Career Path Not Just Cosmetic -- The Mary Kay Professional With The Pink Cadillac Gets The Last Laugh

The next time you see a woman driving a pink Cadillac, stifle that chuckle.

Unless you are a highly paid professional, it's likely that woman in the pink car has an annual income that tops your own.

How many corporate drones do you know who will make more than $600,000 in 1992?

Minneapolis resident Shirley Hutton, the top-paid Mary Kay Cosmetics Inc. director in the country, will make that much this year, says Barbara Beasley, executive vice president of sales for Mary Kay Cosmetics in Dallas.

Closer to home, many who work for Mary Kay in Seattle, Bellevue, Edmonds, Auburn and other areas say their annual incomes, while not in the $600,000 sphere, are hefty.

Who are these people?

They are not the stereotypical bored housewives whose hobby/job includes peddling beauty products to friends, neighbors and family.

Instead, they are often well-educated, career-oriented women who chose Mary Kay because of the personal and financial freedom they say it offers.

Bellevue resident Nancy McCue, a senior sales director at Mary Kay, says the career allows women to advance at their own pace and attracts those with an entrepreneurial spirit. "There are no glass ceilings in Mary Kay" she says.

There are three career paths for Mary Kay saleswomen, McCue says.

Some are happy to remain consultants and concentrate mostly on selling products, such as men's and women's skin-care products and make-up, to customers. Directors' duties shift to training their team of consultants, along with selling and recruiting efforts. Some women want to advance to director immediately; some want to do it gradually, McCue says. Mary Kay has a track for each option, McCue says.

Worldwide, Mary Kay has about 220,000 consultants, Beasley says.

According to last month's Business Week, that number is up more than 50 percent since 1985. Mary Kay's revenues, however, have risen 95 percent since 1985, when the company went private in a $450 million, management-led leveraged buyout. In 1990, revenues were $480 million, Beasley says. Sales figures for 1991 are not available, but the company expects revenues will exceed $500 million, she says.

Nationwide, direct selling is an $11.8 billion industry employing 4.7 million, of whom 88 percent work part time, says Elizabeth Doherty, a spokeswoman for the Direct Selling Association in Washington, D.C.

About 5,000 of the total Mary Kay sales force are directors, who generally make the highest incomes, Beasley says.

Consultants who build a customer base of 100 during their first year, the corporation's recommendation, generally earn between $12,000 and $20,000, working 10 hours to 15 hours per week, Beasley says. About 70 percent of Mary Kay's sales force hold other jobs, she says.

On average, a director receives around $32,500 in director-related income, which is based on the amount of training she does, a free car and commissions from their own individual sales, which vary widely. Elayne Rice, a Seattle-based director, says she earns about $35,000 annually as a director, and generates about another $30,000 per year through the sales she makes directly to customers. She also drives a free car.

Edmonds resident Eileen Dunlap, who has been selling Mary Kay for 18 years, is the state's only national director, the corporation's highest sales position. Dunlap made more than $150,000 in 1991 and expects to make about $200,000 in 1992. Dunlap also earned the highest-level car, a Cadillac Allante worth about $60,000, she says.

"Money-wise, I make as much as a neurosurgeon," Dunlap says.

Mercer Island resident Judy Brack, who is an executive senior director, says she made more than $100,000 last year. Brack, who has been a representative for 10 years, says as a director her salary increases about $10,000 per year. She works about 30 hours per week and has 754 women who train with her. She has driven a pink Cadillac for eight years.

Chick Stamschror, who is single and lives in Ballard, has been a consultant for nearly 11 years.

"I'm more secure than most people could ever be, and my income has gone up every year," she says.

Many women join Mary Kay, because they lose their jobs or their lifestyle changes, McCue says. For example, some want to be home with their children. Others hate their current jobs and are looking for a change.

Cathy Lindsay, a Seattle-based osteopathic physician, just became a consultant in October. Although Lindsay likes working as a physician and already makes plenty of money, she was intrigued by Mary Kay, she says. "I wasn't looking for extra income as much as I was looking at expanding my horizons."

Burien resident Marcia Spangberg worked as a director of a drug-and-alcohol program for 11 years before quitting two years ago to sell Mary Kay full time. Spangberg is a single parent with two daughters. She started selling Mary Kay, because she needed money to send her kids to college. The job allows her to continue helping people, she says.

Several representatives say selling Mary Kay Cosmetics was the last thing they expected to do with their lives.

"I had a real attitude about it, when I was first introduced to (Mary Kay Cosmetics) . . . I didn't want to associate with old women who look like Dolly Parton, wear a pink bow and sell Mary Kay," says Auburn resident Cindy Towne, now a senior executive with Mary Kay. Towne changed her mind after meeting other Mary Kay representatives and realizing her stereotypical image was a myth. Today Towne makes anywhere from $55,000 to $65,000 per year.

"My goal is to be a national (director) by the time I'm 40, which gives me two years and one month," she says.

Nina Lin, who lives in Lake Forest Park and has a master's degree in library science from the University of Washington, became a Mary Kay consultant in 1978, while staying home with her children. Lin's husband read the company's marketing plan and pushed her into the business, she says. Knowing nothing about sales and having little interest, herself, Lin agreed to sell Mary Kay one night a week. Today she is a senior director with about 80 in her group, she says.

The company's turnover at the director level is small, but turnover for consultants, especially beginning consultants, is fairly high, Beasley says. Overall, turnover is about 35 percent a year, which is good for direct-sales companies, she says.

It costs $95 to buy the beginning kit, which includes demonstration items and sales aids. That it an inexpensive entry into business, which is the good news, Towne says. The bad news is some people have only a $95 commitment, and they drop out, she says. "If you borrow $100,000 from the bank to start a business, you generally have a real commitment," Towne says.

Despite the money Mary Kay representatives make, few outside the company realize the career potential.

The pink car, for example, can be the subject of stares and even jokes by people who are not in Mary Kay, Towne admits. Over 5,000 Mary Kay representatives drive free cars. Of those, about 1,500 are pink cars, Beasley says.

"Once you're in the company, a pink car becomes a status symbol, because you know what it takes (to earn one) . . . I've had four pink cars. And I think I've had the last laugh," Towne says.