Mary Kay Ash is an American business woman and creator of Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc. She is credited for opening up the business world for women like no one ever before. The innovative, optimistic and charismatic woman fought the barriers of the male-dominated society and built a business that turned out to be her biggest achievement.
Ash was born on 12th May 1918 in Hot Wells, Texas. She got her initial schooling from Reagan High School and graduated from there in 1934. She married very young at the age of only 17 however the marriage did not work and the couple got divorced. Ash started working for a company called Stanley Home Products. She won the title ‘Queen of Sales’ and was made the top Sales Producer. She was very disappointed and frustrated when she didn’t receive the importance she deserved. Men who were less talented than her were given preference over her. She then joined a company called World Gift Co. in 1952 where she showed her talents as a business woman by extending the firm’s distribution to 43 states. She even gained a position in the board of directors however even here she felt that her comments and suggestions were often ignored by men. After getting passed over for a promotion, she decided to retire and left her job in 1962.
She decided to write a book that would help women wanting to do business. This idea led to a business plan that she had always wanted to execute. In 1963 she founded Mary Kay Cosmetics with an initial capital of $5000. The business prospered soon especially after her interview at CBS in the show ’60 Minutes’ in 1979. The sales people showed the women how to use the cosmetics to make them look better, a technique that was truly unique as claimed by Ash. Within the first few months her sales had peaked to $34,000 and her annual income was $800,000. Some of the famous statements used by Mary Kay Ash to encourage her consultants included ‘I created this company for you’, ‘At Mary Kay you are in business for yourself, but not by yourself’ and ‘Fake it till you make it’. She also went as far as gifting her top consultants with diamond jewelry, elite vacations and even cars. This strategy was definitely a successful one and Ash became a millionaire taking the company public in 1968. By the 80s her sales had reached $324 million. When the shareholders began questioning the giveaways such as the ‘frivolous pink cars’ Ash knew she had no choice as she could not stop this strategy. Thus she took the company private again in 1985 which was an intelligent move.
Currently Mary Kay Cosmetics employs over 500,000 consultants all over the world and the company generates more than $2 billion of sales per annum. Mary Kay Cosmetics is the only firm that has been mentioned in Fortune magazine in their ‘100 Best Companies to Work for in America’ and Ash is the sole business woman in the Forbes list of ‘Greatest Business Stories of All Time’.
She was actively involved in all the business affairs of her company till her death in November 2001.