10 Great Entrepreneurs Talk about their Start-up Days

Mary Kay Ash, Mary Kay Cosmetics
Colin McConnell / Newscom
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Mary Kay Ash on Support from Friends and Family

When Mary Kay Ash came along, it was accepted wisdom that women weren’t cut out for business—sales in particular. Proving the naysayers wrong, Ash built her company, Mary Kay Cosmetics, into a bright-pink empire by giving women the chance to run their own small businesses as they saw fit. She didn’t do it alone, though. Her 20-year-old son handled administration, and she roped several friends into helping, too. All were well-rewarded for taking a chance on Mary Kay. “I often say I started with nine people, friends of mine, really, who just didn’t have the nerve to say no,” she told Inc. in 1985. “They didn’t intend to stay around, but they were going to help me get it started. They were very kind and sweet—and last year one of them made $325,000.”