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Mary Kay Cosmetics

Mary Kay Cosmetics

Mary Kay Cosmetics Inc., a direct selling company, was founded by Mary Kay Ash on September 13, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. Mary Kay Cosmetics is the second largest direct seller of beauty products, behind Avon. They carry a line of more than 200 products, including facial skin care, cosmetics, fragrances, nutritional supplements, sun protection products, and hair, nail, body care, and men's skin care items. In 1997, their estimated wholesale sales were above $1 billion, which translated to well over $2 billion at the retail level and a 5% increase over the previous year.

Mary Kay Cosmetics sells a range of beauty products through approximately half-a-million independent salespeople worldwide, known as "beauty consultants." These beauty consultants sell their products directly to consumers, often using Mary Kay Cosmetics parties to peddle their goods. Mary Kay Ash and her family own most of the company, though founder Ash stepped aside as chairman of the company in 1996. The company employs and is said to empower many women: over 100 women have attained the position of Independent National Sales Director, with salaries well into six figures, and an additional 8,500 women hold the position of Independent Sales Director. While most of the work force is female, the company's chief executive and chief financial officers—John P. Rochon and David Holl, respectively—are both male.

According to company documents, the vision of Mary Kay Cosmetics is to "provide women with an unparalleled opportunity for financial independence, career and personal fulfillment" and "to achieve total customer satisfaction by delivering the products and services that enhance a woman's self-image and confidence." Mary Kay Ash's original goal was to empower women with personal and financial success opportunities. Her simple philosophy was to have her sales force members prioritize their lives by a simple motto: God first, family second, and career third. Starting a Mary Kay business could cost as little as $100 for the product demonstration kit and educational materials.

Mary Kay Cosmetic's products are sold through a direct sales force in the United States and 26 other countries as of 1998, including many former Soviet bloc countries. In order to accommodate international expansions, manufacturing facilities were opened in China in 1995 to serve the Asia Pacific rim and in Switzerland in 1997 for the European region, including Russia. Mary Kay's growth in China was affected by a ban on door-to-door selling in April, 1998; the company opened negotiations with the Chinese government, which allowed them to sell only to wholesalers and retailers.

The company is well known for offering cars to its most succesful Independent Beauty Consultants and Sales Directors. First awarded in 1969, this car has typically been a pink Cadillac. The Mary Kay fleet in the United States, which includes some 10,000 cars, is valued at more than $150 million and is the largest commercial fleet of GM cars in the world. In recent years the pink Grand Prix, the red Grand Am, and the new white GMC Jimmy have been included in the fleet.

—Abhijit Roy

Further Reading:

Ash, Mary Kay. Mary Kay: You Can Have It All. Rocklin, California, Prima Publishing, 1995.

Cort, Kathryn T., and William L. Shanklin. "The Wall: How Mary Kay Cosmetics Knocks It Down." Marketing Management. Vol. 7, No. 4, Winter, 1998.

Gross, Daniel. "Mary Kay and Her Corporate Culture for Women."In Forbes Greatest Business Stories of All Time. New York, John Wiley and Sons, 1996.

Mardenfeld, Sandra. "Mary Kay Ash." Incentive. January, 1996, 54-60.

"Mary Kay Online 99." May 1999.

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