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                                           Biography of Mary Kay                                      


Mary Kay is a well known American business woman. Her company, Mary Kay Cosmetics Inc., is a very successful company which sells cosmetics and employs people all over the world. She became successful through hard work and believing in herself. Her full name is Mary Kay Ash.

Mary Kay was born sometime between 1910 and 1915 in Hot Wells, Texas. She is very secretive about her age. She says that "a woman who will tell her age will tell anything". She was the youngest child of Edward Alexander and Lula Vember Wagner. Soon after she started school, her father became ill. Her mother worked 14-hour days as a restaurant manager to support the family. Mary Kay had to do housework, cook, and take care of her father by herself.

In school May Kay was an honors student and was very competitive. She did very well in public speaking and debates. She believes strongly in goal setting, and since she was competitive, that helped her get where she is today. After high school her family could not afford to send her to college. So instead of continuing her education she got married and started a family. Then she got a career in direct sales selling books. When she was 27, she made enough money by goal setting to go to college. She went to the University of Houston to become a doctor. But after her husband came home from the military he wanted a divorce. Mary Kay didn't want to go to college anymore and got a job selling Stanley Home Products. She said to People Magazine: "I worked under a branch manager who promoted at his discretion, and I began to see that my whole world was hemmed in by a man who didn't want me to succeed."

Working in direct sales was very hard for Mary Kay because she was a woman. So after she quit, she decided to write a book about problems in the workplace if you are a woman. Then she decided that if she wanted to become a successful business woman, she would need a good idea. She thought of selling facial skin care products because Avon and other companies were not selling much of them.

With assistance from her 20 year old son and $5000 of her own life savings to buy products, Mary Kay's company, Mary Kay Cosmetics Inc., started operating on Friday, September 13, 1963. It is a direct sales cosmetics company. Its head office is in Dallas, Texas. The company manufactures over 200 products in 8 categories: facial skin care, colour cosmetics, nail care, body care, sun protection, fragrances, men's skin care, and nutritional supplements. Animals are not used for product testing. The company won an award from the United Nations Environment Program for exemplary leadership in promoting sound environmental policies within the cosmetic industry. The company has branches in 28 countries. It is the largest direct sales cosmetics company in the United States. Its only rival is Avon. The value of the company is about $320 million. Each year the company makes over $1.5 million in retail sales. There are over 300,000 employees in Mary Kay's company. The company workforce is almost exclusively women. Her son is the company president.

Mary Kay wanted to create a company that would make a real difference in women's lives. This company would give women unlimited opportunity for personal and financial success. Some people thought that the company was too idealistic to work. Just like a bumblebee's body is too big for its wings, so it shouldn't be able to fly, but it could! She says the symbol of her success is the bumblebee. She always wears a bumblebee pin. She says "It's just like our women, who didn't know they could fly to the top, but they did." Mary Kay says that her objective in life is "to help women know how great they really are". Many Mary Kay Cosmetics women have made millions of dollars selling her cosmetics.

Mary Kay is famous for rewarding her successful employees. She gives her employees recognition, not just cash. Every year she gives away a pink Cadillac, diamond jewelry, bumblebee pins, and 5-star vacations to outstanding employees. The company wants women to feel good about themselves.

Besides being successful in business, Mary Kay contributes to the community in other ways. Her second husband had cancer. She wanted to find a cure for cancer, so she started a cancer society, called the Mary Kay Ash Center for Cancer Immunotherapy. Mary Kay was active with raising funds for cancer through the Komen Foundation, and the American Cancer Society. She was dedicated the Mary Kay Ash / St.Paul Medical Center Mobile Cancer Screening Unit.

She has also written best-selling books: You Can Have It All, her autobiography Mary Kay, and Mary Kay on People Management.

Mary Kay has received hundreds of important awards, honors, and dedications over 2 decades, including many women of the year and entrepreneur awards. She has been honored by President Reagan and is one of the women entrepreneurs featured in the National Federation of Independent Business Report. The Mary Kay Museum was dedicated to her for her more than 30 years of direct selling success.

Mary Kay believes strongly in free enterprise and feels that with a little hard work, anyone can achieve economic success in a free market economy. Her philosophy is "If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can't, you're right." Mary Kay is a good example to both men and women. She is successful herself and Mary Kay Cosmetics Inc. has given others the opportunity to be successful.

For more information visit:

Gale Group Women's History -The history of Mary Kay and her company

Mary Kay Inc. - A biography of Mary Kay and information on the company

Mary Kays Awards- Information on all of Mary Kays awards

Zelinski, Victor A. and Nigel M Waters. The United States: An Economic Perspective. (John Wiley & Sons Canada Limited, 1990)

Biography and Webpage by: Sonja Kujansuu