Mary Kay Ash
Hot Wells, Tex.
Spirited and driven, Mary Kay Ash reached the pinnacle of sales success via her world-famous, eponymous cosmetics company. Still, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that Mary Kay owed some of her achievements to a lifetime of unfair and unspoken business rules — rules that knocked her down several times during her 25-year career in direct sales.
After being turned down for a promotion more than once — with the positions going to men instead — Ash retired and set out to write an advice book for businesswomen. Instead, the book idea morphed into a business plan that then morphed into Mary Kay Cosmetics.
With $5,000 and the help of her son Richard, the plucky 63-year-old started her new business with the intent to empower women and make their lives more beautiful. Her direct-sales cosmetics company grew from a few ideas crafted at her dining-room table into a multimillion-dollar conglomerate with nearly 2 million independent beauty consultants across the globe.
While Mary Kay Cosmetics wasn’t the first direct-sales company, it remains a leader in the industry and has secured a substantial footing in the world of cosmetics.