Mary Kay Ash: An Iconic Leader

Mary Kay Ash was ahead of her time, all the time. She changed the world of business by creating more opportunities for women, built a company guided by her values and empowered women by putting them in control of their own future.

Mary Kay Ash launched her business more than 50 years ago, but she continues to be a source of inspiration to millions today. Her values live on in the company she built, and her mission of empowering women is as important now as it has ever been. Mary Kay Ash’s lifetime of achievements made her a trailblazing entrepreneur, and her lasting legacy has made her an icon. 

Mary Kay Ash smiles for a photo while standing at a podium and holding up a plaque.

Built by a Woman, for Women

For Mary Kay Ash, it was always mission possible. After experiencing inequality in the workplace, she knew she had to make a change, not only for herself but for all women. In 1963, Mary Kay Ash launched her business and disrupted the idea of “business as usual,” turning the male-dominated workplace on its head in the process.  A change champion and groundbreaking businesswoman, Mary Kay Ash dedicated her life to empowering women and putting them in control of their own futures. 

Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk

Mary Kay Ash always believed that the right values could carry you all the way to the top. She remained faithful to the life lessons that shaped her as a person and used the Golden Rule to guide her, making sure she was always leading by example and lifting others up along the way.  She often told others, “Never, absolutely never, compromise your principles.” Her unwavering integrity has inspired millions of women and made her one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs and leaders. 
Mary Kay Ash stands between two women with her arms around them and listens as they are talking.
Mary Kay Ash faces a member of the Independent Sales Force in conversation with her hands on the woman’s shoulders.

Praising People to Success

When Mary Kay Ash was a young girl, her mother always told her, “You can do it, Mary Kay!” From onstage recognition to electrifying speeches, Mary Kay Ash shared this same encouragement with millions of women. She imagined everyone wearing a sign that said, “Make me feel important,” and she made it part of everything she did. With these simple words of inspiration, Mary Kay Ash connected a community of women who found confidence through encouragement and grew it into a global empire.

1960s.

1963
On September 13, Mary Kay Ash launches her business and opens her first store: Beauty by Mary Kay.

1964
Mary Kay Ash begins an annual tradition of recognizing women’s accomplishments in entrepreneurship while providing inspiration and business education for the coming year. She calls it “Seminar.”

1962
Mary Kay Ash establishes the career car program, making the iconic pink Cadillac a symbol of success for her Independent Beauty Consultants.

1970s.

1976
The Direct Selling Association presents Mary Kay Ash with the Hall of Fame Award.

1978
The Horatio Alger Distinguished American Citizen Award is presented to Mary Kay Ash to celebrate her achievements and honor how she overcame adversity early in her career.

1979
Mary Kay Ash is profiled by 60 Minutes.



1980s.

1984
Mary Kay on People Management, Mary Kay Ash’s influential first book, is published and goes on to become a Wall Street Journal best-seller.

1985
The World Almanac and Book of Facts names Mary Kay Ash as one of “America’s 25 Most Influential Women.”

1988
Mary Kay Ash is featured in the "Great American Entrepreneur" series at the Smithsonian Institute.

1990s.

1993
As Mary Kay Ash celebrates her company’s 30th anniversary, the award-winning Mary Kay Museum opens in Dallas, Texas, to preserve and honor her journey in business so it may inspire future entrepreneurs.

1996
Mary Kay Ash establishes the Mary Kay Ash Charitable FoundationSM, now known as The Mary Kay Foundation, to provide funding for cancer research and women’s organizations.

1999
Mary Kay Ash is recognized as Texas Woman of the Century.


2000s.

2000
Lifetime Television hails Mary Kay Ash as the most outstanding woman in business in the 20th century.

2003
Baylor University names Mary Kay Ash the “Greatest Female Entrepreneur in American History” in an academic study.

2004
Mary Kay Ash is honored as one of the 25 most influential business persons of the past 25 years by PBS and the Wharton School of Business at University of Pennsylvania.

2010s.

2011
Mary Kay employees, independent sales force members, friends and family come together to carry on Mary Kay Ash’s work by participating in the Company’s first-ever Global Month of Service.

2013
Mary Kay Ash’s company, which she started with only $5,000, celebrates its 50th anniversary and continues to operate under the same values and principles that she started it with.

2018
Mary Kay Ash’s legacy of empowering women through entrepreneurship lives on in the nearly 40 countries that are official Mary Kay markets.

Mary Kay Ash embraces a member of the Mary Kay Independent Sales Force in a warm hug both as women smile.

ONE WOMAN CAN

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Beakers filled with light pink liquid are shown to represent Mary Kay’s research and development in cosmetics.

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