We Worked Harder and Smarter in Mary Kay

Written by SuzyQ

“Mary Kay works when you do!”

What a myth! If Mary Kay worked when many of us did, we wouldn’t be here, would we? We are not the lazy “loosers” those in the pink fog make us out to be. In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago we were sugar sharp and recruitable, with slammin’ hair, a professional resume, and damn fine credit. We were director’s dreams because WE WANTED IT ALL AND WERE WILLING TO DO WHATEVER IT TOOK.

We went around, through, under and over all obstacles. We prayed. We asked God to bless our businesses. We asked Him to give us the words to touch the hearts of all those women placed in our path.

We earned “Premier” cars and Cadillacs as an outward symbol to attract women to Mary Kay, so God could bless them, too. We knew we were the only Bible some women would read, and the only Mary Kay people would meet.

We put our families on hold, we put our friends on hold, we worked the phones and text messages like a bookie on a hot streak, we warm-chatted, we gave samples and discounts, and bribed models and guests. We hit Starbucks every morning and bought lunch and dinner and afternoon iced tea and appetizers. We spent hours on our meetings, new consultant packets and training, social media posts, email blasts, websites, retreats, advances and events. We perfected recruiting scripts, we were pros at “pulling” inventory, we believed the speeches we heard at seminar and we enjoyed some success, occasionally.

We beat ourselves up daily. We woke up nights in a cold sweat. We lived with a fear of impending doom. We compared ourselves to other more successful directors. We were working hard, but not correctly. Or we were working correctly, but not hard enough. We looked good, but we could look better. We could do better, but we were doing everything we were told to.

We couldn’t get models for the meetings either. We couldn’t get it through our consultants’ heads that the meetings were for recruiting, not socializing, and if they didn’t bring models, there was really no reason for a meeting. We felt guilty asking them for room fees, but we had paid room fees, too, and we weren’t sure we could afford our portion of the training center rent. We moved to our homes, and were told by other directors that meeting in one’s home was not professional, and we would not attract professional women.

We worked harder and smarter. We spun our wheels. If we recruited, inventory was not an option. If we brought in inventory, our relief about a commission check was canceled with guilt once we figured this whole thing out. We were told that everyone made their own decisions based on their needs and goals and was their decision, but we didn’t really believe that after awhile.

We continued to beat ourselves up. We knew that we could not afford to miss an event. If we had decided we did not have the money; that was the reason to attend. If we didn’t attend, because we didn’t have the money, many of us lied. It’s amazing how many non-life threatening illnesses pop up around seminar and leadership. We are out the fee, but not the plane and the other expenses.

If we went, looking for that one piece of information that would turn our businesses around, we were disappointed. There was nothing new. Ever. It was always the same message. Our deserve level was low, we were content with mediocrity, we weren’t working hard enough or smart enough. We resolved to do more, to be more, to be the best.

So. Mary Kay works when you do? Not so much. Mary Kay works when you set your integrity aside and recruit and “pull” inventory and tell yourself that this is the best thing around for women. You know it’s not true, but you have hidden so long behind the smoke, mirrors and sequins that you have forgotten who you once were. The gradual moral erosion has taken its toll and you missed the red flags.

YOU, however, are still there. And we’re here to welcome you back to the land of the living. Think. Question. Pray.

We’ll be here.


  1. NayMKWay

    “Mary Kay works when you do.”

    So much deception and manipulation in that 6-word phrase. It’s a thought-stopping cliché and victim-blaming rolled into one.

    Nearly all of the personal suffering SuzyQ went through had its root in her buying into that lie. That lie had her convinced the MK business plan was sound. If she wasn’t thriving, she must not be doing it right, or working hard enough, or managing to make all the meetings. After all, you have to show up to go up, right? You never know which meeting will give you that one key to unlock your success, so don’t miss any!

    Mary Kay does NOT work for the vast majority of women who sign up, and there’s good reason for that: it was never meant to work for all but a few. Basic math guarantees that far more will sign up than can possibly succeed, so almost everyone who signs up loses money. That’s what endless-chain recruiting does, and that’s what Mary Kay does.

    It says a lot that Mary Kay “training” is loaded with excuses and victim-blaming. Practically before you get started, you’re bombarded with pithy thought-stoppers with a single message: if you fail, it’s on you.

  2. Cindylu

    I’m happy I wasn’t very good at recruiting. I could convince women to join me. My SD was so narcissistic and cold that any woman that came to a meeting would know immediately something was wrong. I still feel horrible when I drive near a certain street or past a store where a recruit worked. I remember those women that got scammed with buying that stupid $300.00 kit, some product etc. Some of them really couldn’t afford the wasted money. Once I got sick, I know that deep down MK never was for me. I just wanted a part time flexible way to make a bit of money. Instead I found myself taken in by a pyramid scheme. How embarrassing it was to discover that MK was mostly about recruiting and their Christian philosophy “Faith First, Family Second and Career third was nothing but meaningless empty talk. So happy that I got out before I hurt too many women and their families.

  3. J

    I used to take comfort when my director told me “it’s not a pyramid scheme.” But I was 18 and didn’t understand what a pyramid scheme was, I thought it was strictly what my director described: taking a portion of your recruit’s profit.

    I was comforted, not knowing anything about business, when my director told me our profit margins were the highest in the industry. Maybe for an mlm, but for cosmetics, our margins are dismal compared to 80% gross profit norms.

    I thought as a naive teenager “no territories” was a good thing because I was directed to glossy statements like “I could sell to anyone regardless of zip code!” What I didn’t understand was that this didn’t protect me from market saturation. There were nearly 30 consultants in my home town of 1,800 people. A single Ulta store wouldn’t survive in a town that small, let alone 3, certainly not 30.

    Well at least there’s the top notch training, right? Nothing like an 8 hour day in a Holiday Inn on hard chairs and a lecture to beat you up about your tight grip (concerns about taking on credit card debt). “Small minded people think it’s debt, a business minded woman would see it as an opportunity to double your money.” Opportunity, how about a guarantee?

    Ugh, no it’s not doubling my money is it? Not after the unpaid hours of warm chatter, convincing someone to host, party prep, hostess discount, packaging, gas, returns. Not to mention paying for my training which I’d never do at an actual job.

    “But you’re a business owner, that’s why you pay for training and it’s a tax write off!” Nope, I didn’t file for an LLC, I don’t carry insurance, I can’t market my products freely, I can’t carry other brands, I can’t even decide my own title. I am not a business owner.

    Get out before they close down. The US is no longer a huge market for mk, and just like Australia and New Zealand, the company won’t lose sleep when they hit ‘send’ on the email that says: Surprise, you no longer have a business.

    1. J

      Thank you, glad to be out too ☺️ I know the posts here helped me finally see the light, and stop feeling like I was the only one who didn’t have $300+ parties consistently.

  4. Coralrose

    This post got me thinking about Seminar. I have a question for former directors: were you pressured by your upline (or rewarded with prizes) to have a certain number of consultants from your unit there? My former director pushed HARD to get us to go, and now I’m wondering how much of that was the director’s wishful thinking of “that consultant will be on fire after Seminar/Career Conference/whatever” and how much was actual pressure & manipulation from uplines, or the company?

    1. enorth

      “My former director pushed HARD to get us to go”

      Pressure from the top.

      I was never in MK but, in a video, I heard a NSD tell her SDs that the company gives NSDs a quota of people to get to seminar. NSDs push SDs, and the SDs push their unit members.

      It’s all so empowering,

    2. BestDecision

      Yes, for a few years we were given recognition by MK for unit attendance. The main reason we wanted more to go was because we knew they’d get fired up and go home with a desire to build their businesses. Our production and title counted on forward movement. If we went by ourselves, we simply couldn’t pass on the massive amount of energy they would see and hear in Dallas. Plus, they’d hear other Directors or NSDs in classes and onstage tell them what we needed reiterated about having inventory, cold calling, handing out business cards, proper wording for getting recruiting info out, etc. Most years, my unit attendees would come home and make a lot of promises and goals, work on ideas they’d gathered there, and then eventually fizzle out.

      All attendees get free retail products on their next order, so we all got something out of it. Years ago, they stopped giving it out at Seminar and changed to adding it in with our next order received within the next few weeks or so.

      1. J

        Wow! I didn’t realize they stopped giving you your product at seminar. Holding it for your next order is so manipulative, and needless to say, it makes that trip even “less free.”

  5. Jacirene

    “It is incredible how many non-fatal diseases arise around seminars and leadership. We are paying the fee, but not the plane and other expenses.”

    When I was at Mary Kay, it never occurred to me why my director spent the entire year saving money for an annual seminar. She had a kind of spreadsheet, where there was a plan for a type of “savings”. This “savings” should be enough to pay for the expenses of the Seminar. But wait. Why would someone who claims to earn a lot of money do this? OMG! She was broke.

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