May 12, 1918: Mary Kay Ash, Founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, Was Born

Mary Kay Ash
Photo: Graham Bezant/Toronto Star via Getty Images
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    May 12, 1918: Mary Kay Ash, Founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, Was Born

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      Sari Rosenberg

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      May 12, 1918: Mary Kay Ash, Founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, Was Born

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      January 18, 2020

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      A+E Networks

On May 12, 1918, Mary Kay Ash was born in Hot Wells, TX. She grew up to a create a beauty empire, Mary Kay, in 1963. The makeup mogul forged a new path for financial success for women in a male-dominated business world. Ash remains an inspiring role model for entrepreneurial women looking to achieve success on their own terms.

Married at 17 and a mother of three, Ash started working in 1939 for Stanley Home Products. Early on, she distinguished herself as a successful salesperson, hosting parties to encourage customers to make purchases. In 1952, the company World Gifts was so impressed by her talent that they hired her. However, she quit her job a decade later because they passed her up for a promotion and a raise. They gave the job to a man that Ash had trained.

Fed up with her mistreatment in the traditional workplace, Ash decided to build her own business from scratch. Starting with an initial investment of $5,000, the 45-year-old entrepreneur started Mary Kay in 1963 with her first storefront in Dallas, TX. She used her favorite color pink on the packaging as a way for the products to stand out on white bathroom countertops. Within its first year, Mary Kay was a profitable company. Five years later, the company went public.

The secret to Mary Kay’s success was the employee incentive program. With this business model, Mary Kay revolutionized sales and marketing, while also providing many women with a way to attain financial success on their own. Ash had her sales consultants buy the products at wholesale prices and then sell them at retail to their customers. As an incentive, sales consultants who recruited new sellers into the Mary Kay family picked up an extra commission. In 1969, Ash began the tradition of rewarding her first crop of top five sellers with a brand new rose-colored Cadillac Coupe de Ville. They also donned fur coats and the signature diamond bee pin. To this day, top earners are still rewarded with the “Mary Kay Career Car.” However, the original pink Cadillac now comes in a more subdued hue.

If she were still alive today, Ash would be celebrating her 100th birthday. Unfortunately, she passed away on November 22, 2001. A year before her passing, Lifetime named Ash the “Most Outstanding Woman in Business in the 20th Century.” Today, Mary Kay is still a globally successful company, with 850,000 women in 37 countries. Ash once said, “Within yourself lies everything you ever dreamed of being.” We thank her for inspiring women to dream of achieving financial independence, all with a healthy dose of Mary Kay’s signature pink.

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