BY DOLA ADESANYA||
“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
Mary Kay Ash, the Most Outstanding Woman in Business in the 20th Century, stumbled upon her entrepreneurial talents quite by accident. Frustrated at being underpaid and repeatedly passed over for promotions in favour of her male colleagues, Ash retired from a successful career in direct sales in 1963. Upon retirement, Ash decided to write a guide to assist women in the male-dominated business world. She made two lists. One contained things the companies for which she had worked had done right, the other included the things she felt they could have done better. When Ash reviewed the lists, she realized that she had created a marketing plan for a dream company. The mission of her dream company was to provide women with “open-ended potential to achieve personal and financial success”.
Next, Ash decided to find a product which she could market through this company. It had to be something women could believe in, that they could recommend with all their hearts, and, most important, a product that could be used up and re-ordered over and over. To this end and with $500, Ash purchased the formulas for skin lotions from the family of a local tanner and then hired a local manufacturer to create a line of skin-care products. Ash also furnished a small storefront in Dallas through which she could sell the products.
With her life savings of $5,000, a sales force of nine of her friends and the help of her 20-year-old son Richard Rogers, Mary Kay Cosmetics opened its doors on Friday, September 13, 1963.
Ash was contagiously optimistic, she instructed her sales representative whom she called “consultants” to show women how they could use Mary Kay products to improve their appearance. Once women saw the results, the products would sell themselves. It was a technique Ash claims no company had ever tried before.Within three and a half months, sales of Mary Kay products totalled $34,000, and by the end of the first year, that figure had risen to an amazing $198,000. A year later, sales had quadrupled to $800,000. By that time, Mary Kay Cosmetics’ sales force had grown to more than 3,000 consultants.
As the company grew, Ash gave up direct selling and concentrated on motivating her consultants. Consultants remained independent, they bought the products from May Kay at wholesale prices and then sold them at retail price to their customers. Consultants could also earn commissions from new consultants that they had recruited. Ash advocated “praising people to success” and once said “People are a company’s greatest asset”. She operated by the motto: “God first, family second and career third”. She strove to make her business different by employing incentive programs, she soon began rewarding her top beauty consultants with diamond jewelry, five-star vacations and pink Cadillacs. With this as her guiding practice she encouraged women and gave them new opportunities for their own personal and financial success.
In 1969, Ash awarded the first pink Cadillac to her top five consultants. By 1994 she had given away seven thousand cars valued at $100 million. Profits grew, and in 1996, Mary Kay broke the $1 billion mark and became the largest direct seller of skin-care products in the United States. By 2009, Mary Kay had achieved $2.5 billion in global wholesale sales.
Today, Mary Kay Cosmetics which Ash started at age 45 with only 9 consultants now has more than 2.5 million consultants and offers over 200 premium products in more than 35 countries. Notably, Mary Kay (which was designed to allow women advance by helping others to succeed) is the only company to be featured three times in Fortune magazine’s “The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America” and Ash is the only woman business leader profiled in the book “Forbes Greatest Business Stories of All Time”.
By building a global cosmetics empire from scratch, Mary Kay Ash has demonstrated how ideas, innovation and inspiration can help grow a successful company. Perhaps, and of more importance, Ash has shown that it is never too late to start!
Dola Adesanya || is an astute lawyer with a good business acumen. She loves everything motivational.