By M.E. Jones
SHIRLEY -- Mary Ann Pender Prince doesn't come across as a typical door-to-door sales person. But then the same might be said of many, if not all, independent beauty consultants selling Mary Kay cosmetics and providing individualized service to customers.
At a recent Mary Kay open house at her home, Prince talked about the personal odyssey that brought her to the company and the professional perks she's achieved since.
Prince joined the Mary Kay sisterhood more than eight years ago, while recovering from an epic medical battle that threatened her life and disrupted it for over three years. Pitching into her new career with grit and gusto, the married mother of three grown sons proudly showed a visitor the "Mary Kay room" her husband Gary built for her six years ago, where she displays her cosmetics stock.
The décor includes photos of her at various company events and a pink Christmas tree graces the room, underscoring the "Christmas in July" theme of her open house.
The addition to her home, with its dedicated purpose, was particularly satisfying because Gary wasn't a fan of her entrepreneurial effort early on. He was leery of the initial investment she had to make to get started, Prince said. But it paid off.
One Christmas, a few years into her new job, Prince presented her husband with a gift that surprised and delighted him: two airplane tickets to France for their two-week vacation of a lifetime. Her Mary Kay sales paid for that trip, she said. And Gary stopped grumbling about her business.
"He hasn't had a bad word to say since," Prince said.
She works at it and clearly enjoys her work, but Prince still marvels at her own success.
"I was told I could never work again," she said. "But this was easy for me."
Kathy Ellis, a friend of Prince, agreed.
"You get from it what you put into it," she said.
It was Ellis who suggested the Mary Kay room, Prince said. Ellis was an MK beauty consultant for 17 years; now, she's among Prince's biggest clients.
As an independent businessperson, events like the open house are her own innovations, Prince said, and the room functions as a kind of cottage-industry storefront for her. But she also makes house calls.
"I can go to their homes or I can help them here," she said.
It's a one-woman business, but Prince tends to say "we" when she speaks of Mary Kay.
"We do have meetings at which folks share ideas," she said. One of those was the "Christmas in July" idea that she came up with, and which is now an annual event, complete with "holiday bucks" she offers as incentives.
"You customize for your own comfort level," she said.
Prince's Mary Kay connection has taken her places -- Dallas, for example, where she visited the home of the famous founder and the MK cosmetics factory. Dallas celebrates the success Mary Kay Ash represents.
"It's a pink city!" Prince enthused.
Just about everyone has read promotional literature about overnight success stories, Prince said, but she doesn't claim to be one. After eight years, though, she is successful.
"You have to build a client base," Prince said. With Mary Kay there are "people under you" whose profits are shared, and the arrangement works both ways. And she counts on customer loyalty, clients who like her, but the first draw is the products themselves, which some folks swear by.
"There are consultants everywhere," she said.
Ellis was one of them, but she was a customer even before that. "I did it to support my makeup habit," she said, jokingly. "I've been using Mary Kay for 21 years."
Most of Prince's business comes from "word of mouth," she said, but she also collects business cards and seeks out promotional opportunities, such as newspaper articles.
"It's a media world," Prince acknowledged.
She insists, however, the beauty-consultant business isn't competitive, at least not within the Mary Kay world.
"We don't steal customers" from each other, she said. Not that it's taboo, or that the organization establishes territories. It does not. But there is a structure. Prince has two people working under her in Florida and Maryland, for example. She calls them "adoptees."
It's a business, you have to stay focused or lose out to another "up-and-comer," both she and Ellis posited. But the successful independent beauty consultant has to go a step behind, offering personal service as well as a great product.
"We come to you," Prince said. "There are no stores, it's all consultant-based.
Looking for an MK consultant near you? "Google it," she advised. And if you live in Shirley, contact Prince at 978-4861.