I Was a Mary Kay Consultant for 9 Days


This is not the post I wanted to write, but alas, I am human, and I make mistakes. And those bloggers that always seem to have it together? Nope. Not me. Not today.

Today, I’m letting my pride take a little beating, and choosing honesty over hiding behind the facade that everything is ok. Please be kind?

So, you probably figured from the title that I’m not doing Mary Kay anymore. Yes, that little business venture only lasted a week and a half. Just add it to my repertoire.


Here’s the deal

About a month ago, I attended a Mary Kay debut with a family member, and enjoyed listening to the speeches from women who were obviously so excited about the product. I wasn’t particularly happy about my current direct sales company, and thought a fresh start with Mary Kay might be just what I needed to help our income out a little bit.

Besides, I was a total convert to the products – they do truly work! So I made my list of questions and took advantage of this meeting to thoroughly comb through the details.

I went home saying no to the Mary Kay opportunity that night. There was nothing wrong with Mary Kay, I just didn’t feel it was for me. I’m a writer and a blogger, and wanted to devote my time to developing the community here.

The month of April came around, and starter kit was being offered at a stellar price. I gave it another honest go-around. What if I could just buy my own products at cost and sell to family and friends?

Uh oh.

Once I’m in, I’m all in

I got right to work when my starter kit arrived.

There was a new Facebook page to be had, a blog post debuting my new business, a giveaway (which ends tonight, and yes, the winner will still receive their prize), as well as a mass email to all my friends, co-workers, and family.

Then I pulled out a fresh new pink notebook, and starting working my way through the MK website.


During this time, I realized a couple things:

  1. I had to spend more money than what the starter kit required. There’s the additional business cards, MK website, and a credit card processing program, among other incidentals.
  2. I was strongly encouraged to buy a significant amount of inventory. A great deal, for sure, but again, more money. I declined.

Then my first order came in. I was ecstatic! But when I tried to submit it, that 50% discount I had been promised wouldn’t go through.

Note: the fine print. A consultant must place a $400 retail order every 3 months to maintain active status and receive her Earned Discount Privilege. (The 50%)

Funny. No one mentioned that. So, I went ahead and coughed up more money toward inventory to secure my discount. I was currently almost $500 in the hole, and I had yet to place that one order.

That’s when I started to rethink my decision.

What was I going to do with all that product? We had just moved to Florida, and I didn’t have any contacts yet! Perhaps the question I had the most, how did I not know this before I signed up?

Then I found some other MK consultants who had gone through similar situations to mine. Reading their words made me feel even worse, yet validated, and I knew I couldn’t continue any longer.

A lesson in business practice

Mary Kay Botanical Effects

I want to be careful with my words so as to not damage the relationships of those I know in Mary Kay, and also those reading whom I don’t know personally. I’m not saying that Mary Kay is a scam, or a MLM company that doesn’t provide you with legitimate income.

However, if you are considering an “opportunity”, here’s what I want you to know: You are the only person with your best interests at heart. Not the company, not it’s directors, YOU.

Likewise, it is your responsibility to get the facts first, and then fact check again. Talk to those who were previously with the company, or gain the perspective of consultants who are not directly involved in your up-line. The point is to gain a well-rounded view, so you can make the right decision.

After quite a bit of research into Mary Kay business practices, I could not visibly foresee it being a profitable venture, unless I, one, focused on recruits, and two, pushed hard on sales to get rid of all that inventory.

Either way, I wasn’t being true to myself, and I just can’t live with that. So much so, that I will not even try to save face with all of you, and instead, lay my heart on the line in hopes that those of you with direct sales experience can relate.

Well, if you’re still reading, thank you. I appreciate all of you more than you know. You keep me writing, and writing gives me joy.

I’m signing off for now, and you probably won’t see a new post on Monday. I’m taking an extended weekend to lick my wounds. I hear a day at the beach tends to help with that. {grin}

For any further Mary Kay needs, I’d like to refer you to my lovely sister-in-law who will take only the best care of you. You can visit her website here.

Lest you think I’m only singling out Mary Kay, I currently am working on a post to show you how I lost money after 2 years in Uppercase Living – this time, with actual numbers.

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  1. Oh, so sorry it didn’t work out as you’d hoped! I know that hurts. But thanks for your honesty and openness. It adds depth to your focus on “creative savings” – to know that you’ve tried something and it didn’t work, and want us to learn from that. Thank you! And have a great weekend at the beach!

  2. Nicole @ Amazing Frugal Mom says:

    Great article! That is very brave of you to put this out there! I’m assuming you found the blog about this very topic. I have had a lot of friends & family get involved in MK and other direct sales companies, and they’ve never made any money. Don’t be embarrassed!! Return everything you’ve bought and feel lucky you got out early!

  3. I’m sorry that happened :(
    I’m glad you realized it now though instead of a month down the line and be even more in the hole. Thank you for sharing this, so that other people can hopefully avoid this also.

    I sell Scentsy and one of the reasons is because you don’t have to and aren’t encouraged to buy a lot of stock just to have, though they did recently change the rules about how to stay active (must sell $150 in a month once every 3 months.)

    The good thing you can take away from this is I’m sure no one’s going to be able to take you again – you realized it quick this time and I’m sure if there’s a next time it will be even quicker!

    • Currently, with Uppercase Living, I only have a yearly requirement, and they don’t push inventory. My contract with them is up in August though, so I’m just going to let that expire when the time comes. I’d like to focus on other things!It’s hard to have that kind of pressure to sell. Unless you already have a good customer base, it takes a lot of work.

      • Elizabeth says:

        It really does take a ton of work. It’s not worth going in the hole over, that’s for sure!

  4. I enjoy your writing style, and love your honesty.

  5. I did something similar to this with Avon years ago. I thought maybe it was just because I was young and inexperienced. This actually made me feel better. :)

  6. Hope Pichura says:

    I, too, did the same thing Kalyn. And you are right, nothing was disclosed to me, either, that in order to get the 50% discount you had to place the $400 order every three months in order to take advantage of the 50% discount. Being the (idiot is the only word that comes to mind but I will use…) ‘fool’ that I am, I GAVE all my stuff to a girl in our church that was just starting out with Mary Kay. I know there are those that do great in it, and it truly can be a very profitable venture, and they do have a good product, but I feel ALL the information needs to be disclosed when you sign up, not just in tiny print that (unfortunately) many of us do not pay careful attention to. Just another life lesson learned. I’ve sold Cookie Lee Jewelry and loved it; there was no surprises in fine print with them, and years ago I sold Little Peddler (don’t even know if that’s around any more), but loved that, too. No surprises there, either. To those that do sell Mary Kay, “thank you”, your product speaks for itself. Being a customer, rather than a consultant, is for me!

    • Thank you for letting me know I am not alone! I’m wondering if MK consultants are told not to disclose that portion to new consultants until they sign.

      • Hi there ALL,
        I just wanted to give you guys some insight from an actual beauty consultant. I stubbled upon this site when looking for some extra flyers for my MK biz and felt compelled to share my experience. Mary Kay doesn’t trick you into anything. I think it makes perfect sense that the company has you order quarterly to remain active. WE DON’T have quotas. The only thing it costs to get started is the Starter Kit ($100 plus tax and shipping). The title of “beauty consultant” means you are servicing customers. I was never told not to tell my potential recruits about how our 50% off works because I know that if you are working your business it is something you don’t even have to think about. You earn 50% off anytime you place a $400 retail order if you aren’t active so that is pretty awesome considering it only costs you $200. Every 3 months spending $200 means that you could take care of those close to you and earn your products for free (which is what I did when I was a busy student and only had small amounts of time to work). The company has to protect the power of the consultant because if everyone could just sign up at 50% off always and forever we wouldn’t have any true customers. I appreciate the company doing this and just want to encourage all of you that your consultant was not being malicious when she recruited you. She legitimately believed you would treat it like a business. If you aren’t willing to work it as a business then you should be a customer :). Perhaps it is that she believed in you so much that she couldn’t see that you would ever be worried about minimums. People who worry about minimums don’t make it in any business because in order to be successful you can’t think small. Mary Kay is an incredible company and I feel honored to work with them…so many think MK uses people to build businesses but what we really do is use BUSINESS to BUILD PEOPLE. I have seen amazing transformations in others and myself and I can share with you from the bottom of my heart that you should feel honored you were even asked to be on her team because it means that she was willing to do life with you. Best wishes, B

        • Brielle – you are truly welcome here to share your side of the MK experience! Thank you for giving us your take. I wholeheartedly agree that anyone who sells MK should do so as a business. However, MK targets non-business women. Part of their appeal is that you can work as much or as little as you want, and still bring home a decent income. It’s just not true. The ones who are making the incomes are uplines who have recruits and tons of customers, and work 40+ hour weeks – just like a legitimate business.

          when you are just starting out with MK, it can be really hard to make that first profit, and you have to make a profit at the end of the day to be in business. If you don’t keep track of everything coming in and going out, you won’t know how much you are really taking home and getting paid for your time. Think big, but also think strategically. Excess inventory is not a strategic move in my opinion, because it is money just sitting on the shelf. And the more you have to buy to get that 50%, the more you have to sell, sell, sell, which most women and stay-at-home-moms just don’t have time to do.

          As for not letting others know about the 50%, I think it is irresponsible to refuse this information and only let these ladies know of the financial risk after they sign the dotted line. You should know exactly what you are getting into, as with any business opportunity.

  7. I’m sorry it didn’t work out Kalyn!

    I’ve been debating Blessings Unlimited….I’ve talked to a few people and everyone I’ve talked to says they love selling and that it’s been good for them. That said, I’m still leery of getting in to it for the same reasons you mentioned here.

    I’ll keep you posted on what I decide. My husband has given me the go-ahead, but I’m still on the fence.

    • Please do keep me posted. I would think that they should be honest, since they are a Christian company, but you never know. Something to think about, (because it is home decor and I saw some jewelry), is how many times you can have a repeat customer, or how much work it would be to find new customers to buy. I had that problem with Uppercase Living wall decals. One person might buy 1 or 2 decals from me and be done, because there was only so much they could buy for their own home or as gifts. I’m not saying that to discourage you, just something to think about – I wish you the best!

  8. Argh I hate when that happens, I had a similar scenerio when I worked for Avon cosmetics. Ended up spending more than I was supposed to be making :( just as well you knew now rather than further down the line :) xx

  9. What an honest post. Sales is a hard business period, but good for you for getting out there and trying things:-)

  10. I’m really glad that I read this. I too did this exact same thing back in 2007. Except, I allowed a MK rep to open a CC in my name and charge an obscene amount of money on it for all of this inventory that I would supposedly need. I wound up 1,700$ in the hole by the time it was all said and done. Wish someone had been brave like this to post long ago- Though, i’m not sure I was in a place at the time to really listen or care what anyone else thought- nevertheless, thanks! :)

    • I briefly heard/read about the CC accounts becoming a problem, and would struggle working for a company that encourages debt. Thank you for sharing your experience here!

  11. Julia, MK Independent Beauty Consultant says:

    As a fellow MK Consultant, I hate that you had this experience. I can honestly say that I was told about all of the requirements before I ever signed that paper. It all depends on who is recruiting you. I have been told what to say to anyone I am recruiting and was told that you tell them everything that you would want to know. I actually read this post to my Director and she was upset that anyone would have that proble. Mary Kay Ash’s goal was to enrich the lives of women. Why would she have this goal, but try to make you go broke in the process? Again, I apologize on behalf of the company that you had this problem.

    • Thank you for feeling free to share this, Julia. I realize that not every consultant has a bad experience, and I can confidently say that writing this does not turn me off to buying MK products. I love the skin care/makeup, and am happy being a customer. :)

  12. Just now reading your post! It was very informative and I am grateful I read it. I actually JUST ordered my starter kit for Mary Kay only 1 week ago. And was NOT told about all of the other things you were going to have to purchase, other than your starter kit. My Consultant, although a very great person and very friendly, never informed me of the minimum $600 inventory purchase you have to do within the first 15 days.. Or the website and pro pay credit card site purchases. I have been a customer of Mary Kay, along with other women in my family, for years and so was finally convinced that it would be a good investment for me. But now I am not so sure! I am expected to now invest such a large amount of money and the only for sure costumer base I have right now is some family members! I am starting to feel the same way you felt…. Not sure what to do!! I also do not drive or have a vehicle at the moment and my transportation is usually my husband driving me to work and where ever else.. so that is another down side to starting this out! any advice would be very much appreciated!! before it’s to late ha…

    • Natalie – your story sounds so similar to mine! The only thing I would suggest is to get those family members on board to slowly changing their makeup and skin care regimens over to MK, and only place a bulk order every couple months to meet your minimum requirement. The smaller, and more frequent your orders, you will end up having to purchase more inventory or risk losing that 50% discount. If you decide to opt out, I know MK will take their starter kit back for a full refund if you haven’t opened it. I never got a refund because I had used some of the catalogs already, but if you call them, they should be able to help with the return.

      I hope that helps, and I wish you the best, either way you decide to go!

  13. thank you! that is really helpful! I am still debating sticking with it. I may have some family members that want to purchase at the moment..but who knows later on. just don’t want to set myself up for failure. Thank you I really appreciate your response!

  14. Hi! I don’t know how old this post is or if its already been a year, but I just wanted to let you know that you can return all your merchandise to Mary Kay for 90% of what you bought it for as long as it hasn’t been over a year since you ordered it! They try and make sure that if MK doesn’t work out for you, you can at least get most of your money back (besides the starter kit). I’m so sorry you didn’t have a good experience and I completely understand. Your director should have been helping you and guiding you. You should have been told all the details before you signed up, but some people are sneaky and it’s sad that those people give Mary Kay a bad name. Also, the $400 order every 3 months is mostly for protection. A lot of people were abusing the system and signing up just so they could get the 50% off, which of course the more people that do that the more it hurts the business as a whole. But you of course don’t have to make one huge order of $400, in three months ALL the orders you have made need to at least add up to be $400. These are definitley things that your director should have helped you with!! It makes me sad..I hope I;m not coming across as rude or anything!! I just wanted to maybe help with some details. I am currently working with Mary Kay and have been for a year now. I started to make big orders so I could have my own inventory (even though you can just stick with the starter kit if you want) I just found that having inventory on hand helped my business. I decided to go the route of MK being my main source of income since I am a single mother, and it literally saved my home from being taken by the bank. But it is a lot of hard work. I find it was totally worth it and I;m so glad I at least gave it a try. If you don;t try you might regret right? But MK is definitely not for everyone! Thank you so much for being honest and helping others with their decision. =) There should be more people in the world like you, open and honest, the opposite only hurts other people in the end and makes them feel like MK is a sneaky business that refuses to tell you the details until it’s too late. I really hope it’s been under a year since your order so you can send your inventory back to MK and try to get most of your money back! It definitely sucks to be stuck with something you won’t use.
    Any way, I’m babbling now. Again, I hope your experience didn’t totally turn you off of MK, and maybe this message will help someone else out there in the same problem you were. =) And I;m ashamed of the recruiters for not sharing the details with you and others like they should! It;s not fair to the other person to go into something not knowing all the details!!

    God Bless,

    • I actually was able to cancel my inventory order with no problems, and received a full refund, so there were no problems there. I’m so glad MK is working out for you and providing you with income to help your family, but I also appreciate you saying it takes hard work. I fear that many direct sales companies in general try to pass off their business model as something that can be done in your spare time, with huge benefits. I can’t argue that there are successful MK people out there, but you’re right, they work really hard too!

      Thank you for being open and sharing your heart here, and I’m excited to see the comments become such a variety of perspectives. I know it has really helped individuals who are thinking about taking the plunge at least be introduced to other experiences.

  15. I too was a part of Mary Kay :(. My director NEVER gave guidance and basically abandoned everyone when she got married and moved to another state. If you were a consultant who couldn’t afford to buy inventory then you were ignored and received no help or even acknowledged. I wanted to stay doth MK and wanted to see about going with another director but was told that was frowned upon
    Definitely left me with a negativity regarding Mary Kay!!

  16. I can’t believe no one told you about being active to get the 50% discount and all that. that just blows my mind. i am sorry you had such a bad experience.

  17. Unknown says:

    I am sorry for your bad experience with MK. I understand your pain. I am still in pain trying to pay off my inventory from 3 years ago. I have never earned anything from MK. Every time I sell anything the earnings go into the MK account to pay off product. Everyone I know sells it and so it makes it so hard to sell. Yes, I have to order $400 retail every time I place an order. What am I doing? I keep getting in debt to just make one customer happy. No, they did not tell me about the ordering. I feel like giving up and maybe I should. I wanted to become successful so bad. But, it just isn’t working out. There are a lot of things that they don’t tell you.

    • I think the inventory is truly the kicker – it’s just money sitting on the shelf, and you never know if it will be sold or not. I wish you the best, and appreciate you taking the time to comment here!

  18. so what to do with the inventory? I have 3-4 customers but not enough to warrant keeping the inventory that I have. Sell it as a LOT on Craig’s list or what? I just want it out of here!

    • You could do that, or I have seen others sell them as lots on eBay as well. There is also a site that will purchase MK inventory from you, but since I have never used it, I can’t 100% recommend it. However, if you are desperate it might be worth a shot! http://mkliquidator.com/

  19. kelly says:

    thank you so much for writing this. reading this open and honest story gave me the strength to get out of mary kay after just signing up. I was having serious doubts but felt that I was committed and too far in, and that it would be so bad for me to back out already. But now that I have, I feel the weight of the world off of my shoulders, and I feel like 1million $$. Thanks for being willing to share, you truly helped me to realize that it was ok to say no, and to get out even when I was afraid to because of what people would think. you’re awesome : )

    • Kelly, it’s SO hard to get out of something when you’ve committed and don’t want others to think less of you. I’m glad my story was able to be a little bit of an encouragement!

  20. Evile says:

    Sorry to hear about your experience. You do understand that good housekeeping will buy back any product. They have a 100% mk buy back program. As far as ordering I myself have been in mk over a year. You don’t have to order the website etc thats your choice. I’ve chosen not too and yet and still making money. If you are not happy call the mk office they can give you details on the buy back program for any product you purchased

  21. I also did Mary Kay. I did it for a few months after i got out of high school, years ago. I got into it when my best friend held a facial party. I love the make up and especially the satin hands! I still use it, but when I signed up I was like you, i didn’t know what else was involved in the process and I thought I covered everything with my questions. I bought the start up package, got it in the mail and then when it came time to order more they wanted me to buy in bulk…. not just the items that my customers wanted and the smallest bundle was not cheap. I ended up not buying anything else and just kept what I couldn’t sell. I don’t want it to seem like i’m bashing them either, it is a great way to make money if you are passionate about make up- which I was not. I am more of a nature girl, I like as little as possible when it comes to make up. I only use eye liner, mascara for everyday and then a little blush and lipstick on special occasions too. So I wasn’t the greatest advocate for all the different kinds of make up they had because I simply never used it. Plus I realized that with these MLM companies, if you are making money off getting your friends involved, eventually there will be too many people selling it and not enough buying it. Plus it just creates more competition in your area. So you have to decide how you are going to make your money: buy selling to consistent clients or by recruiting new consultants. My best friend who got me involved just got out of MK. She has been selling it for years, but she didn’t have time to have all the parties and had lost a few clients. I hope it works out better for any one else doing it. :)

    • I love that you brought up the fact that it’s much harder to sell when you don’t wear much make-up. I found myself in that situation too. Cover up, bronzer and mascara {oh, and some gloss!} are pretty much my everyday staples!

  22. Amanda Baker says:

    Hi Kayln! I am so happy you have shared your experience with us! I personally am an MK Consultant for the past few months, and like most consultants starting out, once you have done your taxes, your eyes bulge a little going, “I’ve invested HOW much?”. At that point, most people get frightened and run away- for me, I said to myself, “Well, shoot, that just means I have to work harder and get back my investment!”

    My family members all have their own small businesses, and I have seen them in the black and in the red. Having your own business means you may have to risk going through a wave of profit and debt- it’s truly the nature of the beast, as you already know. However, many naïve young women (and some elder) don’t have that prior knowledge, and if their recruiter does not explain that, of COURSE they feel betrayed. I was lucky to have that knowledge and have my recruiter confirm that.

    Also, people say you HAVE to have inventory. You don’t. I refused to buy inventory for a month until I thought I could handle it plus have the customers for. Also, it’s best to purchase things you KNOW will sell, as well as skin care, i.e. Satin Hands, Oil Free Eye Makeup Remover, TimeWise Miracle Sets, etc., but NEVER purchase inventory in makeup when starting out. You never know if it will sell! Plus, you should never go into debt over this business- so not worth it! Just buy what you can without breaking the bank or missing your bills, that’s the simplest way.

    I do agree, that MK should not target women who are too afraid to pick up the phone to call customers- there have been some great transformations of timid women to confident women, but that is not always the case.

    Most women are dreamers, “I can change my life with this!”- and you can- but not overnight. And unfortunately, many people are strangers to hard work. It’s all about promoting and networking and wanting to make a difference. The consultants who get enraged (not you, mind you! You had a more than valid reason to leave while you were ahead!) and quit are the ones who were never realistic in the first place. There has to be a balance of realism and dreams. I, for one, get laughed at a little when I go to meetings when they ask us our month’s goals. Some women say, “I’ll make $1000!”, “I’ll facial 50 people!” and I will simply say, “I’d like to make $100 this month”, or, “I’d like to facial 4 faces this month.” They say, kindly, my dreams are small- but I know I will never be disappointed :)

    I hope this helps anyone who has had issues with the Mary Kay Company and I hope this helps potential or current Consultants. In any small business, you CAN make it- but you have to have a heart strong enough to deal with the word, “No”, and you have to be willing to put the effort into it :)

  23. Thank you soooo much for your post! Through this and following the comment string it really shows both sides. This helped me bring me to my decision I bit off more than I can chew and will be returning my starter kit. I basically have no customer base to start as well as an unsupportive family so I’m going to try some product as a customer and maybe come back later to selling.

    • Katie, I’m so glad you were able to find some clarity! As long as you feel at peace with your decision, you know it was ultimately the right one to make. I sincerely believe you have to be fully committed to make MK work, and you’re right, you may find that down the road will be the perfect time to start.

  24. All I can say is that, its all up to you. When you purchase a starter kit, you get all you need to start your business if you want. But nothing happens to you if you never do anything with it, they dont ask for it back. And you DO NOT have to have inventory or start with inventory. I hav the most AMAZING director! You are truly your own boss if you want. So what if you only pirchase a $200 wholesale once a year to get what you want, active means NOTHING if your a personal use consultant. Im sad & disappoint that there are those people out there(directors) giving MK a bad name. It can truly work if you put a little effort into it just like you would any job.

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