A Mary Kay Sales Director Faces Failure After 30 Years

This is the story of a senior director who has been with Mary Kay for almost 30 years. And what does she have to show for it? No retirement savings.

I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now and I think it’s time I tell you all my story. I may alter a few dates to protect my identity since I’m still in Mary Kay.  I am a Senior Sales Director and have been in Mary Kay close to 30 years.

When I joined Mary Kay I was a depressed wife of a professional man who didn’t want me to go back to work.  I wasn’t very good at the housework thing but I did enjoy spending the time at home with my two small children.  I decided to join Mary Kay against my husbands advice.  He was worried that people would think he was failing if I had to go peddle cosmetics.

I think it was his doubts that made me want to succeed. I was so desperate for some approval and I think that is what lures a lot of women into this company. Getting all that praise for even small amounts of accomplishment made me feel great. It also made the distance between my husband and I grow larger.  He resented the fact that I loved going to Mary Kay events and I loved my work.  I became a director within my first two years and even though he acted proud of my out in public, he reinforced his doubts about this company at home.

Right from the beginning I started to borrow money and I was not telling my husband how much I was spending.  There were no credit cards for orders back then but I had worked in a bank before so I was able to get money loaned to me.  I wanted to build up my inventory and I was doing 3 classes a week so I was turning over the product really fast.

After I became a director I was really hooked.  I was not ever pushy and never brought in consultants with any more than they could afford.  I worked hard to teach them to sell and actually I still have a few of those ladies with me after all these years.  My unit has never missed production in all these years but I can’t say that I’m making money.

For years I traveled all over our state holding meetings for out of town groups and actually developed up to three offspring (I only have one now)  What I found out was that everyone thought I was a super success because I drove a pink car (they had pink cars that were not Caddys back then)  My unit never got over 90 people so I never really made it to that Caddy level. I attribute that to not frontloading consultants with a ton of product.

I truthfully believe I was a good director.  I gave prizes, didn’t charge for meeting rooms, sent newsletters and worked long hours.  As long as I was married and had someone else paying the mortgage, taxes, utilities, etc., I could spend all that money on my business expenses and it didn’t matter that I didn’t really make much.  I actually have been in the queen’s court of sales for the past 20 years running.  Wow, it sounds like I should be a success.

Well, about 15 years ago I left my husband since we had grown so far apart.  I was a Mary Kay Senior Sales Director so of course I could make it on my own.  Well, that is where I was so very wrong.  No one knows how many expenses there are to being a director.

The checks look good but that is before taxes.  Then you have all your gas, office supplies, postage, phone calls, prizes, insurance, directors suit, seminar, career conference, leadership conference, and on and on.  When you get done paying all the expenses there isn’t much left of that commission check.  The money from my personal sales pays for the mortgage, utilities, health insurance, cloths, food, taxes etc.  Wow, when it’s time to place an order it goes on the credit card.  There isn’t any money left from those sales to order inventory because there are so many bills.

I have slowly gone in debt about $8,000 a year for the first ten years that I was on my own.  These past 5 years I have tried to work part time jobs and even full time jobs to try to get out of this huge hole.  I’m in my late 50’s so I am not at the age to be starting a new career.  I have a good client base so I don’t want to dump Mary Kay but my pink bubble has burst and I see just how so many people go into debt and how so many marriages break up over this business.

I don’t have a lot of choices right now.  I must keep this business going in hopes that I can someday retire but I also have to work other jobs to try to get out of debt.  I was told that I should go bankrupt when I went for financial advice but I don’t want to do that.  With interest rates eating up so much of my payments, it is almost impossible to get out from under this weight.

I currently have around 70 consultants and we average over $8,000 a month in production, but since the company hasn’t given us any substantial raise in many years, my income has not kept up with inflation.  I have cut out the prizes, except for year end. I cut out the newsletter and I don’t travel much any more because I am working all the time.  This is the time of my life when I should be looking forward to retirement like all my friends.  Actually I will probably never be able to retire and I am working more now than I ever have.

So for those of you who want to be a director, my advice is to stay married because no matter how successful this looks, there isn’t much profit.  That’s why the ones making the real money are tricking consultants into frontloading and continuing to order even if they aren’t selling.  I could never feel good about being successful on the losses of others.

It makes me sick when I hear the horror stories and then consultants are also persuaded not to send the product back because they might want to get in again.  Actually directors do that to save themselves from lost commissions and production.  So the director keeps winning while the consultants keep losing.  I am proud to say that it has been so many years since I had anyone send back product that I can’t remember.  It doesn’t happen when you don’t buy production with cheap prizes and just keep rewarding ordering and not caring about selling.

So, in my community I have am looked on as being a success.  I tell everyone I am working another job just for the health insurance, but I am barely making all my payments and I worry every day that I will go under. My children are grown and married and I have a granddaughter now, but I don’t have the money or time to see her very often.  (she’s hours away from me)

My advice to anyone who has gotten out is to send back your product right away and don’t fall for the guilt trips.  Don’t feel that you failed, because failure is staying in and not seeing what it is doing to you and your family.

For anyone reading this who is in the company, be honest about what money you are really making and don’t lie to others in order to line your own pockets with commissions or prizes. It is a fun business but the marketing plan  rewards only a small percentage of people with big money and funds that with the ordering done by the large percentage of people.

Well, that’s my story.  I will keep reading yours and hope no one ever gets in the situation that I have found myself in.  Thank you for letting me get it all out.  I hid these facts for so many years because I didn’t want to believe it and I was in that Pink Bubble.  It feels good to be truthful and let it all out.  I hope it is helpful to someone out there.

Getting old and broke. (but I look great–ha ha)


  1. BestDecision

    When there are NSDs still holding parties, it’s proof the wheel never stops. Yet, in corporate America, your hours and tasks change as you gain experience and promotion. What you did as a new employee or new grad isn’t the way you’ll be working as you near retirement.

    Kristin Sharpe just posted she had her Escalade stolen while she was inside holding a skin care class. She’s an NSD. How sad she’s doing the same work as a new Consultant.

    1. TRACY

      They act as if this is a badge of honor. “It all starts with the skin care class!”

      I look at my senior sales director from 20 years ago. She is doing the exact same thing she was doing 20 years ago, likely making the exact same income as 20 years ago. I was a cash cow for her and for my director. They just knew with my motivation level (and my credit) that I was going to help them move up in MK. they were both so disappointed when I left MK to focus on my real business.

      My director told me how I’d never make anyone feel good about themselves being an accountant. How wrong she was. She has no idea how many people I’ve helped after they have been defrauded. They had their lives turned upside down by someone, and I helped find that money so they could get it back, or at least get some of it back. I helped them get justice. That’s a whole lot more important than putting makeup on someone’s face.

      Now I’m not discounting the importance of making someone feel good about their appearance. That’s important too. But don’t tell me that what I’m doing isn’t important in it’s own way.

      It’s just sad that nearly 20 years later, my director lost her directorship (a few years ago) and my senior director is doing the same trolling for new victims. Telling the same half-truths, hoping to find recruits, hoping to talk someone into an inventory package. Doing the same “new year, new you” schtick. Doing the same “networking with other business owners” and pushing products as the new, on-trend thing. Same old, same old while I’m running a great business which has me doing more and seeing more than most of the NSDs in MK.

      And I’m doing it all honestly. And my business keeps changing (in good ways) and technology changes and there are new ways to market myself. How sad would it be if I was still doing things the same way as 20 years ago and I had to keep try to fool people into using my services?

      1. Shay

        Where is your real “I” MK story (money lost, what happened why you left etc) I mean I know it’s similar to everyone else but I think you should share the deets. I don’t mean this sarcastically. You know I respect you and your work. I read both blogs and visit everyday. 😘

        1. TRACY

          It’s not all that interesting. I was actively in for about 18 months. I broke even, only because I worked my butt off to make sure I didn’t lose money when I left. I hustled to trade and offload the products at cost to get rid of everything and pay off my credit card. I left to focus on my real business (forensic accounting). I got into MK when I was working for someone else because I wanted “something for myself.” Then I left my employer and started my own practice and after about 6 months found that I couldn’t do both that and MK so I decided to stop doing MK. My director ridiculed me for it, which helped confirm that I made the right decision. (I also had seen too many things that made me think MK was shady.)

  2. raisinberry

    And when you are forced to “warm book” strangers, you have no idea who they are, where their neighborhoods might be, and if going to do a night “party”, alone, is a smart idea.

    I still can not believe that some SD’s from my old area are still at it. Some are still left…and 11 more years has passed…and absolutely no closer to a strong profitable business or the family security program. What will it take to see what this company really is?

    1. JanRD

      I have wondered about that as well. There are so many better career options that improve with the proper training/education and experience. (It saddens me to hear of those who let their credentials lapse to pursue the MK dream.)

      Yes, there are those who say they are in MK for friendships and to help women, but as Tracy and others have established, there are plenty of ways to make friends and help people that don’t involve going into debt.

      Eleven years later and still on the hamster wheel? Definition of insanity.

  3. ran4fun

    I wish this author would take her own advice and send her product back and get out now. She has already admitted she is in at least $80,000.00 debt from this “business”. How does she think it will get any better if this is where you are after 30 years?

    She seems to understand the problems with the business model, but can’t seem to give it up. If she would gain back all the hours she is currently losing on MK, she could spend those hours gainfully employed in a job that will not require her to use credit cards to maintain her job!

    her words … “Don’t feel that you failed, because failure is staying in and not seeing what it is doing to you and your family.” …
    I wish she would heed them, and tell them to her consultants, too.

    1. cbbgreat

      I agree – return your product, get a full-time job (it doesn’t have to be a “career”!) that pays the bills and has insurance, and get off the hamster wheel. Don’t stay in just because “they” think you are giving up! Get out now, so you can have some sort of retirement, so you can spend more time with your grandchild, so you can have peace in your life! Don’t stay in just because you will feel regret – that is only one painful emotion but will easily be overshadowed and soon replaced by the freedom and new happiness you will find. Come back here as often as you need for support!

  4. Peaches

    You know, I am glad this story came out. I just wish this SD would unmask herself. In truth, I don’t think anyone in the MK Pink Atmosphere would even give a damn because they would be more concerned with churning and burning the ground for new sales associates aka MK Victims, then frontloading them, and encouraging them to REALLY STRETCH and make an even bigger and better order so that the “team” can get into running for whatever is the next, new carrot.

    The way to get better is to get out. And then tell everyone that the emperor or empress has no clothes and the cosmetic just don’t hide the ugly truth about a business which is based on fleecing the unsuspecting and helping them get themselves into bad financial trouble and very low credit scores.

    1. TRACY

      Meh. I don’t think it matters who it is. This is the story of SO MANY in MK. I bet this could be 40 different directors who are currently in the company. If she said who she was, she would come under personal attack, and that would serve no purpose.

  5. Lazy Gardens

    “I was told that I should go bankrupt when I went for financial advice but I don’t want to do that. ”

    And not following professional advice is a BAD idea.

    Declare bankruptcy, get a real full-time job and pour every penny you can into a 401K and savings and Social Security.

  6. Minka

    This sounds very similar to my story! 20+ years… hit Exec. Senior… pink caddy… Unit clubs etc… finally found a company that did it right. Leaving was not easy but the best business decision yet!

  7. A_Real_MUA

    The only way MK will go down is if the those that are still in, like this lady, speak up and tell the REAL truth. Otherwise after 55+ years – it will NEVER end.

  8. Rick

    MK nearly broke us up. We were married about 15 years when wife started selling on the side. She left a great-paying corporate job to go full-time with MK. The stress just about killed her, and now reading through all this, I think she was stressed mostly about hiding debt from me and how she was dumping inventory to women’s shelters. It came to a head when we refinanced our house and she wanted to wrap a car payment and credit card debt into the deal; turned out she was carrying about $30,000 in debt without telling me.

    She finally came to her senses. Now we’re happy, without MK; debt-free. The house is paid off. We’ve been married 42 years. But it wouldn’t have lasted if her involvement with Mary Kay continued.

    Get out now!

  9. Bel

    I just looked at a friend’s FB page. She just got back from Dallas. Had two large boxes she was giving away to a charity. I was thinking “how can you afford that?” They had moved to a nearby town solely to be the Mary Kay person there (child told me when I asked why they were moving.) I have another friend who is driving her pink SUV. For both there is absolutely no way you can give away two full boxes of product or drive that SUV and not be in debt. It is very sad.

  10. yourmom

    I do not sell Mary Kay or do any home parties… However, I own my own business. What you just described is what a lot of small business owner’s go through.
    I do have to say though, if you feel you are staying married just to make ends meet I would recommend finding another profession. Today it’s hard, but relationships for necessity will make you miserable in the end.

  11. Babs Cocoa

    It’s almost like a cult. My Sales Director has learned to LEAVE ME ALONE! I am an active consultant, only to buy product for myself. I don’t advertise or try to sell. However, I’m wondering if I’m spending too much on product I don’t need? Probably! To receive the 50% discount, I need to spend $225.00 + tax on retail price, + shipping (and I’m taxed on shipping charges)! Do I walk away and go back to buying drug store or department store products, or continue to buy a bunch of stuff that I don’t really need? I do like the product, but there a LOT of nice skin care and cosmetics on the market. Anyone out there like me?

    1. NewFreedom

      Me! Me! Me! I just recently made the decision to step aside from my business. I’ve known for a while that I’ve been losing money in it. I found this website last month and have been checking in every so often. I really do like the product, but I also know that last year (Jan-Dec) I only used about $625 wholesale for personal use. Is it worth buying $225 every 3 months? I don’t know. I’ve been doing some research on other brands and for once I don’t feel guilty about it.

      1. NewFreedom

        I have been a consultant for 10 years as well. It was liberating to go to the Clinique counter without feeling guilty for looking at another brand’s product. I still like some Mary Kay items, but there are so many other possibilities now that I don’t know where to start. Haha!

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