More than lipstick and a pink Cadillac

Julie Jennings, a senior sales director with Mary Kay Inc., has received a total of six
Julie Jennings, a senior sales director with Mary Kay Inc., has received a total of six 'career cars' from the company.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka

Julie Jennings drove her last pink Cadillac with her best friend and newborn to Dallas for a work seminar. It was the summer of 2009. Six months later, she and her family took a road trip to Disneyland in the same car.

She wouldn't have gone on either trip if it wasn't for her job — they gave her the car.

Jennings, an independent senior sales director for Mary Kay Inc., was recently awarded her third pink Cadillac from the company in recognition for business performance.

In seven years with Mary Kay, the former pipefitter has earned a total of six free cars, which are on a two-year lease program where the company also pays for more than half of the auto insurance, Jennings said.

It wasn't about winning free Cadillacs or gaining deals on makeup for Jennings when she first started as an independent beauty consultant for Mary Kay in 2004. At the time she was still working at her "day job" at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

"I was just playing," said Jennings. "I just thought it was lipstick. I liked the skincare."

Jennings, of Bremerton, wanted the discounts for the skincare products and wasn't interested in the makeup — or selling other people products as a Mary Kay consultant. She juggled her work with Mary Kay and as a full time pipefitter general foreman at the shipyard.

Once she realized that she was making just as much money — and sometimes even more — than her work at the shipyard, she "retired" from the shipyard in 2007 and continued her career at Mary Kay.

"It was easy, but hard," she said on her decision to leave the shipyard since she was comfortable working there, and enjoyed it.

Mary Kay offers skincare products as well as a cosmetic line that consultants worldwide sell, which are not available at retail stores. Some of the incentives offered to a sales director and her team include the use of a pink Cadillac.

There are more than five other sales directors in Kitsap County, Jennings said.

To win a pink Cadillac — a vehicle in the higher end of the tier of car awards — a sales director and her team has to sell at least $96,000 of products in a 6-month period.

Currently more than 7,300 independent sales members have qualified for "career cars," with more than 1,400 of those being pink Cadillacs, said Virginia Hock, a spokeswoman for Mary Kay. Since the program's inception in 1969, more than 120,000 sales members have either qualified or re-qualified to use a car, she added.

People come to Mary Kay for different reasons, said Jennings adding that it could be for the money, for the recognition received in terms of prizes like diamonds or cars, or for other awards that can be granted on a monthly or quarterly basis.

For Jennings, it's helped the mother of two young children boost her self confidence and personal growth.

"I was the kind of person who would sit and watch people and wait for them to come talk to me," she said of before working at Mary Kay.

And, she also enjoys being her own boss.

Jennings said the benefit of Mary Kay is that people can make their own schedules and move at their own pace.

"You don't have to wait for someone else to retire," she said. Jennings moved up from being a consultant to a sales director in one year. She added that she likes being able to mentor and teach other people to become successful.

As a sales director, Jennings has 110 active members in her team, or "unit" as it is referred to at Mary Kay. Her unit's name is "Julie's Jetsetters" because she likes traveling. Jennings has been to nearly all 50 states in the country, missing two or three in the northeast region.

Because some of her unit members are active duty military personnel and  do not live in Washington state, Jennings said she communicates with them via emails, calls, texts and even Facebook.

Julian Kohlbrand, who has been working at Mary Kay for a little over five years and is in Jennings' unit, said Jennings always sets a good example for everyone else.

Mary Kay has an "adoptee" program where consultants may attend meetings with others who may not be their direct unit director. Kohlbrand said that when this happens, Jennings never identifies the person as an "adoptee" to everyone else at meetings and treats all members equally.

"Her work ethic is — in one word — incredible," Kohlbrand said.

Jennings has always been able to get around "life happening" while continuing to work, Kohlbrand said.

"On a day to day basis, it's nice to see she's human," she said.

Aside from her responsibilities as a sales director, Jennings is also president of the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce. The chamber has about 375 members.

Her husband, Marc Jennings, said even at the shipyard she worked very hard, was self-motivated and involved, so none of that has changed.

But, other things have.

"She's a lot more girly now," Marc Jennings said. "I don't know how else to put that."

Julie Jennings' transition to being her own boss and leaving the shipyard was difficult for her, Marc Jennings said, but he added that he had no concerns since he knew she had the ability to accomplish what needs to get done and saw that Mary Kay has a solid business plan. He has been working at the shipyard as a marine pipefitter apprentice for a year-and-a-half.

For this year, Julie Jennings isn't eyeing another Cadillac. She said her goal is to become a national sales director. There are currently two active national sales directors in the state, she said.

And even though she may wear lipstick now, she said her job is way more than makeup products.

"It's more than lipstick. It's more than making a living." she said. "It's a way to make a life."



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