Mary Kay Ash (Businesswoman/Founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics)

mary-kay-ash.jpgMary Kay Ash (May 12, 1918 – November 22, 2001) was an American businesswoman and founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc.

She was born Mary Kathlyn Wagner in Hot Wells, Harris County, Texas, the daughter of Edward Alexander and Lula Vember Hastings Wagner. She attended Reagan High School in Houston, graduating in 1934.

Ash attended the University of Houston until 1943 when she married, but despite having three children, the marriage did not last, and after her divorce Ash went to work for Stanley Home Products, a direct sales firm out of Houston. In 1963, Ash left Stanley. Frustrated when passed over for a promotion in favor of a man that she had trained, Ash retired in 1963 and intended to write a book to assist women in business.

The book turned into a business plan for her ideal company, and in September 1963, Mary Kay Ash and her second husband began Mary Kay Cosmetics with a $5,000 investment. Before the company could open its original storefront operation in Dallas, her second husband died, and her son, Richard Rogers, took his place. The store opened in 1963, but grew rapidly, particularly after Ash was interviewed for CBS's 60 Minutes in 1979. The pink Cadillacs awarded to top sales people were the most visible sign of the company's success.

Ash was widely respected. She considered the Golden Rule the founding principle of Mary Kay Cosmetics, and the company's marketing plan was designed to allow women to advance by helping others to succeed. She advocated "praising people to success" and her slogan "God first, family second, career third" expressed her insistence that the women in her company keep their lives in balance.

Both during her life and posthumously, Ash received numerous honors from business groups, including the Horatio Alger Award. Ash was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1996. A long-time fundraiser for charities, she founded the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation to raise money to combat domestic violence and cancers affecting women. Ash served as Mary Kay Cosmetics' chairman until 1987, when she was named Chairman Emeritus. She remained active in the company until suffering a stroke in 1996. Richard Rogers was named CEO of Mary Kay Inc. in 2001. At the time of Ash's death, Mary Kay Cosmetics had over 800,000 representatives in 37 countries, with total annual sales over $2 billion at retail. As of 2008, Mary Kay Cosmetics has more than 1.7 million consultants worldwide and excess in wholesales of 2.2 billion. Mary Kay herself was honored as leading female entrepreneur in American history.

Mary Kay Ash authored three books, all of which became best-sellers. Her autobiography, Mary Kay, has sold more than a million copies and appears in several languages. Her business philosophy, Mary Kay on People Management has been included in business courses at the Harvard Business School. Mary Kay Ash's third book, You Can Have It All, was launched in August 1995 and achieved "best-seller" status within days of its introduction.

Ash lived in a mansion in the Preston Hollow area of Dallas.

She died on November 22, 2001, Thanksgiving Day. Mary Kay Ash is interred in the Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Dallas, Texas.

Related Links:
Mary Kay Ash on Wikipedia
Mary Kay Ash Cosmetics