Mary Kay was founded by Mary Kay Ash and her adult son, Richard R. Rogers, in September 1963. Ash's husband died a month prior to the scheduled opening, and Rogers subsequently quit his job to help his mother launch the company. Ash's other two children, Ben and Marylyn, were also involved in running the business. Mary Kay was first launched as a single store in Dallas, Texas, and achieved near immediate success. Within its first year of business, Mary Kay attracted over 850 people to be independent beauty consultants. By year three, Mary Kay had reached over $1 million in sales.
Mary Kay follows a multi-level marketing sales model. The company has been criticized for predatory and misleading recruitment tactics. Mary Kay products are sold by the company's independent beauty consultants. To become a beauty consultant with Mary Kay, one must sign up with a current consultant, but Mary Kay is able to connect inquirers with consultants if they don't already know one. Beauty consultants begin by purchasing a Mary Kay Starter Kit or Mary Kay eStart. Mary Kay eStart provides the consultant with a personalized website and online store. The Mary Kay Starter Kit provides the website and online store plus a bundle of full-sized products and samples for customer demonstrations, among other supplies. Beauty consultants are not required to hold inventory nor toor recruit new members. Mary Kay states that active beauty consultants can earn up to fifty percent profit on Mary Kay products sold at suggested retail prices.