Most freshmen arrive on campus with new bedding and a window fan. Lori Ann Mauney ’11 arrived in 2008 with a machine to process credit cards and $5,000 worth of cosmetics inventory that she kept stashed under her bed in Scott Hall. Mauney entered WCU as a marketing major with a clear goal: To carve a career in Mary Kay, one of the largest direct-sell companies in the world – it operates in 39 global markets and records annual sales in the billions. “I never changed my major,” said Mauney, who at the beginning of each semester would hand professors a list of days she planned to be absent from class on Mary Kay business.
For some of that business, she never left campus. Kellie Angelo Monteith, WCU’s assistant vice chancellor for student affairs, met Mauney when she set up a Mary Kay table at a start-of-semester Valley Ballyhoo. “I love that talented young lady,” raved Monteith, a loyal customer. “I just received something in the mail yesterday.” Lip gloss, mascara, skincare products – “I kept girls happy,” Mauney said. “Boyfriends would buy from me too – I had perfumes and things. I would meet people in the food court or library or whatever and get them set for Christmas.” She even met her best friend at WCU, fellow undergraduate Olivia Lynch ’11, who also sold Mary Kay.
Mauney’s introduction to Mary Kay came early. At 9 years old and suffering from acne so severe she was on a powerful prescription medication to treat it, Mauney began a Mary Kay skincare regime recommended by a family friend. Her acne cleared up and Mauney was hooked. She counted down the days until she turned 18, the requisite age to begin selling the products. Her mother bought her a starter kit for her birthday.
While selling cosmetics is the way to enter Mary Kay, recruiting motivated salespeople, or consultants, is the way to advance. In this, Mauney excels, traveling extensively to develop her network and, in an unusual step, putting potential consultants through an interview process. “I’m very, very cautious about who I bring in,” said Mauney, noting that her own future depends on it. While she still maintains several cosmetics customers, these days Mauney, 22, spends most her time managing 33 consultants and is on track to become a sales director – a title claimed by only 2 percent of those working in the company – in December. By spring, she plans to be driving a famed pink Cadillac.
Mauney, described by those who know her as an entrepreneurial and self-motivated young woman, considers Mary Kay an opportunity for autonomy, helping others and perks including worldwide travel. She even credits her work with the company for helping boost her feelings of self-worth. “I had zero, zero confidence before Mary Kay,” said Mauney, who works from a home office and at the time of this interview was planning a move from Arden to Charlotte to be nearer her top producers. The move also brings her closer to Lincolnton, where she grew up and where her parents, Debra and John Mauney, still live.
While Mauney is “working her business at a very high level,” she is part of a larger trend in Mary Kay, said Pam Tull, a sort of mentor for Mauney who, in her 37 years with the company, has risen to its highest echelons. Women 24 to 35 are the fastest-growing demographic in the company, Tull said. “These young women are very capable, very talented, decisive and they want to be challenged,” she said. “They know what they want, and they want to be part of something big.”
Still, jumping all in to Mary Kay is a “faith walk,” Mauney said. In fact, after graduating, she bowed to pressure from those around her to pursue a job in corporate America and found employment doing sales with Verizon. Within six months she had left the position and recommitted to Mary Kay. “People say, ‘You went to college and you’re doing Mary Kay?’ They’re always surprised by that because they think a girl who wants a college degree wants a corporate job, and I had that and I walked away from that,” Mauney said.
According to Grace Allen, WCU associate professor of finance, it’s a matter of sales: Some people are naturals, others hate it. “Lori Ann knew early on that she was very good at sales,” Allen said. “She has a really outgoing personality, she’s very self-assured and she’s very motivated. She found her niche very early and she’s just run with it.” Could Allen ever imagine encouraging a student to pursue a career in Mary Kay? “Probably not, but I don’t think that many people can be as successful in it as Lori Ann,” she said. Mauney is successful enough that she managed to recruit her former professor. Allen herself is now a Mary Kay consultant, buying products for her daughter in hopes that the sales role will help develop the 13-year-old’s confidence.