The Lipstick Indicator: Mary Kay Performs Despite Recession

"I had a really busy schedule with school and work, and I just decided that first my initial goal was to make $50 to $100 a week," Armstrong said.

As a team leader, Armstrong makes constant phone calls to check on sales and to check on her sales consultants. To move up at Mary Kay, employees have to recruit additional saleswomen, and make sure they sell.

"You got your starter kit in the mail, so go ahead and give out samples to your friends," Armstrong told one new member of her team over the telephone.

"I just want to make sure you got that moisturizer in the mail, everything's working good for you?" she asked another. "You really want to focus on those faces, there's a script in there of exactly what to say."

Rhonda Shasteen, senior vice president for marketing at Mary Kay, presents working for Mary Kay as the perfect solution to the economic pinch.

"Our business opportunity is really a solution for women and some of the challenges they face today in this economy," Shasteen said. "It can be a way for a woman to supplement her income if her husband has been laid off or downsized, or if she just needs some additional income.

"You know, we have women who, like Courtney, started the business to earn $50 a week, and we probably have a lot of women in the business who are earning $50 a week. Then there are two of the national sales directors who, in recent years, have earned more than $1 million in commissions in a single year. So the range is broad and there's everything you can imagine in between."

Armstrong said she likes feeling good about her job.

"I love helping women feel good about themselves," she said. "Every woman wants to feel beautiful and look good and feel confident."

And that's not all she loves.

"I love my Cadillac," Armstrong said. "My children love my Cadillac."

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