Mary Kay Ash was a famous American businesswoman and the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc. She started her business with a small investment of 5000$ in 1963, but very soon became one of the most successful business women of her time. Her strategy of the business was based on Christian philosophy. She asked her employees to give preference, first to God, then family and finally to work. She encouraged women to discover their good sides as mother and wives, while simultaneously also succeed in work. She believed in giving recognition to good work to increase company sales. Mary Kay adopted the method of encouraging the employees by rewarding them with prizes on performing well. She used the concept of appraising healthy competitions and believed that this was the only way people could grow individually. She also authored best selling books like, “Mary Kay on People Management” and “You Can Have It All”. Her autobiography, “Mary Kay” sold over million copies and was translated in various languages.
Mary Kay Ash Childhood, Early Life & Career
Mary Kathlyn Wagner, also known as Mary Kay Ash, was born on May 12, 1918 in Hot Wells, Harris County, Texas. She was the daughter of Edward Alexander and Lula Vember Hastings Wagner. Her childhood experiences shaped the future of this visionary woman of American history. Due to the ill health of her father, her mother worked for 14 hours a day at a local food restaurant to take care of the family, while Mary Kay looked after her father along with studying in Reagan High School in Houston. Her mother always fed young Mary with “you can do it” spirit. Mary Kay graduated in 1934 and went to attend University of Houston. She was a competitive student and did well in her public speaking and debates. She married Ben Rogers when she was only 17 and soon had three children. While her husband went to serve in World War II, she took the job of direct selling of books. Due to her amazing marketing skills, she earned an amazing 25,000$ in just six months. While Mary Kay was enjoying her professional success, things at the personal front weren’t that smooth. Soon after the return of her husband from World War II, the two separated.
After her divorce, Mary Kay took up a job with Stanley Home Products, a direct sales firm. She became very successful in selling home care products but didn’t get due recognition for her work. Neither did her supervisors praise her nor did they increase her earnings. As such, after working very hard for 25 years in corporate sales, she resigned from the post of national training director when a man trained by her was promoted over her and also given double salary. She then learned a very important lesson of her life that men could not believe that a woman could succeed in business. Mary Kay turned her attention to writing a book, which eventually changed the course of her life and became a plan for her dream company that had innovative marketing plan for women. As such, in 1963, with an investment of 5000$, Mary Kay and her second husband started the company, Mary Kay Cosmetics. Before the company could open its operational storefront in Dallas, her second husband suddenly died. Her twenty year old son, Richard Rogers joined her as the company’s financial official. They opened a 500 sq. feet store in Dallas, Texas. It was a direct selling cosmetic company and initially had nine independent sales representatives or beauty consultants. In the first year of operation, they made a staggering profit of $200,000.
Later life and Awards
In the span of two years, Mary Kay Company was selling products worth one million dollars. The company’s success sky rocketed after Mary Kay’s interview at CBS's 60 Minutes. She applied the strategy of giving incentives over good work and started by giving pink Cadillac to the top salespersons of the year. The other incentives included diamond jewelry, bumblebee pins, and 5-star vacations. This strategy really worked and became one of the reasons for company’s success over the years. She also penned three best-selling books during her lifetime. Her autobiography, “Mary Kay” sold more than a million copies and was translated in various languages. Her book, “Mary Kay on People Management”, another best seller was included in the business courses at Harvard Business School. Her third book, “You Can Have It All” also got best seller status in just few weeks of its release. Mary Kay received many honors and awards during and after her lifetime. In 1976, she received the Hall of fame Award from Direct Selling Association. Two years after that, in 1978, she got the Cosmetic Career Woman of the Year Award from the Cosmetics Career Women, Inc. The same year she received the Horatio Alger Distinguished American Citizen Award from Horatio Alger Association.
This stint of receiving awards didn’t stop for her as in 1980 Mary Kay wasd bestowed with the Golden Plate Award, American Academy of Achievement. In 1983, she was named one of the “100 Most Important Women in America" by Ladies' Home Journal and received similar distinctions many times in 1980s such as being named amongst America's 25 Most Influential Women in 1985. The following year, Mary Kay was among the women entrepreneurs featured in the National Federation of Independent Businesses Report and was honored by President Reagan. In 1987, she retired from the company and became the chairman emeritus of the company. The Direct Selling Education Foundation awarded her with the Living Legend Award in 1992. In 1996, she was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame. The same year she founded the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation. The prime objective of this foundation was to raise money to fight against domestic violence and cancers affecting women. In 2001, her son Richard Rogers became the CEO of Mary Kay Inc. At that time, the company had over 800,000 representatives in 37 countries, with total annual sales over $2 billion at retail.
Mary Kay Ash married thrice in her lifetime. Her first husband was Ben Rogers whom she married in 1935. They had three children. Their marriage lasted for eleven years. After the sudden death of her second husband in 1963, she married to Melville Jerome Ash on January 6, 1966. Mel Ash died July 7, 1980.
Mary Kay Ash died on November 22, 2001. She was buried in the Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Dallas, Texas.