Smashing the Glass Ceiling . . . in a Pink Cadillac!
Sometimes in Business, There’s No Place like Home
Mary Kay Ash wanted to go to medical school, but found she was so adept at her part-time sales job that sales became her career track. But after twenty-five years in corporate marketing, Ash decided to call it quits. However, a book she was writing as a retirement project became the business plan for the company she and her son launched in 1963, with just $5,000. Today, it is one of the largest private firms in the U.S., with over $2.5 billion in annual sales in 35 international markets, with an independent sales force of more than 2 million.
“Most people live and die with their music still un-played. They never dare to try.” – Mary Kay Ash
For Cherise Czaban, the move to Mary Kay was driven by the idea that she could make money doing something she enjoyed, while helping to make women feel confident and beautiful or, as she put it, “When a woman thinks she looks good, she does better in all areas.” Plus the products were fabulous and she, as a consultant, could get her cosmetics at cost. “As much as it was the business plan, I suppose it was Mary Kay’s philosophy that intrigued me the most,” Czaban acknowledged.
It was that same combination of pursuing a business opportunity, which supported rather than conflicted with her personal values, that attracted Tami Tomlinson to Mary Kay as well. “The company emphasizes that life has to be organized around certain priorities, ‘faith, family and career’, which were values that I already held,” Tomlinson said. Also, that if you focus on people, the bottom line will take care of itself.
It was an idea that corporate America scoffed at fifty years ago, but the fact that Mary Kay has never shown an annual loss speaks for itself. For Tomlinson and Czaban, like countless young mothers, they wanted the flexibility of making an income, while maintaining more control over their schedule.
“A good goal is like a strenuous exercise – it makes you stretch.” – Mary Kay Ash
For many, businesses like Mary Kay are a means of generating additional income, but for these two women and thousands more like them it is a lucrative and very profitable career. “Many don’t like the opportunities the typical corporate career offers and extracts. I have a UCF professor with a PhD who I am working with as well as a recent college graduate who found she could make more money, with greater freedom, continuing to sell the cosmetics, which was her job while going to school,” Czaban observed.
Just how much money can someone make working for a company like Mary Kay? According to Tomlinson and Czaban that is totally dependent on your individual goals, customer skills and hard work. But the fact of the matter is a woman can match her professional income in a couple of years and some make six-figure incomes that would make most CEO’s envious.
Tomlinson pointed out, “One of the biggest challenges with being a home-based business is staying focused. You have to learn how to not let home responsibilities influence your day-to-day work schedule.”
Czaban agreed that the freedom to design your life and lifestyle is the greatest benefit of this type of business, then she added, “But you have to design it. Disciplining yourself to set goals, to stay focused on those goals and to developing routines and structures that will help you achieve them is fundamental.” It is these empowering freedoms that make the home-based business both attractive and challenging.
“A mediocre idea that generates enthusiasm will go further than a great idea that inspires no one” – Mary Kay Ash
Since there are so many home-based and direct selling businesses out there, what do these women see as the keys to finding one you can grow with? First, you have to enjoy people – helping, encouraging and being in front of them.
Secondly, they encourage taking a hard look at the company. How long have they been in business, are they selling a product or a distributorship, and is the company committed to your continuing growth and education? Then talk in depth with people who are involved in it. Czaban said, “Don’t take advice from people you wouldn’t trade places with. Ask yourself, ‘Are they who you want to be?’”
Finally, they advised anyone in a home-based business, “It is best to be selling a consumable product, so you are able to service and restock the customer, potentially for life.”