How Mary Kay Ash Created A Multi-Million Dollar Cosmetics Company

Mary Kay Ash has been touted as one of the most innovative women entrepreneurs of all time. Her novel and unique ideas have left an indelible mark in the business world. She dreamed of creating a place for women in a male-dominated corporate world. The result of her dream was Mary Kay Cosmetics, a brand that became a multi-million dollar success.

By late 90s, Mary Kay Cosmetics had become the largest direct seller of skin products in USA netting more than $1 billion in revenue. Today, the cosmetics brand has total annual sales of over $2 billion. But for Mary Kay Ash, it was something more than big bucks. “I’ve often said we are doing something far more important than just selling cosmetics. We are changing lives.”  And yes, she did transform lives. 

Photo by Tony Alter / CC BY 2.0

Difficult Childhood

Kay’s early life was unique and inspiring shaped by hard work and faith. She was born in 1918 in Texas. She grew up in the small town of Hotwells along with her brother and sister. Her parents owned a hotel and restaurant which brought in modest income. When she was six, her father developed tuberculosis, a condition that saw Kay take on daunting tasks to provide a better life for her family.

While little girls her age played with Barbie dolls, Kay would be at home taking care of her ailing father. And if she wasn’t beside her father’s bed, she was at the grocery store shopping for her family’s dinner. Kay was strong spirited, but two things kept her going: her mother’s indomitable spirit, and her faith in religion.

Changing The Status Quo

She got married at 17 and had three children. But her marriage was far from wedded bliss. Her husband ran off with another woman after coming back from World War II.  A Single mother with no child support, Kay had to embrace her tough life and provide for her children. Soon, Kay had mastered the art of selling, and she became an adept sales manager.

Even though she was slowly working her way up to success, Kay was enraged by how she was treated by her male co-workers. Her opinions were often shot down by male members with the comment “Oh Mary Kay you’re just thinking like a woman.’’

Women were relegated to derogatory posts and rarely got promotions. Mary sort to change how women were depicted she wanted them to find their own success on their own terms and as their own bosses.

A Dream Comes True

With her $5000 savings, Mary Kay with the help of her son bought the recipe of a skin softener, furnished a small store and hired a manufacturer to create a line of skin-care products. September 13, 1963 saw the birth of Mary Kay Cosmetics, a company that was solely dedicated to making life more beautiful for women. 

The fledgling company had core values that Kay insisted had to be followed “God, Family, Business -in that order” and with sheer determination Mary Kay Cosmetics was making gigantic annual sales. Women all over the world revered Kay for making them look and feel beautiful.

Even with her demise, Mary Kay Ash’s legacy continues to empower women all around the world to believe they can achieve all their dreams. And with her son embodying his mother’s core values, Mary Kay Cosmetics continues to bolster in sales.

Lessons From Mary Kay Ash

  • “Doors will always open for people who are willing to pay the price and have the courage to dream.”
  • Successful people are ordinary people who spend time on the extra mile.
  • Easy times don’t make you a better person, but challenges will always introduce you to your most brilliant self.
  • Be of service to others and inspire people to be the best they can be.
  • It’s never too late to become the person you have dreamed of being. Mary Kay started her multi-million business when she was 45.
  • Put God first in everything you do and you will be successful in life.

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References:

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