOU WANT TO DEDICATE SO MUCH OF YOUR TIME AND ENERGY TOWARDS IT?
Oh man. It’s such a great mix of funny, sad, weird, depressing, and surreal. I love that it’s so super secretive, yet happens out in the public and nobody knows about it. Also, hearing from so many people over my meme page made it even more interesting to keep going. I always have fascinating stories in my inbox to look forward to.
WHY DID YOU CREATE THE ‘OWNERSHIP MOTIVATION’ INSTAGRAM MEME PAGE, AND HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT BUILDING ITS ONLINE FOLLOWING?
I wanted to make an IG account just to follow some of these businesses and observe their life cycles. I wanted to see how long they lasted, how many people were actually employed there, and where people got moved to. Obviously my feed was nothing but silly motivational memes that these companies post. So at a certain point I just decided to start posting my own to make fun of them. Then I started getting more and more people following me. Some were former members of the business, but lots were current members, and they enjoyed being able to read something critical and humorous in their few quiet moments.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BEST MESSAGES YOU’VE GOTTEN THROUGH INSTAGRAM, EITHER FROM PEOPLE WHO’VE LEFT THE BUSINESS OR OWNERS ANGRY AT YOU FOR SPEAKING OUT AGAINST IT?
Hahahaha… I love all those kinds of messages equally. Honestly, it’s extremely rare that anyone bothers sending me a message to defend the business. When they do, it’s always the same… you’re a loser failure who couldn’t hack it. It’s impossible for them to accept the truth; I’m a bored stoner who thinks they’re incredibly hilarious. But like clockwork, I wait a year and they’re gone from the business too.
I think my favorite message I ever got — and one I couldn’t include in the podcast because I didn’t get her interview in time — was from a woman who’s ‘owner’ had a successful wife, kids, and a nice house. But his wife always made more money than he did, and he was eager to show that he could be the breadwinner, so he convinced his family to sell their house and her to leave her great career so he could move around to do direct sales recruiting. At a certain point, he’d blown through all their money and she left him. Then he immediately married his admin and got her pregnant. Now he’s a lifer.
Join Juicy Rhino in creating excitement by following him on Instagram
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO DEVELOP THE JUICY RHINO PODCAST?
I actually started the podcast before I started the meme page. Per my wife’s suggestion, I’d been looking into that company in her office, and that company led to another fake looking company, and another one after that. After a couple of months of researching and interviewing people just for my own curiosity, I decided it’d make a great podcast so I kept working on it until I felt I had found some acceptable answers.
FOR THOSE UNFAMILIAR WITH HIM, WHO IS DALE VANDERBURKE?
Dale Vanderburke is a weed-smoking, former medical guinea pig who spent 10 years working as the giant rat in his neighborhood Chuck E. Cheese. But all that changed when he saw a job ad for an ‘entry level marketing manager’. So he applied, and learned that in as little as one year, he could become the jet-setting CEO of his own corporate marketing firm.
Oh yeah, there is no Dale Vanderburke. He was the name I put on the shittiest resume I could write, just to see if he’d be invited in for an interview.
WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE IN PLANNING AND DEVELOPING THE PODCAST?
Honestly, not much. I had no idea where it was going when it started, and several times along the way I had to change what I thought was the narrative’s destination. When I started, I assumed I would follow this one office as it opened and closed. But it vanished so quickly that I didn’t have enough time to build much of a story out of it, and the same thing kept happening. So then the narrative came to be more about how I was going to get answers to these questions when nobody wanted to talk to me.
WHAT WAS THE GREATEST CHALLENGE YOU FACED IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PODCAST?
Getting motherfuckers to talk to me! Before I had the JuicyRhino IG, I was just going in and talking to these offices or talking to reps in the field. They’re so super secretive, and they BS you constantly, so I felt like I couldn’t get any answers from them. I’d hit up former employees, but they’d be intimidated or creeped out by the Devilcorp world and would refuse to talk to me. So it was weird… I couldn’t talk to anyone inside of it, and once they left they didn’t want to talk about it either for different reasons. So it took a year of digging before I actually found someone willing to talk to me.
EQUIP Marketing Solutions, a Smart Circle sales office located in Chattanooga, TN that has since closed, is the first of many failed offices discussed in the Juicy Rhino podcast
WHAT WAS GOING THROUGH YOUR HEAD WHEN THE OWNERS YOU WERE INTERVIEWING WERE COMPLETELY AVOIDING YOUR QUESTIONS, OR ACTIVELY TRYING TO ESCAPE BEING INTERVIEWED?
My first thought was that they knew they were scamming people and wanted to avoid any attention. But I think it might be more complicated than that… it’s more like they’re scamming themselves but can’t consciously admit it to themselves. So they talk to you as if you’re that little voice in their head who knows it’s all bullshit, and they’re trying to quiet you or misdirect you with scripted answers. The most painful thing one of these people can realize is that they’ve been tricked, and they construct this force field of denial around themselves.
HOW DID SALES REPS REACT TO YOU WHEN YOU APPROACHED THEM AND BEGAN QUESTIONING THEM? DID THEIR REACTIONS SURPRISE YOU AT ALL?
Generally speaking, most of the reps were super new because they were in a constant state of turnover. So most of them had no idea what their company was, and were grateful for some basic information. But reps on road trips were different. They were all-in. Those conversations were awesome and hilarious because they were so uncomfortable having to talk about the business to someone outside of it. They’d always try and lie and say they didn’t know what I was talking about, then begrudgingly admit to it.
It was so painful to make them stand there and talk to me, and even that was hilariously ironic to me, because normally they’re the people aggressively pursuing other shoppers and forcing them into awkward conversations. But once you know about the business, the last thing they want to do is stand there and talk to you. But they have no choice. God, I can’t wait for this pandemic to end so I can get back to having those painfully awkward conversations.
WHAT STANDS OUT TO YOU AS THE MOST OUTRAGEOUS ACCOUNT OF ‘THE BUSINESS’ FROM SOMEONE THAT HAS SINCE LEFT?
Oh man, there are so many. From my podcast, the idea that Chase, an owner for 3 years, would starve himself all day as a form of motivation. He’d only drink monster energy until after work so he didn’t waste money on non-essentials as he was trying to stay afloat as an owner. That’s bonkers to me… that on one hand he’s being told he’s a huge success in the business, and on the other hand he’s being told his only option is to starve himself.
So he does, and he fails anyways. Why? Because he couldn’t recruit enough.
Well, it’s perfectly goddamned logical to me why a guy who is forced to starve himself wouldn’t be successful at recruiting others to follow his path. But that’s the really evil thing about the business… you have to lie to yourself and your family and everyone else about being happy while they’re slowly bleeding you to death.
WHAT DID THE PODCAST TEACH YOU ABOUT THE BUSINESS THAT YOU DIDN’T ALREADY KNOW?
Everything! I honestly didn’t know shit about the business when I started. I love getting obsessed with obscure topics and researching the shit out of them, and the business didn’t disappoint.
WHAT WERE YOU HOPING TO ACHIEVE WITH THE PODCAST?
When I started it, my goal was to entertain myself and answer some questions. But as it evolved, I felt like my goal began to have more to do with protecting my city from this scam. It’s such a big scam, and so many people are involved, unwittingly or not, and to tell the whole story in a definitive way would probably be impossible. But I figured I could tell the story of the business here in my small hometown pretty thoroughly. In doing that, I felt like I could make it clear that, at least here in this city, they have a failure rate of 100 percent.
They love to hide how many of these offices fail, but at least for this one city there’s now a definitive record of it. The next challenge becomes getting those new recruits or reps to give the podcast a chance, but the fact that it’s so specific to the business here in this city I think makes them more receptive to it than if it was about the business in general, made by somebody halfway around the world. I was gratified immensely when a new office opened here in town, and one of the reps they’d relocated here found my podcast and moved back home. She DM’d me about it. That felt pretty good.
WERE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE ANSWERS YOU FOUND TO YOUR QUESTIONS ABOUT ‘THE BUSINESS’? ARE THERE ANY ASPECTS OF ‘THE BUSINESS’ THAT REMAIN UNCLEAR?
That’s an interesting question because I feel like I got some good answers. But ultimately, those were just the answers that Chase was given by those above him. They may be correct, but we all know how much they lie to everyone at every single level of this operation. So it’s entirely possible that the answers he gave me were misinformation he’d been fed by the sociopaths who run the business. As much as I think I know what’s happening, I could still be way off base, because the business is a goddamn Russian nesting doll of deception.
WHY DO YOU THINK ‘THE BUSINESS’ ISN’T MAINSTREAM NEWS?
I think there are several reasons. First, it’s really hard to discover who they are. These front offices open and close and vanish and relocate so often that it’s impossible to keep track of them, and they’re just the window dressing for the greater scam, so it’s really, really hard to figure out what it is. The only people who know what it is are people who are either in it, or have escaped it. Those inside it won’t talk to the people outside, and those who’ve escaped it can be reluctant to talk as well.
To a certain extent, the hugeness of it all is kinda still beyond most folks comprehension. I’ll bet most people have applied for one of these jobs or know someone who did. But nobody knows how they’re connected. One day some TV show or movie or book will come out about the business though and take it into the mainstream. It’s just too fascinating to stay in the shadows forever.
DO YOU BELIEVE THAT ALL MARKETING OFFICES UNDER THE UMBRELLAS OF SMART CIRCLE, CYDCOR, CREDICO AND APPCO ARE INHERENTLY DECEPTIVE AND PREDATORY? OR DO YOU THINK EACH OFFICE SHOULD BE JUDGED ON A CASE-BY-CASE, OWNER-BY-OWNER BASIS?
I guess they should be judged on a case-by-case basis. But after looking so closely at what happens to them here in this city, I’m confident in saying it’s all a scam. If at any point in the last 20 years one of these businesses had lasted in my hometown, maybe I’d feel differently.
I don’t care what your business is — a doctor’s office, a restaurant, a gym — if you open 20 offices in this city in 10 years, and every single one of them fails… something ain’t right. If ‘the business’ can not only sustain that kind of failure, but profit in spite of it, then that tells me that failure is their business… that the employee is actually the customer.
OWNERS IN THE BUSINESS USE ITS LEGALITY AS A DEFENCE OF ITS CORPORATE STRUCTURE AND DECEPTIVE PRACTICES. DO YOU BELIEVE LEGALITY TO BE A VALID DEFENCE?
I think MLMs are legal for now, so they can be an MLM. But they lie about being an MLM and hide their MLM network’s identity from new recruits to prevent them from researching its failure rate. So if they want to use the legality of MLMs as a defense for what they’re doing that’s fine, but they need to be honest and upfront about the fact that they are an MLM.
Instead, they post countless spam job ads about positions for marketing executives with salaries and benefits, but never say MLM, never say direct sales recruiting, and never mention Smart Circle/Cydcor/Credico by name. This is not an accident.
WHAT STEPS CAN READERS TAKE TO RAISE AWARENESS OF ‘THE BUSINESS’?
I really feel like the best thing you can do is join Reddit, find your city or town’s local subreddit, and post about these companies when they pop up in your town. If you write bad reviews on Google or Facebook, they’re flagged and removed. Glassdoor reviews stay up but nobody looks at Glassdoor. But they can’t remove your post from Reddit, and when other members of the community share their experiences with these companies, it will only serve to bolster the claims you make in your original post.
If you post it to your community’s subreddit, that info will pop up on the first page of Google search results when new recruits google the company’s name. This scam is only allowed to operate because people don’t know what it is. They intentionally cover their tracks very well. So spreading some quality information is the only real remedy.
DO YOU PLAN ON RELEASING ANY MORE CONTENT, BEYOND THE JUICYRHINO ‘OWNERSHIP MOTIVATION’ MEME PAGE WHICH YOU REGULARLY UPDATE?
You know, I kinda felt like the podcast met its natural conclusion at the end of those 7 episodes. There’s an endless number of stories to tell about the business, but I feel like I answered all my questions to my satisfaction, so I’m content to move on to my next obsession, whatever that will be.
If you haven’t read Luke St. Germaine’s book Ringing the Bell, you really should! It’s awesome and hilarious. I interviewed him in my podcast, and just because I’m a huge fan of his book, I adapted it as a movie screenplay to see if I could try and get it set up anywhere. For a while, it was with a company who had produced a few movies in the 10 million dollar range. But COVID killed that company, so who knows… hopefully it will find a new home in 2021. That actor Chris Pratt was an owner in the business for a couple of years, so maybe somebody can get him to read it.
Listen to the Juicy Rhino podcast on Spotify
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