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Client Stories

Enriching Women’s Lives: The Mary Kay Legacy

Mary Kay Ash started her company in 1963 as a way to give other women the opportunities she had been denied throughout her career. This focus on female empowerment was the cornerstone to Mary Kay Inc.’s unprecedented success in the US and across the globe.


The 1960s were a decade of change for many women as they began entering the workforce in greater numbers. For Mary Kay Ash, a national training director for a direct-selling company in Texas, it was a time of personal change that later paved the way for other women to embrace their own careers. At age 45, she was tired of being passed over for positions she was qualified for, and frustrated with training younger male employees who would later be promoted above her. So, she quit.

Planning to write a book that would help other women realize the opportunities she’d been denied, Mary Kay Ash made a list of things she liked about her past positions and a list of what she didn’t. Upon finishing, she realized the two lists represented a blueprint for her dream company. With her $5,000 life savings, she founded Beauty by Mary Kay in 1963.

When we began in 1963, we meant to change the lives of a few people. Instead, we changed the world.

Mary Kay Ash

The business model, direct selling with an emphasis on in-home product parties, was unique—not because of direct sales itself, but because of the sales force. Mary Kay Ash built her company culture to help women feel supported and valued, able to advance as far as they desired based on merit.

“I don’t know if [Mary Kay Ash] knew what a vision she had,” said Deborah Gibbins, Chief Operating Officer for Mary Kay. “She was compelled to do more for women because she realized how frustrating it was to not realize your full potential.”

In the more than 55 years since, Mary Kay Inc. has expanded into nearly 40 countries while continuing to grow its brand in the US out of its home office in Dallas. The company’s Independent Beauty Consultants are the driving force of its success, now with millions of people across the globe.

Fostering a Culture of Respect, Innovation

The company’s underlying mission of enriching women’s lives and its core values—focused on giving back and respecting others—underpin the work of the organization. David Holl, the company’s CEO since 2006, noted that their strong culture is made evident by the company’s low employee turnover: “People tend to make a career here, staying a lot longer than they ever thought they would.”

Mary Kay Core Values

  1. Go-give spirit. Giving without expecting anything in return.
  2. Golden rule. Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  3. Balanced priorities. Faith, family and career.
  4. “Make me feel important.” Treating everyone as if they had a sign around their neck commanding respect.

Part of Mary Kay’s success as a company lies in its ability to evolve with the times and compete at the pace of change. As beauty and lifestyle consumers become more savvy and have more options available to them, even established brands have to start with a strong product and execute flawlessly to stay ahead.

“What's great about the diverse product portfolio we offer here at Mary Kay is that no one consumer is the same,” said Dr. Lucy Gildea, Chief Scientific Officer for Mary Kay. “Everyone has that favorite item, whether it's a lipstick or a skincare product.”

The company has secured more than 1,500 patents globally to protect its innovations, packages and designs. The leadership team is proud of their investments in patents and passionate about ensuring their Independent Beauty Consultants can offer unique and creative products with an emphasis on efficacy and safety.

Finding Growth Opportunities Across Borders

At the beginning of Mary Kay’s relationship with J.P. Morgan, 75 percent of the company’s revenue came from within the US and 25 percent was international. Today, that number has flipped.

“J.P. Morgan and Mary Kay have enjoyed a long relationship,” said Jennifer Bishop, Managing Director for Corporate Client Banking & Specialized Industries, J.P. Morgan. “The firm has helped Mary Kay expand across the globe into countries that may be challenging to do business in, but they’ve relied on the expertise of our leaders there locally to coordinate back with headquarters here in the US.”

J.P. Morgan’s global expertise has helped Mary Kay navigate international challenges, investigate new opportunities and facilitate business introductions as the company continues to expand into new markets around the world, all with a single banking relationship.

What attracted Holl to J.P. Morgan in the beginning was that it had both global capabilities and a local presence. He notes that he and Rob Holmes, Head of Corporate Client Banking & Specialized Industries for J.P. Morgan, have known each other for 20 years: “It's like a family.”

We're really excited about the future of Mary Kay for three reasons: No. 1, the management team; No. 2, their market position; and No. 3, their operating model.

Rob Holmes, Head of Corporate Client Banking & Specialized Industries, J.P. Morgan

And like a family, the two organizations have plenty in common—including a commitment to excellence and innovation. By cultivating a value-driven culture, both companies strive to work with integrity, empower a diverse and inclusive workforce and instill respect among their employees. Both companies also invest time, money and research into technologies that better serve their clients and customers.

A Bright Future

Though Mary Kay Ash passed away in 2001, her legacy continues through the goals and culture she instilled at her company. As Mary Kay Inc. continues surpassing milestones and finding ways to innovate and reach new customers, Holmes notes his deep confidence in their ability to remain a market leader into the future—and how J.P. Morgan plans to be there every step of the way.

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

Mary Kay Ash

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