I'm Mary Tillotson.
And I'm Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program PEOPLEIN AMERICA. This week, we tell about one of the most successfulAmerican businesswomen. Mary Kay started a company inNineteen-Sixty-Three with a five-thousand dollar investment. Today,Mary Kay Cosmetics is an international company worth thousands ofmillions of dollars.
Mary Kathlyn Wagner was born in the state of Texas inNineteen-Eighteen. For much of her childhood, she cared for her sickfather while her mother worked long hours at a public eating place.Mary Kay married Ben Rogers when she was seventeen years old. Theyhad three children before he left home to serve in World War Two.When he returned, their marriage ended. Mary Kay looked for a job soshe could support her children.
Mary Kay began selling differentkinds of products. At first, she sold books. Later, she visitedpeoples' homes to show how home care products such as cleaningfluids and equipment helped ease housework.
One night, Mary Kay was showing these products at the home of OvaHeath Spoonemore. Later in the evening, Missus Spoonemore begangiving her guests some home made skin care products. The productswere developed by her father, J.W. Heath, in Arkansas. Mary Kaytried the skin care products and found they made her skin smooth.
Mary Kay was successful selling home care products. Hersupervisors praised her work. But they never increased her earnings.She left the company after a man she trained was given a moreimportant job than she had.
Mary Kay said later that she learned from this experience. Ittaught her that men did not believe that a woman could succeed inbusiness. She decided to prove them wrong. So she bought the rightsto Mister Heath's skin care products and started her own company.She paid five-hundred dollars for the legal rights to the products.
The Mary Kay Cosmetics company began operating in Dallas, Texas,in Nineteen-Sixty-Three. Mary Kay's twenty-year-old son Richard wasthe company's financial official. The idea was to sell skin careproducts through demonstrations in homes and offices. Nine salesrepresentatives were chosen to sell the products.
The sales representatives were independent workers. They boughtproducts like soaps and skin softening liquids from the company andsold them at higher prices to friends, family members and otherindividuals. Mary Kay decided that each representative who broughtother sales women into the company would receive part of the newperson's earnings. That way, experienced sales representatives wouldbe willing to help train new ones.
Mary Kay told the women who worked for her that to be successfulin life a person should put God first, family second and work third.She said women must discover how to be good wives and mothers whileat the same time learning how to succeed in work.
Two years later, in Nineteen-Sixty-Five, the company was sellingalmost one-million dollars worth of products. Mary Kay once saidthat success came fast because she did not have any time to waste.She was already forty-five years old when she started the company.She said a woman needs money fast as she gets older!
Now Mary Kay Cosmetics is the largest direct seller of skin careproducts in the United States. It develops and tests many skin careand beauty products for the face, body, hair and nails -- many morethan it started selling in Nineteen-Sixty-Three. Today, Mary KayCosmetics has sales of more than one-thousand-million dollars. Ithas more than eight-hundred-thousand sales representatives inthirty-seven countries around the world. You can find Mary Kayproducts and company sales representatives in Argentina, Brunei, theCzech Republic, Kazakhstan, and Singapore.
Every year since Nineteen-Sixty-Five, Mary Kay Cosmetics has helda yearly conference in Dallas for its sales representatives. Thefirst one took place in one large room. Mary Kay cooked food fortwo-hundred people and served it on paper plates.
As the company grew, so did the conference. Now, more thanthirty-five-thousand sales representatives and company officials payto attend education meetings at the yearly conference. A specialevent at the three day conference is Awards Night. That is whenprizes are given to those representatives with the most sales forthe year. Awards Night also includes a show in which famous singersand dancers perform.
The Awards Night winners receive special paid holidays, jewels,furs, and pink Cadillac automobiles. In Germany, winners receive apink Mercedes Benz, and in Taiwan they are given a pink Toyota. ByNineteen-Ninety-Four, seven-thousand cars had been given to salesrepresentatives. The cars are pink because Mary Kay products come inpink containers. Mary Kay liked that color.
Mary Kay believed that recognizing good work is the best way toincrease a company's sales. She said her company tried to havecompetitions in which everyone has a chance to win. She did not wantto organize the kind of competition where someone has to hurtanother person in order to win.
So the Mary Kay competitions are designed around the idea that itis best to compete with yourself. That means every individual istrying to do better then she did last week or last year.
Competition winners are rewarded well. For example, winners ofone of the competitions get a gold pin called the Ladder of Success.Sales representatives earn a pin by selling a large number ofproducts. Then they earn jewels for the pin as they increase theirsales. Each jewel is placed higher on the ladder than the others.The pin of a top sales representative is covered with diamonds.
Mary Kay's third husband, Mel Ash, died of cancer inNineteen-Eighty. She wanted to help find a cure for the disease. Atfirst, she helped organizations raise money for research. Later, shestarted the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation, a non-profit groupthat provides money to support research about cancers affectingwomen. In Two-Thousand-One, the company and foundation expandedtheir goals in an effort to help stop violence against women.
Through the years, Mary Kay Ash received many business awards.She was named one of America's Twenty-Five Most Influential Women inNineteen-Eighty-Five. She became a member of the National BusinessHall of Fame in Nineteen-Ninety-Six.
Mary Kay Ash wrote three books. The first book, "Mary Kay," toldthe story of her life. More than one-million copies in severallanguages have been sold. She described her business ideas in thebook "Mary Kay on People Management." Her third book was released inNineteen-Ninety-Five. It is called "Mary Kay--You Can Have It All."The money earned from its sales went to help fight cancer.
Mary Kay Ash continued her involvement in her business until shesuffered a stroke in Nineteen-Ninety-Six. She died in November,Two-Thousand-One.
Business experts say she was an important business leader whocared about people. Mary Kay sales representatives say she developeda way for women to earn money and still spend time with theirfamilies.
One example is Valerie Yokie. She started selling Mary Kayproducts twenty years ago. She was an official at GeorgetownUniversity in Washington, D.C., but left her job to stay home withher two small children. She became interested in the Mary KayCosmetics company because it was a way to get started in a businessfor a small amount of money. She paid less than one-hundred dollarsfor her supplies.
After one year and one half, Missus Yokie became a director ofthe company and started helping other women become successful MaryKay representatives. Soon after this, her husband lost his job. Thenhe developed cancer. Valerie Yokie has supported her family fortwenty years through Mary Kay Cosmetics. She is an extremelysuccessful businesswoman. She has won many prizes in Mary Kaycompetitions, and receives a new pink Cadillac every two years.
Valerie Yokie's story is similar to those of other Mary Kayrepresentatives. They agree that Mary Kay Ash changed the businessworld. They say she opened a door for women by providing them with away to earn money that balances work and family.
This Special English program was written by Nancy Steinbach andproduced by Caty Weaver. I'm Mary Tillotson.
And I'm Steve Ember. Listen again next week for another PEOPLE INAMERICA program on the Voice of America.