Mary Kay Ash

Mary Kay Ash's generosity doesn’t end with her business - in 1996 she started a foundation to provide funding for cancer research and to prevent domestic violence, and her company have now made contributions of more than $75m.

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Born in 1918, Mary Kay spent her teens living with just her mum and sister, and it gave her a deep appreciation of how strong and capable women are. It pleased her the most seeing women find a place where they can truly thrive and flourish.

She sold encyclopedias D2D to support herself and her three young children whilst her first husband was serving in the war. Once he returned home he left her for another woman. 

She went on to work in some other sales roles, but experienced first-hand the "glass ceiling" that kept many women from reaching top positions. 

Deciding to take an early retirement, she then set out to write a book to help other women avoid the pitfalls she'd faced in the male-dominated corporate world. She detailed the qualities she thought would constitute an ideal business - a ‘dream company’ for working mothers where they could determine their own levels of advancement and compensation, be their own bosses, and set work schedules that would still leave time for their children. Other key criteria included:

1) Treat everyone equally; 

2) Base promotions on merit, and; 

3) Choose products based on their sales performance and marketability, rather than profitability. 

She kept her focus on what could be a direct-sales company and thought, "Why am I theorizing about a dream company? Why don't I just start one?" 

So in 1963, at age 45, her dreams were realised, but she suffered more heartache when just days before the launch, her second husband died unexpectedly. But, she was on a mission and wasn’t going to be thwarted. Fifty years later, her business still continues to be a source of inspiration to millions today. Her legacy lives on in the company she built, and her mission of empowering women is as important now as it has ever been. 

One of her key principles was to always be lifting others up along the way and when she was asked at what point can you do too much recognition, her answer was ‘‘NEVER’. 

Even towards the end of her days, she always made sure she would personally phone and congratulate every person who achieved a rank promotion from somewhere around the middle of the comp plan upwards.

When she was a young, her mother always told her, “You can do it!” and she shared this same encouragement with millions of women. She famously said "Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says 'Make Me Feel Important.' Not only will you succeed in business, you will succeed in life.". With these simple words of inspiration, she connected a community of women who found confidence through encouragement and grew it into a global empire.

In 1985 she was included as one of America’s 25 Most Influential Women; in 1999 she was voted Texas Woman of the Century and in 2000 - Lifetime Television hailed her as the most outstanding women in business in the 20th century. A museum has also been opened to preserve and honor her journey in business and her legacy. 

In 1996 she also started a foundation to provide funding for cancer research and to prevent domestic violence, and her company has made contributions of more than $75m.

Her business that she started with just $5000 is still going strong today and is currently operating in around 40 countries. Over the course of their history they’ve had tens of billions of pounds in sales, and in 2019 alone, they turned over around $3.5bn

Sadly she passed away in 2001, but this inductee into the Direct Selling Hall Of Fame is the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, the one, the only, Mary Kay Ash, and is thoroughly worthy of the accolade.