January 31, 2015 16:07 UTC

Mary Kay Ash, 1918-2001: She Started a Skin Care Company That Has Sales of More Than $2 Billion a Year

Independent representatives sell products in peoples' homes in more than 30 countries.  <em>Transcript of radio broadcast:</em>

VOICE ONE:

I’m Mary Tillotson.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA.  This week, we tell about one of the most successful American businesswomen.  Mary Kay started a company in nineteen sixty-three with a five thousand dollar investment.  Today, Mary Kay Cosmetics is an international company worth thousands of millions of dollars.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Mary Kathlyn Wagner was born in the state of Texas in nineteen eighteen.  For much of her childhood, she cared for her sick father while her mother worked long hours at a public eating place.  Mary Kay married Ben Rogers when she was seventeen years old.  They had three children before he left home to serve in World War Two.  When he returned, their marriage ended.  Mary Kay looked for a job so she could support her children.

Mary Kay began selling different kinds of products.  At first, she sold books.  Later, she visited peoples’ homes to show how home care products such as cleaning fluids and equipment helped ease housework.

One night, Mary Kay was showing these products at the home of Ova Heath Spoonemore.  Later in the evening, Missus Spoonemore began giving her guests some home made skin care products.  The products were developed by her father, J.W. Heath, in Arkansas.  Mary Kay tried the skin care products and found they made her skin smooth.

VOICE TWO:

Mary Kay was successful selling home care products.  Her supervisors praised her work.  But they never increased her earnings.  She left the company after a man she trained was given a more important job than she had.

Mary Kay said later that she learned from this experience.  It taught her that men did not believe that a woman could succeed in business.  She decided to prove them wrong.  So she bought the rights to Mister Heath’s skin care products and started her own company.  She paid five hundred dollars for the legal rights to the products.

VOICE ONE:

The Mary Kay Cosmetics company began operating in Dallas, Texas, in nineteen sixty-three.  Mary Kay’s twenty-year-old son Richard was the company’s financial official.  The idea was to sell skin care products through demonstrations in homes and offices.  Nine sales representatives were chosen to sell the products.

The sales representatives were independent workers.  They bought products like soaps and skin softening liquids from the company and sold them at higher prices to friends, family members and other individuals.  Mary Kay decided that each representative who brought other sales women into the company would receive part of the new person’s earnings.  That way, experienced sales representatives would be willing to help train new ones.

Mary Kay told the women who worked for her that to be successful in life a person should put God first, family second and work third.  She said women must discover how to be good wives and mothers while at the same time learning how to succeed in work. 

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Two years later, in nineteen sixty-five, the company was selling almost one million dollars worth of products.  Mary Kay once said that 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 one of the largest direct sellers of skin care products in the world.  It develops and tests skin care and beauty products for the face, body, hair and nails -- many more than it started selling in nineteen sixty-three.  Today, Mary Kay Cosmetics has sales of more than two billion dollars a year.  It has more than one million sales representatives in more than thirty countries around the world.  You can find Mary Kay products and sales representatives in Argentina, India, the Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, and China, to name a few.

VOICE ONE:

Every year since nineteen sixty-five, Mary Kay Cosmetics has held a yearly conference in Dallas for its sales representatives.  The first one took place in one large room.  Mary Kay cooked food for two hundred people and served it on paper plates.

As the company grew, so did the conference.  Now, more than thirty-five thousand sales representatives and company officials pay to attend education meetings at the yearly conference.  A special event at the three-day conference is Awards Night.  That is when prizes are given to those representatives with the most sales for the year.  Awards Night also includes a show in which famous singers and dancers perform.

The Awards Night winners receive special paid holidays, jewels, furs, and pink Cadillac automobiles.  In Germany, winners receive a pink Mercedes Benz, and in Taiwan they are given a pink Toyota.  By nineteen ninety-four, seven thousand cars had been given to sales representatives.  The cars are pink because Mary Kay products come in pink containers.  Mary Kay liked that color.

VOICE TWO:

Mary Kay believed that recognizing good work is the best way to increase a company’s sales.  She said her company tried to have competitions in which everyone has a chance to win.  She did not want to organize the kind of competition where someone has to hurt another person in order to win. 

So the Mary Kay competitions are designed around the idea that it is best to compete with yourself.  That means every individual is trying to do better then she did last week or last year.

Competition winners are rewarded well.  For example, winners of one of the competitions get a gold pin called the Ladder of Success.  Sales representatives earn a pin by selling a large number of products.  Then they earn jewels for the pin as they increase their sales.  Each jewel is placed higher on the ladder than the others.  The pin of a top sales representative is covered with diamonds.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Mary Kay’s third husband, Mel Ash, died of cancer in nineteen eighty.  She wanted to help find a cure for the disease.  At first, she helped organizations raise money for research.  Later, she started the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation, a non-profit group that provides money to support research about cancers affecting women.  In two thousand one, the company and foundation expanded their 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 in nineteen eighty-five.  She became a member of the National Business Hall of Fame in nineteen ninety-six.

VOICE TWO:

Mary Kay Ash wrote three books.  The first book, “Mary Kay,” told the story of her life.  More than one million copies in several languages have been sold.  She described her business ideas in the book “Mary Kay on People Management.”  Her third book was released in nineteen 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 she suffered a stroke in nineteen ninety-six.  She died in November, two thousand one.

Business experts say she was an important business leader who cared about people.  Mary Kay sales representatives say she developed a way for women to earn money and still spend time with their families.

VOICE ONE:

One example is Valerie Yokie.  She started selling Mary Kay products twenty years ago.  She was an official at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., but left her job to stay home with her two small children.  She became interested in the Mary Kay Cosmetics company because it was a way to get started in a business for a small amount of money.  She paid less than one hundred dollars for her supplies. 

After one year and one half, Missus Yokie became a director of the company and started helping other women become successful Mary Kay representatives.  Soon after this, her husband lost his job.  Then he developed cancer.  Valerie Yokie has supported her family for twenty years through Mary Kay Cosmetics.  She is an extremely successful businesswoman.  She has won many prizes in Mary Kay competitions, and receives a new pink Cadillac every two years.

Valerie Yokie’s story is similar to those of other Mary Kay representatives.  They agree that Mary Kay Ash changed the business world.  They say she opened a door for women by providing them with a way to earn money that balances work and family.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

This Special English program was written by Nancy Steinbach and produced by Caty Weaver.  I’m Mary Tillotson.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Steve Ember.  Listen again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Learn with The News

  • Patriots Football

    Audio The Epidemic of Cheating in Sports

    Throughout time, cheating in sports has caused debate and dispute. Athletes often do whatever it takes to win in competition. Some take drugs that are meant to improve their performance, such as steroids. These might make them run faster or hit a baseball harder. More

  • freedom house vid

    Video Freedom House: Democratic Ideals Threatened Around the World

    The rights group Freedom House has reported a general decline in political and civil rights around the world last year. The group said its measure of international freedom has dropped in each of the past nine years. It added that democratic ideals are now under the greatest threat in 25 years More

  • Dagmar Lieblova

    Video Woman Survives Nazi Death Camp by Mistake

    Dagmar Lieblova was 14 years old when she arrived at the Auschwitz death camp in 1943. Everyone in her family was with her. All of them but Dagmar were to die at Auschwitz. But she was able to leave the camp after several months because of a mistake. That mistake saved her life. More

  • People from the al-Kaseasbeh tribe and other tribes take part in a demonstration outside of Jordan's cabinet in Amman calling for the release of Jordanian pilot Lt. Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh, who is held by Islamic State group militants, Jan. 27, 2015.

    Audio Deadline Passes in Jordan-Islamic State Prisoner Exchange Deal

    Jordan wants proof that pilot is still alive. Also in the news, a gas explosion near a maternity hospital in Mexico kills at least seven; Benjamin Netanyahu blames Iran for fighting along Israel-Lebanon border; and the World Health Organization's focus on fighting Ebola shifts to ending outbreak. More

  • Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

    Can animals be artistic? Some experts think so. Painting and music are part of efforts to keep animals happy at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Zookeepers there believe that animals need enrichment just like people do. Their unique pieces of art are popular items. More

Featured Stories

  • AFC Championship Football

    Superbowl Sunday: The Patriots, the Seahawks and Katy Perry, Too

    The National Football League championship game is hugely popular with sports fans and television advertisers. Tens of millions of people watch the game for the competitive play and for the funny commercials broadcast throughout. Many also enjoy the halftime show. This year Katy Perry will entertain. More

  • NYC subway art

    Video New York's 'Underground Museum' Pleases Passersby

    For the past thirty years, artists have been asked to create works of art for New York’s huge subway and train system. The works often relate to city life or to the neighborhood of a station. Some people call it New York’s “underground art museum," with over 250 pieces of original artwork. More

  • agridrone

    Video French Farmers Are Using Drones to Examine Their Crops

    It used to be mostly the military that used small, unpiloted aircraft, called “drones.” The little planes were very costly. But as they have dropped in price more people have begun to use them. Rescue workers and farmers are among the new users. The drones save money and time. More

  • Video Is There a Better Way to Track Passenger Planes?

    New technology could help to more closely follow passenger airplanes, and find them when they crash; international group to meet next month to discuss changes. Airline industry leaders and regulators want to improve airplane safety. They want better, more dependable tracking devices. More

  • Obama

    Audio Has Obama Set the Message for the 2016 Campaign?

    “I have no more campaigns to run … I know because I won both of them.” Mr. Obama cannot run for president again – U.S. presidents may serve only two terms. But some observers say his most recent State of the Union message on the middle class sounded like a campaign speech. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner blog
Confessions of an English Learner blog

 

 

 

Tell us About Our Programs