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And the products are no longer entirely packaged in trademark pink. Ash originally chose the color because, in 1963, pink looked nice in most bathrooms.
Learning the tricks of the trade, however, was a bit of a challenge for Cutler. His first victims were friends. "Those poor people," Cutler laughs. "My first facial took four hours and 15 minutes. I was so interested in all the different formulas, I thought they were supposed to try everything."
Needless to say, he got better and is now a whiz at raising or lowering cheekbones and balancing out lips. Besides, Cutler recites, "Mary Kay always says, 'As long as you don't let them leave with a mask on, you're doing okay.'"
Actually, consultants don't ever touch faces. Instead, they are sort of makeup foremen, directing the application.
"I certainly am not going to be in your bathroom in the morning, so you'd better learn how to do this," Cutler says. "And I don't wear eye shadow."
He does, however, plan to know his customers for the next 30 years. "A lot of women really trust my opinion about what looks good," Cutler says. "And I'm really honest with them."
Cutler personally has recruited six men as Mary Kay sales consultants. Among them are a lawyer, an accountant, an IRS auditor and a pharmacy technician; they sell Mary Kay part-time. "It's a fun, social thing," Cutler says about the facial and makeover parties that are the backbone of Mary Kay sales. "Sometimes it's, 'Oh, honey, take that lipstick off.' Or someone will put on a blush, and it's like, 'Whoa, too much,' and we'll all laugh."
Cutler's marketing background has helped in his new career. Consider a recent sale of $1,200 in Mary Kay gift baskets to a local accounting firm ("You just don't give liquor anymore"). He is, however, keenly aware that the hostesses who invite their friends over for a group facial party are stalwarts of the Mary Kay business. They are rewarded with free cosmetics.
"I had a woman take me aside and tell me that she wanted everything Mary Kay, but she didn't want to pay for it," Cutler remembers. "I said, 'Okay, I can work with that.'"
Eight parties later, she got her stuff. By then, Cutler had made thousands.
On the flip side, Cutler faces a challenge his female counterparts need not worry about--the safety zone. Women aren't as willing to do personal business in his home--or theirs--as they might be if he were a woman. Cutler usually suggests that women bring a friend or two for comfort, which also means more customers. And there's no question that he's serious about this business. A dining table stands ready for four or six facials or makeovers. "My customers are so cute," he exclaims. "They'll call and say, 'Tom, Tom, I'm almost out of cream and cleanser. You've got to help me.' "I've got them all convinced that their face is going to fall off if they stop using the product." It seems to work. For whatever reason, they love him and they love Mary Kay. Cutler counts more than 300 regular customers, and another 200 occasional buyers.
Skin care aside, Mary Kay is really selling self-esteem in pink cases. The company revolves around the idea that if you look good, you feel good--stress is bad for the skin. And people spend a pretty penny making themselves feel good. "I'm committed to my happiness, which is more important than all the money in the world," Cutler says. "Women [customers] come in and it's like, 'My boss is a jerk, my kids are screaming, my life is miserable, make me beautiful now.'
"It's a fun thing. It makes people relax. It's chill-out time."
The atmosphere extends to Mary Kay meetings, where new recruits and veterans share testimonials and celebrations in proceedings that are a bit reminiscent of 12-step programs, or those recurring skits on Saturday Night Live called "Daily Affirmation."
It's the Mary Kay way. Or, as the sales force repeats in unison at the end of its sales meetings:
I'm at the right place, at the right time. I made the right decision. Money and blessings follow me wherever I go . . .
and I say YES to my success!
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