- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 30, 2001

Debbie Noble, a Creative Memories consultant in Annapolis, says her workshops are much like old-fashioned quilting bees.

"People come together, bring their pictures and work on their albums," says Mrs. Noble, who leads free workshops, in which participants work on their various scrapbook projects, and classes, in which she displays new Creative Memories products. "We often say it's exactly like the quilting thing. You're doing family history, showing each other your pictures, talking about parents, kids, vacations."

Creative Memories and Pampered Chef, two direct-sales companies, seem to have found a niche in the suburbs of America, particularly around here. In just 20 years of existence, Pampered Chef says it has grown to a $580 million company with 60,000 consultants worldwide. Started in 1987, Creative Memories says it has more than 49,000 consultants worldwide.

"I think the Washington, D.C., area is a big one for companies like Creative Memories and Pampered Chef," says Madelyn Sturgeon, a senior director with Creative Memories in Potomac.

"There are all these baby boomers who are growing older, and there is this nostalgia where we think, 'Oh my gosh, we've lived very fast, and we didn't always make the best decisions in our 20s and 30s,' " she says. "Now everyone is having kids, and how are we going to teach our kids the values that are important for them in the future? This area is so fast-paced that people, I think, want to be able to sit down for a few hours and think about their lives and share that with other people for a few hours.

"So no, I'm not surprised Creative Memories and Pampered Chef parties are as big as they are in this area. We like the human, one-to-one contact with other people, even if it's for a few hours once a month or so, and we like to improve our lives and share with others while we're doing it."

Mrs. Noble says she got into Creative Memories because of that and because of her love of pictures.

"I love taking pictures and having them around in an album," she says. "That's on almost everybody's to-do list. It's probably not on top, but it's there. I used to be in computer consulting, but I never in a million years dreamed I'd be running my own home-based business. But after I had done [Creative Memories] for a while and had told everybody I knew about it, a consultant I knew said why not do it as a business. What's the worst thing that could happen to me? It would cost me under $20 to start, and if I made money, great. If I didn't, so what?"

Lisa Fink, a consultant for Pampered Chef, liked the fact that she could be in business for herself and make all the decisions but help was always a phone call away.

"I have complete control over it," Mrs. Fink says. "It can grow or stay stagnant. It depends on your lifestyle and what you want to do with it. People stay with it because of the money and the flexibility. I've been doing it for three years in February, and I love it."

Both Mrs. Noble and Mrs. Fink say they have seen plenty of friendships form just through the workshops and home shows they have conducted, although both say the workshops tend to foster friendships more quickly because the same people frequently come to workshop after workshop.

"I've noticed a lot of people come to the workshops and don't know each other when they get here, but after coming, they start making friends," Mrs. Noble says.

"I've had several become close friends from meeting here and developing business contacts," she says. "I find a lot of moms come here who work full time and can't do it at home because they're too busy and they have to schedule it along with everything else in their lives. They have to do it on a particular night to get it done at all."

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