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Makeup Mogul The keys to success: How Mary Kay's company became the Cadillac of cosmetics

By Sandra Mardenfield

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Most companies wouldn't consider Friday the 13th anauspicious day. Yet Mary Kay Cosmetics Inc. opened its doors onFriday, September 13, 1963. Today, more than 30 years later, MaryKay Cosmetics has shown that Friday the 13th can be a lucky day tostart a business, by becoming the largest direct selling skin carecompany in the nation, boasting more than 400,000 representativesworldwide, who generate annual retail sales in excess of $2billion.

Mary Kay Ash, founder and chairman emeritus, never intended tostart a cosmetics business. When she retired in 1963, after a25-year career in the direct selling industry, her goal was tocombine her experiences into a guidebook for career women.

"I didn't know how to write a book," explains MaryKay, "so I just took a legal-size pad and began to listeverything good the two companies (Stanley Home Products and WorldGifts) I had worked for had done. Then I took a second legal padand began listing the problems-and there were many things Ithought could have been done better. One day, it occurred to me:'If you're so brilliant, what would you have done?' SoI began to write out my answers to these problems. When I read thewhole thing in preparation to begin the book, I thought to myself,'My goodness, I've put a marketing plan onpaper!'"

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