Vemma: scam or business opportunity?

I've been asked to participate in a "business venture" by a few friends. They've become employees of Vemma, a Scottsdale-based company that sells a variety of healthy, alternative-ingredient energy drinks.

But Vemma isn't your run-of-the-mill soft drink company.

They have a unique business model that inspires people to "hire" and contract other employees. The more people on your contract, the more money you make based on their sales.

This company has undergone investigation and has been attacked by many of its former employees and experts for being a pyramid scheme, sucking eager investors dry of money and benefiting a few choice individuals.

Despite several strikes against the company, Vemma continues to evade legal prosecution. Their business model, however questionable and disreputable, is airtight.

Moreover, gullible people continue to invest and lose money to this company. So, to the friends who have asked me to invest: Here is the inherent problem with Vemma and your choice.

Let's say that this business is NOT a pyramid scheme. Let's humor the idea that it isn't a scam and you aren't going to lose all your money.

Even if that's true, the fact that this company has been the target of so much negative press should be enough reason alone to avoid it. Do you honestly think that having "Vemma: Soft Drink Investor and Pyramid Scheme Defender" will look promising on your résumé?

There is a difference between risk and irresponsibility. The association with this covert get-rich-quick scam plus the possible economic risk is overwhelmingly obvious to me. It should be for you as well.

Not enough of a reason for you? Let's continue.

Vemma travels the country and inspires the average Joe by emphasizing the success stories of people who make thousands of dollars a week, drive BMWs, and dress like they walked out of a Ralph Lauren catalog — all from selling a drink.

Starstruck college kids, you forget something: These are choice people. Sure, people like this may exist within the franchise. But do you really think that will be you?

Call me a pessimist, but I think energy and time can be better spent with businesses with secure and consistent paychecks.

Sure, run-of-the-mill college student jobs like restaurant hostess, car detailer, barista or ripped denim expert at Hollister aren't the most glamorous or rewarding, but that's what college students do.

We work terrible jobs for average pay through our young adulthood until we graduate and find something better. It's part of the natural order of the American cultural world.

By all means, dream big and work hard. Wake up every morning striving for the big bucks but know the difference between savvy risk and economic irresponsibility. The smart man will know when to bet big and win it all. The intelligent man will know when to walk away from a bad idea.

Reach the column at or follow him at @MorganSukotto

Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.