By Joanne Arbogast
The Daily Item
Mary Kay Ash didn’t find her dream job until after she retired.
That’s because at that time — more than 50 years ago — the dream job didn’t exist. Hardworking women of that era were rarely recognized and rewarded for their efforts by the male-dominated companies for which they worked.
So in 1963, Ash created the job. Based on her experiences in the direct sales field, the assistance of her son and $5,000 start-up money, Ash formed the Texas-based Mary Kay Cosmetics Company.
The idea was to create quality skin care products for women that would be sold by a direct sales force that could “find success on their own terms and be their own bosses” balancing faith, family and career, said Ash in her book “The Mary Kay Way.”
An empire was born. Ash later introduced skin care products for men and opened the sales force — referred to as independent beauty consultants, sales directors and national sales directors — to men.
Today, the company’s executive chairman is a man. But that’s not really surprising. He’s Richard Rogers — Mary Kay Ash’s son, the same one who helped his mother create the dream job five decades ago.
The best-known symbol of Mary Kay is the pink Cadillac, part of the Career Car Program Ash began in 1969. Use of the pink car is given (under a lease-type of deal) to the top Mary Kay sales directors — the highest status within the independent sales force — for outstanding performance and exceeding goals.
It immediately tells the world the driver has done Mary Kay proud.
If you see a new, pearlized 2014 pink Cadillac CTS cruising the Valley, chances are it’s Kassondra Kantz.
Career choice that works
Kantz, who was born and raised in Richfield and now lives in Harrisburg, recently took delivery of the car at a dealership in Carlisle.
It’s her third Mary Kay career car.
Kantz, 23, started working for Mary Kay — or, as she describes it, “started her business” — at age 18, after she graduated from high school. “At that time, most people thought I was crazy,” she said.
But Kantz saw the bigger picture. “From the beginning, I wanted to be a leader in the company and work this as my career. I wanted a career that would offer an executive income with a flexible schedule so I could have a balanced family life and still be successful professionally with unlimited opportunities for growth and income,” she said. “With Mary Kay, I can do all of that.”
As a sales director, she teaches people how to take care of their skin and apply cosmetics but also coaches and mentors her own “unit” of consultants in building “their own successful businesses.”
Kantz is personally familiar with all her customers, spread throughout Snyder, Juniata and Mifflin counties. She attributes Mary Kay’s corporate success to this high level of “unbeatable customer service” along with its quality products, all of which she said she uses. Another reason, she added, is the company’s philosophy of “God First, Family Second, Career Third.”
“We have,” Kantz said, “our priorities straight.”
Earnings depend on sales
Despite the attractive perks, a career in direct sales is not easy; there are no guarantees.
Not everyone who has signed up with Mary Kay has been happy with the experience.
There is a start-up cost of around $100 for a starter kit of products. But some consultants have felt they’ve been pressured by their directors to spend hundreds of dollars more for additional products. “... your director will try very hard to pressure you into buying $600- $4,600 in product. She will tell you that you can’t sell from an empty wagon. She will go as far as to pressure you to take out a loan or borrow the money from a friend,” claimed one writer in an online forum called “How much does it cost to be a Mary Kay consultant?”
“Every three months you must order $200 worth of products. This does not include all the samples, hostess gifts, and free gifts with purchase,” she continued. “You will always be pressured to order more than your minimum $200 because your director will want her Cadillac and that depends on your ordering more.”
Use of a Mary Kay car is based on different production levels and the top is the pink Cadillac. To get there, a consultant must first build a team which means signing up others to help sell the products. Then the team needs to place a minimum amount of product orders with the company. It’s the wholesale orders of the team that will determine its production level.
Another online forum writer complained that “in order to qualify for the car at just the ’grand achiever’ level, a consultant must build their team to 12 members and have a minimum production of $18,000 within four months. That means your average monthly production is $4,500 and you may only contribute $4,000 of the $18,000 toward the requirement.”
The career cars are not given but rather “co-op leased” for two years (there is the option of taking a cash compensation instead). In keep the car, a specified level of production must be maintained. Depending on that production level, a consultant might end up owing the full lease payment, a portion of it, or nothing at all.
Fail to meet the minimum production requirements for several months and the car will be taken away (“Mary Kay Career Car Program Guidelines”).
Kantz’s first two career cars were a gray Chevy Malibu and a black Mustang.
This is her first pink Cadillac. “It’s awesome,” she said. “It is all touch-screen — sort of like a smart phone in a car form.”
The pink Cadillac is the top incentive and only available to sales directors like Kantz who are the top 2 percent of earners in the company, and who have a team of at least 24 and produce $96,000 or more over six months.
Kantz has about 100 consultants in her unit which pulls in $96,000 wholesale, she said.
She has no plans to slow down or change direction. If anything, she is more motivated. She is already looking forward to her next career car — “In two years I will trade it in for my option of the 2016 CTS Cadillac, 2016 SRX Cadillac or the cash compensation option,” she said. In this tough economy, those who can hustle, recruit and sell while working independently for the good of a parent company that offers levels of rewards and incentives may find a direct sales opportunity like Mary Kay a good fit.
Kantz, for one, is very satisfied. “I can honestly say that the longer I am in Mary Kay, the more I love it,” she said. “The company treats us so well; we truly feel cared about, and they recognize us for our work and accomplishments.”