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SYNOPSIS

Mary Kay Ash is the quintessential example of a Phoenix rising from the ashes. After 10 years at World Gift Co., a direct sales organization, Ash resigned when an underling she had trained was promoted ahead of her--because he was a male. Ash, a 45-year-old unemployed divorcee with three children, was at her nadir. But a few months later, she formed what is now known as Mary Kay Inc., a cosmetics company that grew into a behemoth with current annual revenues in excess of $2.4 billion. And she did it with verve, panache, tenacity, hard work and endless faith in her ability to succeed. She was a master saleswoman. Mary Kay was independent as a child and never faltered despite setbacks and tragedies. The story of Mary Kay Ash is as colorful as the pink Cadillacs she gave to her most successful "independent consultants." [3,169-word Titans of Fortune article with timeline, bibliography and video links]

EXCERPT

“There is no more potent role model for the self-made woman than Mary Kay Ash,” Harry Smith, cohost of the television show CBS This Morning, told a national television audience on the morning of November 28, 1995, as he introduced Mary Kay Ash. This was not hyperbole; she had established her cosmetics company on a $5,000 investment in 1963 and by 1995, Mary Kay Cosmetics had grown into a global company with wholesale revenue exceeding $850 million and more than 300,000 women serving as independent beauty consultants (sales agents). Her success was unquestionable. However, what set her apart from other female titans of her time—Estée Lauder, Elizabeth Arden, Jackie Cochran, and Helena Rubenstein—was her commitment, her mission, to empower women in what was essentially an exclusive male domain—commerce and business—and she did it adroitly while demonstrating the qualities underlying so many of America’s most successful tycoons.

She was also the quintessential example of a phoenix rising from the ashes. After 10 years at World Gift Co., a direct sales organization, Ash resigned when an underling she had trained was promoted ahead of her. Ash, a 45-year-old unemployed divorcee with three children, was at her nadir. To overcome her despair and depression, she set out to write a book, listing the positive things that had happened to her in the previous 25 years. She also listed the negatives. Instead of a book, however, something else emerged -- what she called her "dream company." Mary Kay, Inc. today has sales in excess of $2.4 billion, moving well beyond everyone’s dream, with the probable exception of Ash.