Mary Kay Ash was an embodiment of wisdom, strength, courage, and inspiration. Her endowment of a business woman, passion of an entrepreneur, courage to counter the male dominated world, strength to excel and survive in the prejudiced workplace set her as an example to all the women in the world.
Let’s give a quick glance over her timeline of how did she set up her empire.
On May 12 1918, Mary Kathlyn Wagner, alias Mary Kay Ash, was born in Hot Wells, Texas.
Ash’s professional career started in late 1930s with a random offer of selling (door-to-door) 10 sets of encyclopedia for an exchange of a free copy of encyclopedia. Ash could sell those 10 copies just within 2 days. Attaining this difficult sell-target proved that Ash possessed an incredible characteristics of a salesperson.
Joining Stanley Home Products company: Though Ash continued this door-to-door selling to make a living for her family, but at a point, her selling was regarded as shrewd and selfish-intentioned as the product didn’t serve much good to her customers. Exasperated by those criticisms, Ash decided to sell some useful products, and eventually joined a direct-sale company, Stanley Home Products, offering household supplies and cleaning products.
Her talent, hard work, and passion made her visible in her workplace. Her extraordinarily salesperson characteristics bagged her the title of “Queen of Sales” in the beginning years of her career journey.
Mid to late 1940s: Her personal-life crisis demanded more attention from her towards her professional-life in order to satisfy the financial needs of her family. She switched her role from part-time employee to a full-time employee.
The workplace then was not so friendly for a woman. Ash had been facing many obstacles during her professional journey. The male dominated and chauvinistic workplace was amounting to her frustration and anger. As a result, she switched to another company in 1952, World Gift Co, as her instincts refused to be further associated with the previous one.
Here again, her acumen in marketing, sells, and corporate strategies, helped her to gain appreciations and secured a place among the board of directors. At the same time, this company too made her time difficult as a sole woman in C-suite. She had been under incessant exposure of male dominance and xenophobic attitude. She was criticized for thinking like a woman which Ash considered an asset.
Ash’s patience was broken when a man whom she had trained was appointed her supervisor with double salary than hers. This triggered her resignation from the company. She decided to provide guidance and consultation to women about facing the male-demonic workplaces.
The period of her guidance and consultation ignited a thought in her to start her own company. The inspiration came from a skin tanning and softening cream that she had been using for more than 10 years. She bought that formula of skin softening cream for $5000. She hired some manufactures to come up with more such formulas and then bought a small space for her store in Dallas.
Sept 13, 1963: Meanwhile, Ash’s personal life encountered several calamities, such as demise of her husband followed by legal and financial issues. Despite receiving discouragement for opening her company, she adamantly pursued her dream and opened her company finally. The “Mary Kay Cosmetics”, a direct-sale cosmetic company, had been founded on Sept 13, 1963.
Sales of Mary Kay products had been multiplied since then. Within three and a half months, it could record a total of $34,000, and by the end of the first year, it rose to $198,000. A year later, sales had quadrupled to $800,000. By that time, Mary Kay Cosmetics had more than 3,000 sales force consultants.
Within 5 years of rigorous determination and diligent attitude, Mary Kary made its own position among the millionaires. This was the year when the company went public.
The company’s sale rose to $324m. During all these years, when Ash was adored by all her employees on one hand, she was also criticized by company’s stakeholders for her extravagant treatment towards her personnel and sales executives on the other hand. She used to reward her sales executives with luxurious benefits, such as 5-star vacations, diamond jewelry, and her signature gift – the pink Cadillac. The investors and stakeholders started questioning and demanded the rationale behind such act. But Ash kept defending herself saying that these investments are required in order to get good returns. She believed that “People are a company’s greatest asset.”
The pressure from the stakeholder was mounting consistently. Ash was asked to curb her expenditure on the ostentatious gifts to her employees. Ash refused to listen to the stakeholder, and decided to take her company out of public. The ‘Mary Kay’ was her company again, the private company.
By this time, the firm recorded a $1billion mark and was crowned as the largest direct seller of skin-care products in the United States.
Ash founded ‘Mary Kay Charitable Foundation’ dedicated to support cancer research and abolish domestic violence.
1976: Received “Hall of Fame” award from Direct Selling Association.
1980: Received “Golden Plate” award from American Academy of Achievement.
2000: Named the “Most Outstanding Woman in Business in the 20th Century” by Lifetime Television.
2001: “Equal Justice Award” from the Legal Services of North Texas.
Ash authored many best-selling books. Some of the most prominent ones are her autobiography “Mary Kay”, “Miracle Happens”, “You can Have It All”, “Mary Kay on People Management” any many more.
On Nov 22 2001, the queen of cosmetic empire bid adieu to the world leaving behind a legacy of her mark. RIP Mary Kay Ash.
More than 500,000 beauty consultants and over 1.6 million salespeople working over 29 countries, generating dollar 2 billion in sales per year, Mary Kay Cosmetics is still one of the leading cosmetic companies. Mary Kay is serving as chair emeritus having her son Richard Roger in the chairman of the board position.
In Mary Kay’s words about her greatest achievements: “I think the biggest legacy we are going to leave is a whole community of children who believe they can do anything in this world because they watched their mamas do it.”
World will never forget what she did to empower women and elevate their life. Her company was listed among one of the best company to work for.
She used slogans to motivate her employees:
“I created this company for you.”
“At Mary Kay you are in business for yourself, but not by yourself.”
“God didn’t have time to make a nobody. As a result, you can have, or be, anything you want.”
“Fake it till you make it.”
She believed in the golden rule “treat others as you want to be treated” and
operated by the motto “God first, family second and career third.”
Shweta Kumari Sharma
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