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Mary Kay Ash (May 12, 1918 – November 22, 2001)

Business leader and entrepreneur Mary Kathlyn Wagner was born in Texas. In 1939, she worked as a salesperson for Stanley Home Products, hosting parties encouraging people to buy household products. In 1952, she was hired away to World Gifts. She was there for a decade when she quit in protest after a man she had trained was promoted above her. At 45, she decided to create her own business. She started Mary Kay Cosmetics with an initial investment of $5000 in 1963. With her son, they started with a small store in Dallas with nine salespeople. Today there are more than 1.6 million salespeople. They turned a profit in the first year of business and by the end of their second year had sold almost a $1 million. From the start Ash strove to succeed using incentive programs and not having sales territories.

In 2000, Mary Kay was named the most outstanding woman in business in the 20th century by Lifetime Television. She died on November 22, 2001 in Dallas.