NEW YORK — When 100 pink Cadillacs converge on Dallas, there is only one thing it can mean — Mary Kay is having a party.

Saturday is the 40th birthday of Mary Kay Inc., the $1.6-billion direct seller, started simply as Beauty by Mary Kay in 1963 with the founder’s $5,000 in savings.

The festivities have been going since July 16, when Mary Kay’s top sales associates drove their “trophies on wheels” to City Hall, across from the Dallas Convention Center, where the company held Seminar, its annual meeting. Themed “The Dream Grows On,” the event drew 53,000 sales associates, compared with the 10,000 that usually attend. So many came because of the celebration that the convention was conducted in five identical back-to-back sessions.

There has been much to cheer. Mary Kay had record sales in 2002, up 14 percent over 2001, and its associates now number more than one million worldwide. Next month, it adds Poland, its 35th market.

Mary Kay Ash died on Nov. 22, 2001, at age 83. After an eight-year hiatus, her son Richard Rogers returned to preside over the firm in June 2001 as chief executive officer.

To commemorate Ash’s life and the company’s anniversary, Mary Kay Tribute, a floral oriental fragrance, is being sold while supplies last. The notes reflect Ash’s life, such as the pink rose of Texas to symbolize her birthplace and warm amber wood, representing the warmth and wisdom of Ash’s business philosophy.

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