Guests cheer as Mary Kay salespeople spouses walk across the stage during the annual Mary Kay seminar at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas Monday July 25, 2016. (Andy Jacobsohn/The Dallas Morning News)
Mary Kay Inc. is seeing the rise of its own pink gig economy as more millennials are signing up to sell Mary Kay products, seeking flexible hours and the chance to be their own boss.
In the first half of 2016, nearly half of the 150,000 people who became independent salespeople for the Addison-based cosmetics company in the U.S. were between ages 18 and 34. Minorities made up 51 percent of women who started selling products in 2015.
Part of that demographic shift could be seen at Mary Kay's annual convention at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas, where many of the nearly 30,000 contractors would not have been born in 1963 when the company was founded.
The two-week expo officially started Monday, where the sales representatives will attend seminars, learn more about upcoming products and network with other Mary Kay consultants. The event is expected to pump more than $34.4 million into the economy, according to the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Some 3.5 million people worldwide work as independent contractors to sell the cosmetics directly to customers in their communities. To ensure its growth, the company last week launched its mobile app where consultants can update orders and inventory in real time, said Sara Friedman, vice president of marketing.
"We wanted people to be able to work their business on the go in a different and more dynamic way," she said, calling it a "real-time office manager and customer assistant."
The company tries to stay on top of technology trends to help consultants continue to grow their business and appeal to potential employees, Friedman said. The Mary Kay products have evolved too, coming in more contemporary forms and finishes.
But another part of Mary Kay's changing face stems from millennials' desire to have some control over their career prospects.
"They are really looking for an entrepreneurial opportunity," she said. "People are used to being in charge of their own lives. When you go out into the corporate world, you find that you lose that autonomy."
For Sharon Miranda, she realized she did not have that freedom while working in journalism. More than four years ago, the 34-year-old from Orlando, Fla., was introduced to Mary Kay when she saw on Facebook how a high school friend seemed to be living a comfortable life as a Mary Kay consultant - all with the pink Cadillac that high-performers receive.
Becoming a Mary Kay consultant was the last thing on her mind, but Miranda saw the business and growth potential, and the flexibility that she craved, she said. She first worked part-time as a salesperson while maintaining her full-time job. A year and half ago, Miranda quit her journalism job and started working for Mary Kay full-time.
"Some want the money potential, some want the flexibility and others want the sisterhood," she said. "I was a mom with a brand new daughter and a husband who I hardly saw because of my work. That's what Mary Kay was able to afford me that nobody was able to do in my young life."
Chelsey DeBruin-Colbert, a 31-year-old sales director from Dallas, started selling Mary Kay products when she was 18 after seeing her mom work for the company throughout her childhood. Originally, she did not intend to work only for Mary Kay; she studied business in college and worked in the corporate world for a year, but she realized it was not for her.
"I just completely decided on my own that it was not the lifestyle I wanted to live," DeBruin-Colbert said. "I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to be in control of my life and in control of my destiny and call my own shots."
Detroiter Gloria Mayfield Banks is ranked #1 National Sales Director in the World!!!
“I made the right choices, I worked hard, and I found something that I loved, and it helped me to create an extraordinary life. So although I’m Number One in MK, it’s only because I’ve helped a lot of other people become #1 in different ways.”
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Gloria Mayfield Banks
The air must be thin up there…
It’s one thing to be good at something, and it’s another thing to be simply great. But when you’re the absolute best, well, that definition right there is in an entirely separate zip code.
Good. Better. Best.
As of July 1, Mary Kay National Sales Director Gloria Mayfield Banks is now officially ranked as the #1 Mary Kay Sales Director in the world (except for China), and she is the first African American to ever achieve this ranking.
“What it means to me in my heart to be the first African American is hope and the possibilities. Whenever someone that you know, or someone that looks like you, achieves something that no one else has done, it just opens up a possibility. It takes away the conversation that ‘don’t dream like that because it can’t be you’,” said Banks, who originally never intended to take up selling Mary Kay Cosmetics as a full-time job.
“It started out with a very small dream. I just wanted to make $200 extra dollars a month to keep my kids in daycare. So I tell people I joined for the money, I fell in love with the recognition. I grew because of the competition. Being around ambitious women who kept God first, family second and career third was intoxicating. Because I didn’t have that anywhere else. The other thing is I wasn’t laughing a lot during that time in my life. And I joined Mary Kay and they were laughing and having a good time and they were empowering each other.”
Although Banks has done exceptionally well with Mary Kay, she wasn’t exactly struggling to succeed prior to that admittedly life-changing career decision. A graduate of Redford High School, where she led the cheerleading team, she has always been one to thrive on competition. The third of four highly successful sisters, all of whom are themselves entrepreneurs, Banks was raised by two parents, Stratford and Gwen Hilliard, who made sure that their daughters would have whatever support they needed to never doubt their abilities.
“Clearly, my parents were very on purpose with building our self-esteem. In the city of Detroit, if what you want to do is give your children a strong sense of self, one of the best places to do it is the City of Detroit where they had an amazing museum, where they have amazing political leadership, where they had amazing role models with beautiful homes, beautiful education all around us in Michigan. Beautiful doctors and lawyers and judges. Way before everybody else was doing it, we were doing it.”
After graduating from Redford, Banks went on to Howard University and then to Harvard Business School, where her older sister, Amy Hilliard, also attended. The two made history as the first pair of African American sisters to both graduate from Harvard Business School.
“First, I want to say that I’m really glad that I’ve been perceived in Mary Kay as just a leader. I know that has been embraced because in other countries they have asked me to teach. Where they don’t even speak English.
“Michigan has been a state that embraces the work ethic. Direct selling has been something that has been powerful in the Michigan area. Amway’s out of there. So it’s been a business model that’s been very successful in Michigan. And for a woman like myself to grow up in Michigan, it’s always a place of pride. And not only am I from Detroit, I’m from a city that has a large predominantly African American market. So you are bringing back a large statement of pride. To go from Detroit and then go to Howard University and then go to Harvard Business School. There’s a point of pride whenever we see people achieve something that maybe no one else has done yet. …And Mary Kay is such a big deal because it’s empowering of the women. And everybody knows about Mary Kay. It’s a recognized sales force.”
Oh, and then there’s this; Harvard Business School has a case study on Mary Kay, Inc. named “Gloria Hilliard Mayfield at Mary Kay Cosmetics.” This case study is currently taught both in the school and in textbooks around the country.
As for accolades within Mary Kay, which Banks first joined in February of 1988, it’s safe to say she has blazed a trail through the company that is still smoking. Here are just a few:
¥ Earned her first new car in 5 months.
¥ Company record breaker for Director-in-Qualification with over $31,000 production in one month.
¥ Powerful Pink Cadillac status for 26 years.
¥ Her Personal Unit broke another company record for unit size at 1,045 members.
¥ Unit holds the company record for the most new team members in one month – 384.
¥ Has trained internationally in Canada, China, Russia, Mexico, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, South Africa and Kazakhstan.
¥ Achieved the highest position in Mary Kay as an “Inner Circle National” (Only four National Sales Directors reached this position within their first NSD year). Within 18 months she debuted six National Sales Directors, going on to break a company record by achieving Elite Executive National Sales Director faster than anyone in the company’s 51-year history. There are only three women in the United States holding this position.
There’s actually more, but as remarkable as her achievements are, Banks is quick to point out that she is actually following in the footsteps of another longtime Mary Kay giant who, had she not decided to retire in January of this year, Banks would not be #1 today.
“The Number One National retired in January, and she was way ahead of us. Like, totally out there. When she retired in January, the number two National stepped up into her spot. Because you hold that spot for the year,” she said. “But year-to-date, I was number one. So for January thru June, I was YTD number one.”
Although the company’s fiscal year ended on June 30, Banks didn’t get the call until Thursday, July 7, when she was getting off of a plane in Salt Lake City, Utah where she was going to attend the funeral of a friend. There was both a message and a text on her phone. As long and hard as she has worked, she still hasn’t quite absorbed it all.
“What drives me is to see women’s financial situation better. Money is the reflection of the measure of the pleasure that you put into the lives of others. I say that all the time. …This sets me up on the platform of the Gloria Mayfield Banks brand, which is to mentor all women who want to learn how to have a better version of themselves.