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."