Facts, opinions, and the real story behind Mary Kay Cosmetics.

You Have a Sad Impression of Mary Kay

It breaks my heart that all of you ladies have such a sad impression of Mary Kay. One of the things that you all don’t understand is that you don’t make full-time money in Mary Kay unless you have a full-time sales director position.

I know several top consultants personally, and they aren’t working 40 hours per week with their business right now. They have other jobs or are choosing to spend 5 hours per week with their business because that’s how much time they want to set aside. And they’re still making money!

Girlfriend time is one of my favorite parts of Mary Kay. Yes, there are events that we have to pay for, but the reason for that is because there are expenses related to putting on those events. The National isn’t “making money” off of the events by any means. But, if she’s going to plan a dinner for certain consultants who it specific goals, someone has to pay for the food, right? It’s only fair that the consultant attending should pay for the meal and the rental space if she is going to benefit in some way by means of training or other information.

My favorite kind of Mary Kay girlfriend time is when it’s unexpected. This past Christmas, I couldn’t fly back to Indiana to be with my family, and after a very emotional evening, I showed up on my director’s doorstep unannounced on Christmas Eve and she welcomed me with open arms. She could have turned me away and said that she was spending time with her family, but to her, I am “family.” We’ve gone to movies together, had several sushi dinners, and sat for hours just enjoying each other’s company…and this from my ADOPTED sales director who doesn’t gain anything from helping me with my business. (And she has helped me, immensely).

I know my comments are not going to change your opinions of Kim or of Mary Kay. Your comments, however true you may feel they are, do nothing but hurt people’s feelings and spread untrue statements. If you aren’t happy with Mary Kay, fine, own that. But, don’t smear other women because of your own insecurities.

If any of you truly gave your businesses an honest effort and didn’t make excuses, my guess is that you would have been successful. Instead, you chose to be negative and bring other people down with you. How sad. I hope you ladies learn what Mary Kay is really all about someday. Joining this company has been the best decision I’ve ever made in my 27 years on this planet, but that’s me. Best of luck to you all in your future endeavors.


  1. Samantha

    Hello, utility company? I’d like to pay my bill.
    Well I don’t have cash, and my credit cards are maxed out, but…
    What do you mean girlfriend time is not an acceptable form of payment? I’m a consultamer for an MLM and if you just BEE-lieve, anything is possible!

  2. Mountaineer95

    “I know several top consultants personally”

    Really? What definition of “top consultant” are you using? What are their sales figures? Not wholesale purchases…what have they sold at retail?

    As usual, we’ll hear nothing but crickets.

  3. Nicole

    That’s an interesting lipstick you’re wearing, consultamer. I didn’t know grown women wore Barbie- Pink. Oh you’re not? Must just be stains from all the pink Kool-Aid?

  4. Nicole

    Oh look here’s a quote from the husband of one of those fictional five-hours-a-weekers!!!

    “She spends countless hours on training calls, recruiting calls, making postcards, mass texting all her female contacts, warm chatting everyone she sees, meetings, seminars, trips, and other uncompensated activities, but claims she works 5 hours a weeks and tells her I story like MK replaced her nursing income. In reality, she went from $60,000 per year as an RN to $9,000 last year after expenses, her first full year as a director. Almost all of that MK income went to servicing her debt. She did contribute maybe $2,000 over the whole year to the family’s living expenses.”

    1. Mountaineer95

      Wow. What does she make an hour with her MK “business”? And to add insult to injury, what would she pay for health insurance, if not for her hubby’s “Journey Of The Broke” benefits?

      Half of minimum wage? If that even?

    2. Mountaineer95

      I might be wrong, but I feel that a disproportionate number of nurses seem to get involved with MLMs.

      I wonder why that is (and if it even truly is; I don’t have any numbers to prove this one way or another, and if someone does have relevant figures, please share them here).

      Disclaimer: I’m not a nurse, I could never even dream of being a nurse, a few close friends and relatives of mine are nurses, and I find them to be superhuman (and ridiculously tolerant of idiots including idiot doctors).

      …and while we’re at it, maybe we should ponder why so many teachers decide to throw their careers away to start their own MLM “businesses”.

      1. Jeri

        I’m a nurse. I participated in Mary Kay while a stay at home mom of four, I believed I could earn a little money. I will tell you my opinion and observations, nurses frequently come from dysfunctional backgrounds. Many of us have been in abusive and manipulative relationships. I don’t know what the statistics are on that. To get through nursing school and be able to function well as a nurse, you have to be able to tolerate a lot of discomfort (I’m putting it mildly). We’re also hard workers, you have to be. I didn’t go to nursing school until after I saw the math on my tax returns and realized there was less than no money for me in Mary Kay. I did blame myself. After working in health care for 14 years, my perspective has completely changed, which is why I pop in here regularly. Pink Truth (mary kay sucks) started me on a path to understanding the manipulation and abuse I had been suffering from. Being a nurse exposes me to all sorts of people and personalities. If you are not emotionally healthy, you won’t last long, so I’ve had to learn and work on my own mental health.

        1. BestDecision

          Nurses are better paid than ever for an honorable profession! Unlike ordering enough to qualify for whatever. And lying about hours spent warm chatting, prepping for a unit meeting, hoping guests will show up on a Zoom.

          New graduate RNs are making minimum $50,000+ with no expenses to eat away at that income. Experienced RNs are paid much more. And, all of them get benefits, PTO, and 401K matching.

          Did you read that less than 130 people IN THE ENTIRE COMPANY made “executive income” in July? Fewer than that cleared/kept that income due to expenses. The new Applause is no joke!

          1. Heather

            Dang skippy nurses are paid better! We have also been the most honest and trusted profession for the greater part of 30 years. No, we don’t all come from abusive situations. Yes, some of us came into the profession later in life (raises hand – I was 41 when I graduated with my BSN). Yes, we work our tails off. No, our patients don’t truly understand what it is we do, especially behind the scenes.

            I’m getting ready to transition into a new role in nursing. It’s a salaried position and it’s currently where I work. With my master’s degree, I will be making just a bit shy of six figures. Once I have my certification, I will be making those six figures. *stands on soapbox with megaphone* YOU WON’T MAKE SIX FIGURES IN MK UNLESS YOU DO IT BY HOOK AND CROOK.


  5. BestDecision

    It’s not an impression of MK but EXPERIENCE. Directors don’t take home full-time pay, either. Just because I wore the suit didn’t mean I was making what I was in my career or what I’m making now. I earned my first Cadillac in my 20s, so I can see in you the hope and fuzzy perception you have of MK just like I did.

    Have you read the new Applause?
    Have you looked at the real numbers of the Top 400 Directors that aren’t even making $50,000/year?
    Have you seen how few people—less than 150—in the whole company made “executive income” in July?

    What you have is a hobby. If all you’re in it for is the warm fuzzy feelings of hugs and having coffee with your adopted Director, admit it. Don’t criticize those of us on here that have worn her same suit and gave up so much for MK. At least now I’m living authentically and not having to fake success or happiness.

    1. Mountaineer95

      And there are so many incredible (and incredibly cheap) hobbies out there! Stalking strangers at Target and heavily discounting pre-bought inventory to shake the dust off the boxes do not sound like fun hobbies. How about grabbing a pencil and piece of paper and making some art? Or selling your great Aunt Peggy’s biscuits at the local farmers’ market?

    2. Mountaineer95

      To every lurker reading this comment, I ask you:

      What is your average net profit margin of your MK “business”?

      If you are a full-time* MK person and can’t answer the above question, you have no business trying to run your own small “business” and you’ll be better off working for someone who does, in fact, know what their net profit is.

      There are many other business stats and figures that are immensely important to your success, and if your upline can’t or won’t share these numbers with you, they cannot be trusted as mentors or coaches or whatever they claim to be.

      *not “full-time” like the rest of the world defines as 40+ hours per week, but instead MK “full-time” which usually means 40+++ hours per week but presented as half that

  6. Char

    “If you aren’t happy with Mary Kay, fine, own that. But, don’t smear other women because of your own insecurities.“ –

    How about owning that you participate in a scam. Why couldn’t you fly back to Indiana? No money? You were emotional and turned up on someone’s doorstep UNANNOUNCED on Christmas? Who does that? I’m sorry for your troubles, but don’t accuse us as having insecurities.

    “If any of you truly gave your businesses an honest effort and didn’t make excuses, my guess is that you would have been successful.“ –

    This site presents facts, and not the spin you hear from people hoping to profit off of you. Think.

    You stated, “And they’re still making money!” HOW are they making money? It matters, you know, regardless of the amount. Pyramid scheming is not an honest “business”. And, I have ZERO desire to be a successful scammer, like you aspire to be. Think again.

    You were 7 years old when I started studying MLM. Heck, you probably don’t even realize Mary Kay uses the MLM method, but it does……big time! Now, tie you shoes before you trip, and don’t run with that lollipop in your mouth.

    1. Wasrings90

      This has happened to me turned up on someone’s doorstep UNANNOUNCED on Christmas? Who does that? -. And to be honest it’s quite awkward……. Now I would never ever turn anyone away Christmas or not… My rule is my home is always open. Also there’s plenty of time to make plans for Christmas the date never changes, you are going to tell me out of all the Girlfriends you have made in MK not one said hey come join us for Christmas we’d love to have you?….

      The first Christmas Eve after my divorce was hard I had to work my job at the BN on Christmas Eve till close & wasn’t going to leave to see my family until Christmas Day (they live about 2hours away..) I was so sad and lonely I never ever had spent a Christmas Eve alone in my life…

      A few friends tho where in the same situation so we all brought some Christmas goodies after work and watched really bad Christmas horror films together. It was planned in like 2 days.. It’s one of the best memories I have from that awful time in my life.

  7. morningstar

    Your letter here indicates that you are a very needy and like codependency relationships. None of this is about your introspection – that lands you at her doorstep. I encourage you to get well mentally.

  8. enorth

    “spends countless hours on … and other uncompensated activities”

    My family member is in an MLM and spends many hours training, creating posts and videos, and holding virtual classes in two languages across international time-zones.
    — For no compensation.

    All that time and energy prospecting for customers and new distributors, training them, and advertising heavily for the company and its products.
    — For no compensation.

    The company is laughing all the way to the bank.

    1. Mountaineer95

      “The company is laughing all the way to the bank.”

      ^this, this, this!

      All of the Kaybots tell us that MK is such a successful business, and ask us, how would they still be in business fifty years later if it’s the scam that we here at PT proclaim it is?

      The answer is, MK Inc is a hugely successful company and has been for decades. On the other hand, the thousands of “businesses” that Kaybots claim as their own are horribly unsuccessful. The corporate business plan works; the independent contractors’ “business” plans do NOT work.

      1. Char

        And this^^^^^

        I call for all “independent contractors” of MK to stop buying products for themselves (ask for free samples since you work for them), stop recruiting your competition, and stop ordering products unless you have a resale from a non-affiliate customer lined up at full price. No one needs “inventory” these days.

        Result: R.I.P. Mary Kay Corpse. You’ve just lost most of your actual customers who have made you billions. Your sales and marketing strategy of convincing customers that they are business owners has been exposed.

  9. enorth

    “spends countless hours on … and other uncompensated activities”

    My family member is in an MLM and spends many hours training, creating posts and videos, and holding virtual classes in two languages across international time-zones.
    — For no compensation.

    All that time and energy prospecting for customers and new distributors, training them, and advertising heavily for the company and its products.
    — For no compensation.

    The company is laughing all the way to the bank.

  10. NayMKWay

    “One of the things that you all don’t understand is that you don’t make full-time money in Mary Kay unless you have a full-time sales director position.”

    What YOU don’t understand is how little you understand. We have plenty of former Directors here. One drove the pink Cadillac for 12 years in a row. She was working 60+ hours a week and barely eking out a living.

    And by the way, how do you reconcile your statement against Mary Kay’s promise of ‘Executive pay for part-time work’? Hmm?

    “Your comments, however true you may feel they are, do nothing but hurt people’s feelings and spread untrue statements.”

    Please go back and read a few of Tracy’s analyses of the numbers published in Applause magazine, and find one statement she made that was wrong or misleading. (Bear in mind: Tracy is a forensic accountant and earns her living analyzing financial statements.) Then come back and tell us where she got something wrong, or admit she was right. We’ll wait.

    Your Mary Kay training has caused you to see falsehood in objective truth because you see it as “negative.” There is a name for this: it’s called “toxic positivity.” That’s right: excessive positivity can be a dangerous thing. It can blind you to life’s realities that need to be faced and dealt with, not shunted to one side lest they bring you down.

    In many Mary Kay meetings, anyone who brings up a problem is liable to be given a toy skunk to hold as punishment for their “stinking thinking.” Grown women are actually doing this, and it is not healthy. Publicly shaming someone who is being honest about their personal struggles is reprehensible.

    Call me negative all you want, but I will continue to speak out against companies like Mary Kay who treat people horribly and tell them they should smile and take it.

    1. Mountaineer95

      “What YOU don’t understand is how little you understand.”

      This seems to be the case for EVERY single MK supporter that visits PT.

      It’s always one of the following:

      IBCs who’ve been with MK all of four weeks and already know how wrong we are and are already making tons of profit;

      IBCs who do MK a couple of hours per week and make $1000+ a month at it (yeah right);

      Personal use consultants who (though they personally don’t) know oh so many people in MK that make $1000+ a month;

      Long time MK-ers who’ve failed DIQ more than once but still know that the business plan works and if we failed it was our own faults.

      (I left out “occasional delusional husband who rants about how his wife is so so successful in MK”)

      I guess my point is that NEVER (at least I think not, Tracy) has an MK-er at director level or above bothered to show up here at PT to set the record straight, to challenge (with PROOF) the numbers that Tracy provides, or to set us straight on any mistakes we’ve made.

      The only MK folks who ever comment here are always newbies, personal use consultants, IBCs who don’t want to do MK full time, or the occasional wanna-be director who’s failed DIQ a few times.

    2. Mountaineer95

      “Then come back and tell us where she got something wrong, or admit she was right. We’ll wait.”

      …lol, NayMKWay, what did you sign us up for? That would be a very long wait, so much that, in the interim:

      Pigs could fly;

      Hell could freeze over;

      IBCs could sell every dime of their inflated inventories at twice the cost;

      Kimberly Copeland could land a reality show;

      and Dacia could get her lost Louis Vuitton luggage back from Delta.

      1. NayMKWay

        OK, Mountaineer95, for you I will make an exception. You do not have to put your life on hold while the rest of us wait.

        Your breakdown on the types who routinely defend MK was right on. It’s like they all copy from the same script.

        I remember that one husband (or maybe boyfriend) who wrote to Tracy with profane rantings of how his SO was raking in the big bucks just selling product hand over fist. When Tracy politely asked for some documentation to back up his claims, he just ranted harder and dodged. It was like he had a counter: “How many cuss words last time? Eight? Ok, nine on this one, then.”

        As far as I know, no one has ever responded to any of our “Schedule C or it didn’t happen” challenges.

  11. Cindylu

    It breaks my heart that you would believe in a company that ruins families. Are you saying that when I got sick, it was ok for my Director to completely ignore me? Was it ok that not one MK supposed sister didn’t send me a get well card or even care? Let’s hope you sadly never have a health problem. Your MK friends may not have the time to help you out. I had no choice but to send back product that was slowly becoming obsolete. When you are sick in MK there are no sick benefits. In MK, Faith and Family rarely come first. I worked in a real career where our Christmas and New Year’s parties were paid for. I had paid time off to visit with family. Our training was paid for. We received free medical and dental. I received a free flight to Texas, Mexico and Curaçao, a Dutch Caribbean island. (That included beautiful hotels, meals and transportation (flights and bus tours or car rentals). I also retired with a great pension. I was able to have savings and pay off a house. Some of my educational classes were paid for if I passed them. Yes Executive Pay for Part Time Work in MK. I signed up for a job that I could work around my children. No one books facials or classes during the day. Furthermore it’s really sad that you pretend to be able to do facials (when you don’t have a real or professional course as an esthetician). Is it a big deal to pay for rooms, meals etc. in MK? Isn’t training supposed to be free? In my previous career, I got reimbursed for my meals and travel during training. Yes it’s sad and heart breaking. Sad that MK would promote executive income and pink cars that you and other IBC’s pay for. Those MK cars are not free. You don’t win a car? As to girl time I did enjoy being with other ladies (Not my scary selfish SD nor my sanctimonious hypocritical NSD). Putting my NSD on a pedestal seemed unsettling (because she was lucky and was one of MK’s very first Directors in the 1970’s). Yes this is heart breaking and sad. Encouraging women to pay for friendships seems depressing. I found out while I was sick and after I left MK that my Director and the ladies in my unit were fair weather friends. Now that’s heart breaking and sad.

  12. Destiny Angel

    It’s only fair that the consultant attending should pay for the meal and the rental space if she is going to benefit in some way by means of training or other information.

    The company I worked for paid for all my training. It didn’t matter if it was company-wide or department specific, it came out of the company’s budget. My team-leader choose who went on which courses and the company paid for the course, travel and hospitality if it was not on company premises.

    If it was on-site, then food was provided. And if it wasn’t a site you worked at, then travel expenses were paid in the form of mileage or travel tickets.

    Overnight or weeklong courses often involved an open bar which probably wasn’t a good idea on the New Recruit Orientation. 20 or so young adults straight out of college could knock back a fair amount of booze in an evening.

    As long as you or your team leader had a valid reason for the training, you got it. I was sent on a time management course two weeks before my maternity leave started. I tried to swap with some-one but I wasn’t able to. It actually worked out well for me and my new-born.

    The idea of paying for your training from which both yourself and the company you work for is strange to me. Surely the company benefits from my larger skillset as much as I do.

    I’m old enough to remember shorthand and typing classes in school. I’m also old enough to remember having computer courses at work so we all had the same level of skills using those new-flanged things.

    1. BestDecision

      MK Inc gets out of this because we were Independent Contractors, not employees. They can end a business immediately and change the commission structure with no notice, too. We were always lectured that it was “our” business, but the fact is we had no control over major changes that affected our daily work and income. We had no say in new product development, timing of launches, or rules of contests.

      And the Director suit? No input from us.

      1. EyesWideShutNoMore

        Who actually DOES have a say in the suits? We all agree they’re getting uglier every year, so is there someone (probably a man lol) at Corp who picks out what they think is “sharp” and trendy for the next coming year?

        I mean really, what uniform nowadays only has a skirt option?! Even the Catholic high schools have moved with the times and allow the girls to wear pants!

  13. Jacirene

    “I hope you ladies learn what Mary Kay is really all about someday.”
    I learned in the worst possible way what MK really is. The memories of that time still upset my stomach. How many hours lost packing overpriced products that were never sold, how many hours on the phone and dialing for dollars, how many hours away from my home, away from family … I’ll tell you what Mary Kay really is (I hope you will learn one day): she is a scam company that promotes a pyramid scheme disguised as an “opportunity” in which women like us are its primary target. If you are reading this review, leave while it is time.

  14. Heather

    I actually DID learn what MK was about. I spent over 15 years in the fog, and it wasn’t until I left and stepped all the way back that I realized many things.

    1. Those girlfriends were never my girlfriends, especially my recruiter (who also was my senior director – and she became a senior because I became a director). She was one of the most condescending, manipulative people I have ever met in my entire life. When I left, I was persona non grata. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer only a few months later, I did not hear from a single person in my line.

    2. I lost money. We all lost money. Some lost tens of thousands of dollars. I probably lost over 20K. Fifteen years with MK and I have very little to show for it. That work didn’t count towards social security credits, and what money I made as a director went to pay for MK crap.

    3. I worked my tail off! Honest effort??? Are you effing serious?? Many of us on this site were directors. Don’t you DARE chide me and others on putting forth an “honest effort.”

    4. You say that NSD’s don’t make money off events. Are you high? I can tell you that they did. They all did. Those NSD awards night at seminar were HUGE money makers for them! If so many people booked their seminar rooms at the NSD’s hotel, their suites were COMPED. That’s making money because they didn’t have to spend a dime. Is an NSD coming to your town? Great! Now make sure to cover her lunch and other meals, pay for that gift basket, and make sure to be at her beck and call.

    1. EyesWideShutNoMore

      Really good points. Number 4 in particular, I bet a lot of SDs are secretly relieved when they become a Go-Give area. No more overblown expenses when the NSD breezes into town. The areas without an NSD are left to “self-guide” and can stay where they want for Seminar.

      There aren’t a lot of NSDs in Ontario, just one when I left in 2018 and probably she’s retired (Renee Daras). In order to raise morale (snort), a group of directors now organizes a fall retreat for the whole province but considering ON is pretty big, not a lot attend.

      1. Heather

        At the time, I liked my NSD. I loved my adopted NSD, and we actually still chat/text once in a while. (She’s now an emeritus and was the one I spoke with when I was ready to step back. Nope, didn’t talk with my own NSD – I talked with my adopted one because I felt that she would be more honest and supportive.)

        But the events with NSD’s were killer. I would bust my butt for weeks on end to hype this thing, and I was LUCKY if much came from it.

    2. Chelsea park

      Question… genuinely curious. What if you just sell MK products? Like who cares about all the DS and NSD bull crap. I mean even at a discount you’re still making a small profit; not a great ROI but it’s something until you can open your own dollar tree.

        1. Chelsea park

          Technically I said save up to open your own dollar tree, because let’s face it MK is a franchise that people buy into their buy in price just happens to be more affordable than a legit franchise. I sell MK but I’m all for more transparency and less cult of MK. I don’t agree with the culture I don’t agree with the marketing but at this point in my life I don’t have time to commit to an Etsy store for my art. My health and family limit my ability for a normal minimum wage job. So for now I’m stuck with selling something I at least like to use. I refuse to con, do facials, or parties or build a team. I’m not dragging others into my Freak show… but I digress / not willing to give away my undermining Antics of the pink show. Yes I actively undermine my cult.

            1. Chelsea park

              I don’t feel like I’ve fallen for anything other than direct selling. I refuse to play by the playbook. Yes I’m not making much, but something is better than the negative amount I’ve pourEd into my art career. Let me make myself very clear. I’m not condoning Mk. I just wanted to be upfront that yes I am part of the stupid machine. It would not be fair if I lied or pretended I was not part of the overall problem that is direct selling. With that said I agree with a great many articles on this site otherwise I wouldn’t be here.

              1. PurpleH

                I thought I could “just sell”, too. There’s simply not enough market and too much competition. And if you say you don’t buy into the hype, you have no way to convey that. The chances are very high that any woman who sees your catalog or accepts your sample alter has an impression of MK as a pushy, over- priced pyramid scheme. There is a similar chance that anyone outside your immediate warm market will expect a discount or gift with purchase. And customers don’t run on your schedule, so if your family and health concerns come first, which they should, you will likely find any MK dealings to be just as inconvenient to schedule as a part-time job.

              2. TRACY

                Indeed, you have fallen for it. “I’m just selling a little!” This one of the many standard lies that people tell themselves.

                Here’s what you’re really doing:
                1. You are part of a company that abuses women financial and emotionally under the guise of empowering them.
                2. You are promoting a false narrative that anyone can make money in MLM if they’re willing to work, when the truth is that 99% of participants lose money.
                3. By being a part of it, you most certainly ARE condoning it. Your participation alone accepts and ratifies the practices of the company and sales force.

                I’m happy that you agree with much we talk about. I’m happy that you’re willing to participate, knowing that you’re going to get a negative reaction. I do hope there is an opportunity out there for you to make some money in a way that fits into your life, but does not involve MLM.

          1. Lazy Gardens

            “I don’t have time to commit to an Etsy store for my art” That is something you can do as much or little of as time allows, and mostly on your own schedule. Creating, listing, and answering customer queries can be done at any hour. There is no minimum number of listings per month.

      1. NayMKWay

        50% margin sounds good until you try to actually earn money in that system and learn it’s pretty much break-even. Then you learn the hard truth that no one wants to pay full retail when they can get it cheaper from Ebay or another consultant trying to empty out their garage-full of stuff.

        Between discounts and expenses, you’re more likely to eat losses than be in the black. And that doesn’t count the stuff you can’t sell because the market is so saturated with other sellers.

        The above is true of pretty much all MLMs. Margins are too thin, there are too many sellers, and Ebay usually has everything at a cheaper price anyway.

        1. Chelsea Park

          Very valid point and I concur with 100% … I’m a spreadsheet person and yep probably eventually I will break even. But I’m taking the $200 in profit over no profit on my other side hustles at the moment. I have multiple online stores that sell vintage items or art or I contact with some companies do to graphics work when COVID has not been a problem.

          1. NayMKWay

            Chelsea: +1 for using a spreadsheet to keep track of cash flow. Far too few do that, even though spreadsheets are pretty easy to use (way easier than most bookkeeping software, in my experience).

            Most of us (including me) on this blog are anti-MLM because of the business model being exploitative. When company policy is to recruit as many sales reps as possible, and to encourage those sales reps to recruit their own competition, that’s exploitative. As a business model, it is unworkable unless you force all of the reps to pay their way in and shoulder all their own expenses, which again is exploitative. The company incurs zero risk if everyone selling their product is paying for the privilege–they can have infinity reps selling to no one but themselves and still come out ahead. And then they layer onto the injustice by enforcing minimum “sales” (actually purchasing) volume to qualify for commissions (or in Mary Kay’s case, to qualify for the discount). Many reps go into debt early on to try to “build their business,” never recover the expense, and drop out poorer for the experience.

            So most of us here are no-MLM, no-way, no-how, no matter what. On the other hand, you need income, and you’ve found a way to–so far–come out ahead selling Mary Kay. And it sounds like you’re doing it is the way that makes the best business sense. Here’s my short list of dos and don’ts, for what it’s worth:

            1) Do not carry inventory other than a few demo samples, if that. Let customers order from you and wait a couple of days, like they’re used to when ordering other things over the Internet. The slogan “You can’t sell from an empty wagon” is no longer true, and is meant to manipulate you into buying excessive amounts of inventory; whether or not you sell any of it is of no concern to Mary Kay Corp.

            2) Do not recruit. Your customers will become your competition, and your income will drop. If you look at the Mary Kay handouts and training, they emphasize recruiting as the only way to get ahead, but the truth is that it’s a way for the COMPANY to make more money, not you. As soon as you recruit a customer, your sales margin drops from as high as 50% to less than 10%. You have to recruit a lot of downline to make up for the loss, and that puts you on the proverbial hamster wheel for sure: your recruits will be constantly dropping out and needing to be replaced.

            3) Keep careful track of your income versus expenses, and be ready to cut your losses if they start mounting up. Remember that Mary Kay’s return policy is 90% for any unopened product you purchased in the previous 12 months, not only for your first 12 months with the company. (Too many people get into an MLM, lose money, then decide to stay in long enough to break even before they get out. That’s called the sunk-cost fallacy, and it’s a good way to lose even more money. It sounds like you are not susceptible to that, which is good.)

            4) Be aware of the tax code changes that went into effect in 2018 (I think it was). Any business that does not show a profit for at least 3 of the previous 5 years is considered a hobby, and hobby expenses cannot be written off AT ALL. It used to be that hobby expenses could be written off against hobby-related income, but that is no longer the case. Do not expect anyone at Mary Kay to be aware of this; they all seem to think they can write off everything (including make-up they buy for themselves) all the time.

            Best of luck to you, Chelsea, and thanks for joining in the discussion.

          2. Lazy Gardens

            “But I’m taking the $200 in profit over no profit ” Don’t fool yourself. It’s not profit yet. Until you have sold enough to repay yourself for the inventory and other costs, it’s not a profit.

            If you sell $400 to someone, $200 of that is to cover the cost of the product, and the other $200 is NOT profit like your upline implies: it has to cover taxes, shipping, and the unsold inventory.

            1. Chelsea Park

              You are correct I understand what profit is and how to calculate it. I keep detailed expense reports and sales information. The $200 I referred to is free and clear true profit with all of my expenses. I didn’t buy into having inventory so my over head was very low when I started. Now that I made up what I put in I make my ridiculously low profit free and clear.

  15. Chelsea Park

    Thank you so much for this awesome response. I refuse to recruit its exploitation on so many mental and emotional levels. I only carry extremely limited inventory for samples. I can’t stand the wagon quote. Mary Kay needs to make major changes to its structure and shipping in order to truly compete in the future. As far as the tax laws I have been an LLC once before prior to my Mary Kay “adventure” and luckily because of that I have a better grasp than most about “write offs”. I hate the “write off” excuses. It’s still money going out. The basic principle of selling something is to buy low sell at a higher price. If you’re not doing that or have a basic grasp of that you’re screwed and Mary Kay does prey on people with this most basic concept and they do it very well. MLMs are not the way to make quick money. I’m lucky enough that the small amount I generate goes into an investment account. It’s easy to loose everything if you’re not watching. That’s what I love about this site. It gives you the ability to have an informed decision. Information is key to gaining your own power. If you have ever been a product marketer (which yes I’ve done too much of it) you know how much work it is creating content, product photography, website maintenance, point of sale, creating small batch inventory, etc. and the very little return. For me Mary Kay is a turn key side hustle because most of the content is done for me which frees me to do marketing for my passion side hustles (Etsy art store, eBay store etc.)…. this site is fighting the good fight and I like staying on top of potential pit falls since MLM is not my background.

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