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Giving thanks to a grandmother’s legacy: Ryan Rogers takes on the Mary Kay empire

The 45-year-old will take on the role of CEO of the Dallas cosmetics firm Jan. 1.

To many, Mary Kay Ash was the woman who created an iconic, direct-selling cosmetics firm.

To Ryan Rogers, she was a working grandmother who had a love for the one holiday she could cook for and celebrate with all 13 of her grandchildren — Thanksgiving.

The 45-year-old soon-to-be CEO of Mary Kay’s cosmetics empire remembers waiting in line to see his grandmother, who spent time visiting with each of her grandchildren on the holiday in her own home.

“This was not a casual Thanksgiving,” Rogers said, describing holidays with his trailblazing grandmother. “This was a tuck in your shirt, put on a nice sweater, wear long pants, leather shoes kind of thing.”

Mary Kay would look at each child and ask about their goals and accomplishments for the year.

When it came to Rogers, Mary Kay saw potential in her youngest grandchild. Somehow, she knew that he would take the helm of her business.

On Jan. 1, that will come true as Rogers steps into the family business as CEO and president of Mary Kay Cosmetics Inc. David Holl, 62, the company’s CEO since 2006, is retiring after nearly 30 years with the company and will still be chairman of Mary Kay’s board.

David Holl (left), Mary Kay Cosmetics Inc. CEO since 2006, and Ryan Rogers, the company's...
David Holl (left), Mary Kay Cosmetics Inc. CEO since 2006, and Ryan Rogers, the company's chief investment officer and grandson of Mary Kay Ash, are shown at Mary Kay Global Headquarters in Addison. Holl is retiring after nearly 30 years with the company and will remain chairman of Mary Kay's board. Rogers will step in as CEO and president effective Jan. 1. (Juan Figueroa / Staff Photographer)

Carrying out the Mary Kay legacy

To this day, Rogers isn’t quite sure why he was chosen all those years ago.

In his office, he has a book where his grandmother wrote to him: “To Ryan, anything your Dad and I have done — you will be able to do better.” His father, Richard Rogers, led the business twice and now serves as executive chairman.

Ryan Rogers, Mary Kay’s chief investment officer and grandson of Mary Kay Ash, shows a note...
Ryan Rogers, Mary Kay’s chief investment officer and grandson of Mary Kay Ash, shows a note his grandmother wrote him in her book.(Juan Figueroa / Staff Photographer)

Rogers’ grandmother, Holl recalls, was caring when she needed to be but knew what it took to be successful.

“She was exactly what you would think she would be, except for one thing that people seem to be surprised about — she was tough,” Holl said.

Rogers says he thinks of his grandmother’s leadership as he embarks on his next journey within the company.

He joined Mary Kay Inc. in 2000 as a financial analyst and held several positions, including project manager, director of strategic initiatives and vice president of strategic initiatives. In 2001, Rogers became vice president of the Mary Kay Ash Foundation. The foundation was created in 1996 by Ash to fund women’s cancer research and end domestic violence. In 2013, he became chief investment officer of the company.

First and foremost, Rogers said, he is ready to “re-excite and reignite” the organization during the period of transition. He said he’s ready for that “jolt of energy.”

“I want them to be excited about my new role, and I want them to be excited about the future,” Rogers said.

Rogers said he’s bringing new ideas to the table, such as how the company opens to new foreign markets.

“The technology that we have, the third-party logistics providers that are out there now and e-commerce has transformed, in a lot of ways,” Rogers said. “The consumer experience allows us to enter markets with maybe less of a heavy personnel presence than we have had in the past.”

He believes the firm can open markets with a lot less upfront investment and have the firm be profitable quicker, he said. The changes, he said, will allow his independent beauty consultants to go to countries where they have not sold before.

“For us, we want to have a hard-working portfolio of products,” says Ryan Rogers, who will...
“For us, we want to have a hard-working portfolio of products,” says Ryan Rogers, who will step in as Mary Kay's CEO and president Jan. 1. “Things that are easy to learn, easy to understand and easy to sell.”(Juan Figueroa / Staff Photographer)

The main philosophy Rogers wants to carry out is providing a career opportunity to women who need one. It’s the same philosophy his grandmother began the company with when she stepped into “a man’s world” during the 1960s.

The company has held true to those roots since its humble beginnings. Rogers said 45% of its U.S. workers are people of color and management is over 50% women.

At one of Mary Kay’s seminars for beauty consultants, which returned to Dallas in-person for the first time this year since the pandemic, a Black woman was recognized as the highest achiever, Rogers said. He remembers the consultant saying, “Thank you, Mary Kay Ash. She never saw Black and white, all she saw was pink and green.”

“It was inevitable that we would end up with diverse people and women in powerful positions,” Rogers said. “It was in our DNA from day one.”

It’s important to Rogers to continue that mission to empower women to be entrepreneurs.

Changing times and competition

Holl leaves the business with Rogers as the pandemic slows and during what he regards as one of the most historic times to operate a business.

“I think the biggest thing for anybody in my shoes would have been just the unknown,” Holl said.

Rogers remembers the very early challenges the pandemic presented. Mary Kay manufactures and distributes products in Dallas-Fort Worth, so deeming the firm as an essential company was a conversation he remembers vividly, as the previous chief investment officer.

The company produced hand sanitizer during the pandemic and later donated it to the Baylor Scott & White Dallas Foundation, Holl said.

During Holl’s tenure, Mary Kay continued to grow globally with its most recent expansion into Peru. The company also invested over $100 million in a new manufacturing, research and development center in Lewisville and $125 million in a corporate building in Shanghai.

Rogers knows the firm is in one of the most competitive industries in the world, selling high-margin products worldwide.

“For us, we want to have a hard-working portfolio of products,” Rogers said. “Things that are easy to learn, easy to understand and easy to sell.”

“One of the things that I really want to lean heavily into is how Mary Kay uses social media to market not only our products but also the opportunity of being a Mary Kay independent beauty consultant,” Rogers said.

One way to keep up is to evolve with social media.

For a business that grew through word of mouth, social media presents a “powerful tool” for Mary Kay, Rogers said.

He said some of Mary Kay’s independent beauty consultants are tech-savvy and have picked up on using social media to run their businesses.

“I think if we execute a strategy well, social media will just amplify our people and their ability to share their experiences with Mary Kay and in a positive way and attract new people,” Rogers said.

The makeup in the powder room of Mary Kay Ash’s office has been kept just as it was before...
The makeup in the powder room of Mary Kay Ash’s office has been kept just as it was before her death.(Juan Figueroa / Staff Photographer)

‘What my grandmother always wanted’

Rogers didn’t know what his career would look like as a student studying for his bachelor of business administration in finance at Southern Methodist University. The 1998 graduate was always interested in the finance aspects of his grandmother’s business.

One day, he was tapped for a project that involved evaluating the U.S. distribution centers for Mary Kay.

“They were like ‘Hey, you’re a smart finance guy, will you help us analyze this distribution project?’ ” he said.

It “snowballed” from there, he said.

Rogers is looking forward to Thanksgiving this year, although it looks a little different than the holiday his grandmother shared many years ago.

He will never forget her famous jalapeño cornbread stuffing. One dish would have “the good stuff,” Rogers recalls, with a lot of jalapeños, and the non-spicy version would be labeled “tenderfoot.”

Thanksgiving is bittersweet for the family of Mary Kay, who died Nov. 22, 2001, on her favorite holiday. But her family and her firm carry on her legacy. Rogers is excited to take over, recognizing he’s following in very important footsteps that connect him to his family.

“This is what my grandmother always wanted,” Rogers said.

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