The year women's liberation wore pink.

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I never actually met my entrepreneurial hero, but I have admired her from afar. Mary Kay Ash died four years before I joined the company she single-handedly built. But though she is gone, her life continues to inspire millions of Mary Kay Consultants from Texarkana to Taiwan.

Born Mary Kathlyn Wagner, Mary Kay Ash never finished college. She worked for a variety of direct sales companies, where she rose through the ranks. In those days, however, a woman could only rise so far. That realization came to her the day she was passed over for a promotion. The rejection stung all the more because her promotion went to a young man that she had helped train. That was the day Mary Kay Ash felt the entrepreneurial pull.

She started writing a book designed to help young women navigate the murky waters of a male-dominated business world. Before she knew it, her unfinished book morphed into a business plan.

She launched her direct sales cosmetics company, Mary Kay Cosmetics, in September of 1963. Ironically, her first employee was a man: her son, Richard Rogers. Their initial investment was a modest $5,000. Today, Mary Kay Cosmetics employs over a million consultants and every one of them, like her, an entrepreneur. This year the company will make over $2 billion in retail sales.

Ms. Ash believed fervently in the power of praise. Consequently, her business ethic was the Bible's Golden Rule and her sales conventions had the spirit of an old-time tent meeting. From the earliest days, she saw to it that her top-performing consultants got their recognition in the form of gold pins and pink Cadillacs.

Oddly, Mary Kay Ash was more than a successful entrepreneur, she was a liberator of women. I guess you could say Mary Kay Ash was the feminist in pink. Her company unlocked a door for women around the world. Because of Mary Kay Ash a woman could be her own boss. She could build her own business. She could shape her own destiny. I know. I'm one of those women. You can't miss me. I drive a pink Cadillac.

Mary Kay Ash was the founder and muse for Mary Kay Cosmetics, an entrepreneurial venture that today has over 1.5 million consultants in over 37 countries.


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