According to Lifetime Television, Mary K. Ash (1918-2001), founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, was the “Most Outstanding Woman in Business in the 20th Century.” She used her spiritual gift of encouragement to help women to become all that God created them to be.
Prior to starting Mary Kay Cosmetics, Mary Kay spent 25 years working in a sales position in corporate America. During that time, she was repeatedly refused promotions and pay raises the men were getting. In response to the unjust way in which she and other women were being treated in the marketplace, she decided to start a company that would encourage women to achieve their fullest potential. She said,
“If you ask me, ‘What is the common denominator among women?’… it is the fact that most of us, most women, don’t believe in their own God-given ability. So what we do is try to show them how great they really are.”[i]
As of 2014, her company had wholesale volume in excess of $3 billion and approximately three million sales consultants. The company culture she created infused boldness and courage into women worldwide.
She credited the success of her company to its decision to “take God as our partner.” She based her founding principle on the Golden Rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31). She redefined business terms like “P & L” to mean “people and love.” She taught her sales consultants to keep “God first, family second, career third.”
Current National Sales Director for Mary Kay, Dorothy Boyd, shared with me about the way Mary Kay encouraged her personally:
I came to Mary Kay in 1982, so I have grown up in the business. Before Mary Kay, I didn’t have the tools to recognize my self-doubt. Mary Kay gave me the courage to step out of receiving a secure paycheck from a traditional job, walk by faith, become a successful entrepreneur, take care of my family, and become the best that I could be.
When you get around women who are positive and encouraging like Mary Kay, it’s like being on a different planet, a planet where the possibilities are unlimited. I often heard Mary Kay say, ‘Most people haven’t received a round of applause since they graduated from high school, so we should encourage our people by praising them onward toward success.’ Truly, in our company, every little effort in the right direction is acknowledged and recognized. And the large wins are beautifully rewarded! Coming from the thankless experience of teaching art to high school kids for three years, I literally was starved for both praise and recognition (and didn’t even know it) when I became immersed in this positive culture in 1982.
Mary Kay also believed that there was no such thing as ‘constructive’ criticism. She believed that all criticism is destructive, so her mother’s words, ‘You can do it!”, were passed on to everyone she met. In the very rare event that something negative must be addressed, she taught us to ‘sandwich it between two thick, heavy layers of praise.’ She truly created a positive environment completely devoid of harsh judgement in which fledgling young entrepreneurs like me could find a safe place to learn, grow, and gain confidence both personally and professionally.
As I look around me within the field sales force of our company, I am continually gratified to know and observe thousands of women whose lives have been enriched by Mary Kay’s daily use of her gift of encouragement. Encouragement speaks any language, and our company is now in 35 countries around the world.”
[i] “Mary Kay’s Golden Year Full of History & Vision,” CBNnews.com (December 31, 2013), http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2013/December/Mary-Kay-Cosmetics-Golden-Year-Full-of-History–Vision/.