Thursday, March 3, 2011

Wonderful Women Entrepreneurs: Mary Kay Ash

March is Women's History Month. Because of this, I'm highlighting wonderful women entrepreneurs.

This week, it's all about Mary Kay Ash.

A pioneer for women in business, Mary Kay Ash was born Mary Kathlyn Wagner on May 12, 1918 in Hot Wells, Texas.

The "you can do it" spirit was instilled in Ash at an early age. Because her mother worked 14- hour days to support Ash and her ailing father, she had to take on several responsibilities when she was a child. Whenever she had to deal with new tasks, Ash would call her mom for help, and her mom would encourage her by saying, "You can do it, Mary Kay. You can do it."

Ash became a salesperson for Stanley Home Products in 1939, hosting parties to encourage people to purchase household goods. She was so good at making sales that another company, World Gifts, hired her in 1952. However, she quit after seeing yet another man she'd trained get promoted above her and make a much higher salary than hers.

After her less than favorable work experiences, Ash decided to create a business when she was 45-years-old with a starting investment of $5,000 in 1963. She bought the formulas for skin lotions from the family of a tanner who made the products while working on hides. Ash and her son opened a small store in Dallas, Texas, and she had nine salespeople working for her.

In its first year, the company turned a profit and sold nearly $1 million in products by the end of the second year. The basic idea was very similar to the products Ash sold earlier in her career; her cosmetics were sold through home parties and other events. However, she desired to make her business different by implementing incentive programs and not having sales territories for representatives. Ash believed in the golden rule: Treat others as you want to be treated, and she operated by the motto: God first, family second and career third.

Ash's marketing skills and people savvy helped make Mary Kay Cosmetics very lucrative. In 1968, the company went public but was bought back by Ash and her family in 1985 when the stock price took a hit. The business remained successful and now, annual sales exceed $2.2 billion, according to the Mary Kay Cosmetics website. Additionally, the company has more than 1.6 million salespeople worldwide.

Admired for her strategies and the results they achieved, Ash wrote several books about her experiences including Mary Kay: The Success Story of America's Most Dynamic Business Woman and Mary Kay on People Management. In 1996, she established the Mary Kay Charitable Foundation which supports cancer research and efforts to end domestic violence, and in 2000, she was named the most outstanding woman in business in the 20th century by Lifetime Television. Ash died on November 22, 2001 in Dallas.

"Don't limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve."
- Mary Kay Ash

{Source; Photo Credit}

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