In The Pink

March 26, 1994|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Sun Staff Writer

Joyce G. Grady is the embodiment of effervescence. She practically bubbles with enthusiasm when she talks about one of her great joys in life -- Mary Kay Cosmetics Inc.

"I love my career, I love my life," she says, leading a reporter to what she calls her "rolling trophy" -- a pink Cadillac.

"For me and my family, it has become a way of life."

Ms. Grady of Severn was one of 2,200 Mary Kay salespeople -- "consultants" and "directors" in Mary Kay parlance -- who descended on the Baltimore Convention Center yesterday for two days of pep talks, sales advice and lots of hugs and kisses.

The meeting is one of 31 career conferences that are held around the nation in March for the army of mostly women who sell $1 billion worth of Mary Kay cosmetics annually as well as heavy doses of the company's get-rich philosophy mixed with piety and family values.

This Dallas-based cosmetic empire rests on a foundation of 325,000 consultants and directors in 21 countries who sell the plethora of products to friends, relatives and referrals. These consultants recruit other consultants and then get a cut of their ,, sales. In this way, directors -- who are former consultants who have achieved certain levels of recruitments and sales -- can pull down salaries in the hundred-thousand dollar range.

At the center of this enterprise is Mary Kay Ash, the legendary matriarch in her mid 70s, who is said to have started the company 31 years ago with $5,000 and the inspiration of providing "unlimited opportunity" to women, according to company literature.

While not there in person, she was there in spirit in the form of a giant video screen. With her gleaming white hair perfectly coiffed, Ms. Ash urged the audience to strive for more success, ** reeling off a string of anecdotes and cliches. "Plan your work and work your plan . . . You've got to think high to rise . . . Fall in love with your job . . ."

Ms. Grady, an executive senior director in the Mary Kay army, was one of the heroes of the conference with her unit of 250 consultants selling the most cosmetics in the area. She was a veritable Mary Kay general, decked out with five gold and diamond pins on her pink suit attesting to her past victories -- $500,000 in 1988, $550,000 in 1989, $600,000 in 1990 and 1991, $700,000 in 1992 and $750,000 in 1993. The next pin she expects to get in July at the annual Mary Kay seminar in Dallas will be for $1 million.

Ms. Grady, who was an accountant with the federal government, became involved with Mary Kay in November 1979 as a way to make a little extra money for Christmas presents. But she was bitten by the Mary Kay bug. "I didn't know Mary Kay was going to be so lucrative," she recalls.

Since then she has drunk deeply of the Mary Kay bounty -- taking expense-paid trips with Ms. Ash and hundreds of directors to the Bahamas and New York, getting diamond-studded gold rings and bracelets along with three full-length mink coats. There is the annual income of more than $100,000. And every two years she gets the use of a brand new pink Cadillac -- the trademark of Mary Kay success.

Another big producer for Mary Kay is Valerie B. Yokie, a senior sales director, whose collection of 100 consultants sold $550,000 worth of product last year.

A former dean of students at Georgetown University with masters in business administration and counseling and guidance, Ms. Yokie seems an unlikely recruit for Mary Kay. In fact when she learned that the wife of a business associate of her husband was working for Mary Kay, her first reaction was "that is so tacky." But once she talked to the woman, she found that Mary Kay fit into her plans to start a business at home so that she could stay at home with her two children. "There was no start-up costs and there was no risk," she says.

That was 12 years ago and she is now earning in the six figures, she said. "If I knew then what I know know, I would have gotten into Mary Kay earlier," she says.

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