Mary Kay Ash, American businesswoman, Died at 86

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Mary Kay Ash died on November 22, 2001 at the age of 83; she was an American businesswoman and founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc. Born Mary Kathlyn Wagner in Hot Wells, Harris County, Texas on May 12, 1918, was the daughter of Edward Alexander and Lula Vember Hastings Wagner. Her mother was trained as a nurse and later became a manager of a restaurant in Houston.

While her husband served in World War II, she sold books door-to-door. After her husband’s return in 1945, they divorced. Ash later had her only daughter, Marylin Reed. Ash went to work for Stanley Home Products.

Frustrated when passed over for a promotion in favour 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 the summer of 1963, Mary Kay Ash and her new husband, Mel Ash, planned to start Mary Kay Cosmetics. However, one month before Mary Kay and Mel Ash started Beauty by Mary Kay, as the company was then called, Mel died of a heart attack.

One month after Mel’s death on September 13, 1963 when she was 45 years old with a $5,000 investment from her oldest son, Ben Rogers, Jr. and with her young son, Richard Rogers taking her late husband’s place, Ash started Mary Kay Cosmetics.

Mary Kay adopted the Golden Rule as her guiding philosophy, determining that the best course of action in virtually any situation could be easily discerned by doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.  She also steadfastly believed that life’s priorities should be kept in their proper order, which to her meant putting faith first, family second and career third.

And she constantly encouraged both the corporate staff and the independent sales force to act as if each person they met was wearing a sign around his or her neck that read “Make me feel important”.

Recognized today as America’s greatest woman entrepreneur, Mary Kay Ash stepped out into a man’s world in 1963 to blaze a new path for women. She grew her business based not on the rules of competition but on The Golden Rule.

By “praising people to success” and “sandwiching every bit of criticism between two heavy layers of praise,” this energetic Texan opened new opportunities for women around the world and built a multibillion-dollar corporation. And after fifty years, her timeless people-centered philosophies drive her global Company and continue to touch the lives of people worldwide.

Today, with 3.5 million Independent Beauty Consultants, Mary Kay offers more than 200 premium products in more than 35 countries around the world. For more than 50 years, Mary Kay has helped women discover products that they love: innovative skin care, irresistible makeup and unforgettable fragrances.

At the same time, the Mary Kay business opportunity has helped women from Kansas to Kazakhstan, discover extra income, empowered choices and true beauty from the inside out.


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