February 8, 2008
By JENALIA MORENO
COLOMBIAN immigrant Gloria Castano began dabbling in Mary Kay products in 1979 so she could earn a little extra cash and still stay home with her kids.
Last year, the Houston resident earned $455,000, paid for her two children to go to graduate school and won yet another pink Cadillac — a Cadillac XLR convertible, that is.
"Oh yes, I can see you in that one!" said Lilly Orellana, a Salvadoran immigrant and another top Mary Kay seller and Cadillac driver.
Like many of the 8,000 saleswomen who gathered for a leadership conference recently at the George R. Brown Convention Center, Castano and Orellana became wealthy selling Mary Kay products.
And like a growing number of Latina immigrants, Mary Kay has helped them realize the American dream.
"There's no need to struggle if you have a company like Mary Kay," said Mary Kay saleswoman Sandra Munguia, who was born in Mexico and lives in Manteca, Calif.
Five years ago, Hispanics made up 15 percent of Mary Kay's sales force of 1.7 million compared with 18 percent today, according to Randall Oxford, a spokesman for the $2.3 billion-a-year Dallas-based company founded in 1963 by the late Mary Kay Ash, who grew up in Houston.
Latinas make up 24 percent of the sales force in Houston; that figure has remained consistent in the last few years.
"It is an important market," Oxford said. "You will probably see us increase efforts since it is a growing market in the U.S."
Like Castano, many Latinas sell cosmetics and other products so they can stay at home with their children and still earn money.
"Some Hispanic women have been involved in Tupperware and things like that," said University of Houston sociology professor Nestor Rodriguez, who recently visited Monterrey, Mexico, and noticed a Mary Kay advertisement. "It's something that works well for some women because they can be at home. You set the hours. It's something that's part of the culture even before you arrive here."
Market of immigrants
Although he has not studied the company, he said Latinas can sell to the often-untapped market of immigrants.
"If you are an immigrant and you sell Mary Kay, you may have an advantage because you are already part of that population," Rodriguez said.
It's a market Mary Kay is trying to tap into, even though Castano said she sells to "anyone who has a face."
Appreciating the values
Some Mary Kay vendors like Cuban immigrant Aliuska Entenza appreciated Ash's mantra of "put God first, family second and career third." Her brother and husband work as ministers.
"For me it was very important because of the values of my family," Miami resident Entenza said during the weeklong Houston conference, which officials said pumped $8.6 million into the Houston economy.
Source: The Houston Chronicle