Utah Woman a Star in Pink


The Salt Lake Tribune
By Steven Oberbeck

In the world of Mary Kay cosmetics, Gladis Camargo of Riverton is a superstar. During the past 13 years, Camargo has built up a marketing organization of nearly 40 sales directors who in turn are responsible for leading, training and motivating more than 3,000 independent beauty consultants.

Later this summer, she will be recognized at Mary Kay Inc.’s annual seminar in Dallas for achieving the position of “independent national sales director” – a ranking only attained by about 500 women during the company’s 44-year history.

“I fell in love with Mary Kay the first time I came into contact with it,” Camargo said through her daughter Karen Borquez, who translated from Spanish. Camargo said her first experience with the company was in 1994 when she attended a skin-care class offered by an independent consultant.

As a result, she quickly embraced the business opportunity the company offered.

“Unlike many I’ve met, I was behind the company from the first moment and didn’t have any doubts. And the more I did, and the more I got involved, the more I learned what the company said was true – that by following their plan a person could build their own successful business.”

Mary Kay Inc. bills itself as one of the largest direct sellers of skin care and color cosmetics in the world. In 2007, it had nearly 2.4 billion in wholesale revenues and its products were sold in 35 countries by a sales force of more than 1.7 million independent beauty consultants.

The company, though, isn’t without its critics, many of whom focus on Mary Kay’s pyramid-like marketing structure but acknowledge the company’s operations aren’t violating any laws.

Under such multilevel marketing arrangements, independent sales associates can earn a commission on merchandise they sell. More importantly, they get a piece of the sales from new distributors they recruit, and on down the line.

Tracy Coenen, a forensic accountant who runs the Web site www.pinktruth.com, believes Mary Kay is just such a “product-based pyramid scheme.” She said it relies on an endless recruitment of new people who purchase inventory so those at the top of the marketing organization can collect large commission checks.

Camargo said she doesn’t listen to such criticism.

“I’m happy with the business I’ve built and the career I have,” she said. “And I’m grateful for the opportunity I have to help other women because I know what this (Mary Kay) can do for people. It can change lives.”

It changed hers.

She joined Mary Kay after deciding that she was working too many hours running a wedding planning business.

“There was a lot of stress involved (in that business) particularly when it came to dealing with employees,” she said. “If someone called in sick you’d still have to find some way to get the work done. With Mary Kay if an independent beauty consultant isn’t selling product on a particular day there still are others out there who are.”

Because of her limited English skills, Camargo focused her efforts on recruiting Hispanic women, who still comprise the vast majority of the consultants in the sales network she oversees.

“Her determination resulted in an unprecedented Hispanic consumer base in the Salt Lake City area,” Mary Kay Inc. said in a statement announcing Camargo’s achieving independent national sales director status.

According to the company, of the 215 active independent national sales directors in the United States, 25 are Spanish speaking. Latino consultants comprise 18 percent of Mary Kay’s sales force in this country, according to the company.

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