Living Mary Kay’s Legacy Everyday

10-24-2013 9:59 PM

I’ve had the pleasure of working at Mary Kay since the early 70s and the very good fortune of working directly with Mary Kay Ash for over 20 years. It’s been quite an experience watching the company grow like it has. During the close to 40 years that I’ve been here, there have been many changes, from the shade of pink we use to the number of subsidiaries we operate, but one thing remains consistent—our devotion to the independent sales force, employees and giving back to our communities.

Being 19 when I started, I didn’t have much experience at all. To watch Mary Kay and the way she could motivate people inspired me. It was amazing how she could make people believe in themselves —both independent sales force and employees.

My favorite part was watching Mary Kay give back. I remember she would get letters from the children of sales force members who were about to go on a mission trip or a school activity. Invariably she would send a check for $25 without hesitation. The women in the sales force were like her daughters, and so these children were like her own grandchildren—very special to her.

As Mary Kay said, “All you send into the lives of others comes back into your own.” She raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for building programs at her church, and she received tremendous blessings in return. She documented this in a one-page sheet she would pass around—“You can’t out give God” (which can be found on page 138 of Miracles Happen).


I remember when breast cancer research became a passion and a personal cause for Mary Kay. Breast cancer survival was relatively unknown at the time, and there were no effective treatments. We had an Independent Sales Director by the name of Eileen Sullivan (pictured, right), of whom Mary Kay was very fond. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and tragically passed away. It touched Mary Kay’s heart so much so that if she heard of any other sales force members with this cancer, it was like it hurt her personally.

She was adamant that she needed to help find the cure and knew the only way to do that was to fund research. And she led the way in giving—raising millions for cancer research before she ever even started The Mary Kay Foundation.

I remember when she started to raise the money from our Independent Sales Force for cancer research - she introduced the idea at Seminar. She truly believed that the more you gave, the more you received in your own life. And she helped others to see this vision too. So when she went to ask for support, everyone helped! Logistics was the only real question and I remember the dialogue went something like this…

“How will we do it?” someone asked.

“We’ll pass bags around,” she responded.

“We don’t have bags,” someone replied.

“We’ll pass garbage bags.” And we did. We filled so many garbage bags with money that eventually staff started getting nervous because there were all these garbage bags filled with money laying around the Convention Center. Later, we put out donation boxes.

Eventually, though, Mary Kay was raising so much money for cancer research that it made sense to create a Foundation so the sales force had a formal way of making donations.

Being a responsible giver, Mary Kay checked out any organization she planned to support to understand what percent went to the cause itself versus administration. That’s why, since 1996 when the Mary Kay Foundation was founded, 97% of all of our donations go to the cause—because that was so important to Mary Kay.

Mary Kay was personally touched by causes affecting women. So the vision to raise money for cancer research later evolved to also include domestic violence. She not only gave monetarily, but also encouraged the Mary Kay government relations team to actively support state and federal legislation dealing with both causes.

More than 15 years later, we are still making an impact

As members of the Board of Directors for the Mary Kay Foundation, we do a number of things to support fundraising, like organizing the MK5K in Dallas or working with independent sales force members who hold their own fundraisers such as fun runs or sporting events. It’s also common to get phone calls from Independent Beauty Consultants who need someone to guide them to the appropriate support for either themselves or for family and friends suffering from cancer or domestic violence.

It’s humbling to think that at the beginning of this year, the Company’s 50th anniversary, we will have donated US$50 million for cancer research and domestic violence…that’s in less than 20 years. Since the Foundation’s inception, we have donated to 5,000 domestic violence shelters and provided over US$19 million in grants for cancer research. And we are continuing to raise money and awareness through text-to-donate programs, online giving and our events. We couldn’t do it without the tremendous support of the independent sales force, employees and, of course, Mary Kay Inc. Every dollar, every fund-raising event counts—just think…for every $20,000 we receive we can fund a domestic violence shelter. Exciting!

At Eileen’s funeral, Mary Kay received a kalanchoe plant which she planted in the atrium at the center of her home. The plant flourished, and Mary Kay was always giving cuttings of this plant to other people in Eileen’s memory. In this same way, the Foundation is Mary Kay’s living legacy and we know that her memory, her spirit and personal passion to give back, will continue for generations to come.

Thank you for being part of her legacy!