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. 
Mary Kay Ash stands between two women with her arms around them and listens as they are talking.

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 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.
Take a look at Mary Kay Ash’s life at a glance by discovering some of her most inspiring accomplishments.

 1960s.

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

Along with a new opportunity, Beauty by Mary Kay ushered in a new approach to skin care with the Basic Treatment Set. It included four skin care products and a foundation. The first glamour products included a pink palette with five eye and lip colors, blush, mascara, and an eyebrow and eyeliner pencil.

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.

In the '60s, most American bathrooms were white. So pink was chosen for the Company's packaging to give women beauty products they could keep conveniently on their bathroom counters.

1969
Mary Kay Ash establishes the career car program, making the iconic pink Cadillac a symbol of success for her Independent Beauty Consultants.

 1970s.

1971
Today, with more than 35 markets, Mary Kay Inc. is truly a global company. Click here for a list of Mary Kay markets around the world.

1976
The Direct Selling Association presents Mary Kay Ash with the Hall of Fame Award.
The Horatio Alger Distinguished American Citizen Award is presented to Mary Kay Ash to celebrate her achievements and to honor how she overcame adversity early in her career.

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

1979
Mary Kay Ash is profiled by 60 Minutes.

America took note when "60 Minutes" interviewed Mary Kay Ash in 1979. The nation was taken by the remarkable woman and her visionary business opportunity. Within two years, the Mary Kay independent sales force had more than doubled, and sales almost tripled.

 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.”

1989
Mary Kay Inc. became one of the first companies to enact a comprehensive corporate recycling program in 1989. It followed with banning product testing on animals. These actions, among others, have earned Mary Kay Inc. numerous awards and honors for environmental protection. Click here for more information on the social responsibility programs at Mary Kay Inc.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.

1995
Global growth and growing success brought about another move. The new Mary Kay Building became the world headquarters in1995. Situated on 34 acres, the 13-floor, pink granite building includes nearly 600,000 square feet and is located in Addison, Texas, just north of Dallas.

1996
Mary Kay Ash establishes the Mary Kay Ash Charitable FoundationSM, now known as The Mary Kay FoundationSM, to provide funding for cancer research and to prevent domestic violence.


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.

2008
To celebrate the 45th anniversary, Mary Kay Inc. also re-released Mary Kay On People Management as The Mary Kay Way: Timeless Principles from America's Greatest Woman Entrepreneur. To purchase a copy click here.

 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 nearly 40 countries around the world.