AshEdit—News About Books & Writers

May 1, 2018

Entrepreneurs Who Inspired Me – Part 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 8:33 pm

As a freelance book editor and inventor of Bestseller Metrics, I think of myself as an entrepreneur. I wanted to post about the small business pioneers who’ve lit my path, so to speak.

 Annie Turnbo Malone (1869-1957) 


Annie Turnbo Malone was born to former African slaves in Metropolis, Illinois. By the age of 20, Annie had formulated a shampoo and scalp treatment, and got her start by pitching the product out of the back of a horse-drawn buggy. Later, she became the first person in Missouri to buy a Rolls Royce.  By 1918, Annie had named her business “Poro Products” and built a four-story, million dollar factory and beauty school complex that employed over 175 people. Chuck Berry, the famous guitarist and songwriter, trained under the Poro system as a young man. In her lifetime,

Annie trained over 75,000 entrepreneurs and gave out diamond rings for five years of service. (This habit of richly rewarding employees was later adopted by Mary Kay Ash.) In 1930 Poro Products was relocated to Chicago, where Annie owned a whole city block. Her genius surpassed product development, extending to a direct distribution and sales agent system. An enthusiastic philanthropist, Annie contributed to educational programs, universities, to the YMCA, and many orphanages. For more, see the State Historical Society of Missouri online:

I admire Annie for overcoming childhood sickness and doubt to become an entrepreneur with her own products and a genius marketing system. In the 1920s there was a 20% luxury tax on hair care products. Due to this (as well as poor management) tax bills mounted after Annie let go of the reins, and the company went under. But Annie’s original genius is remembered, along with all of her fine philanthropic works.

Below: Annie at the entrance of her mansion in St. Louis.

Annie Mansion

Mary Kay Ash (1918 – 2001)

1963, Mary Kay started a cosmetics business in her kitchen, formulating face creams and then selling them door to door.

Her cosmetics made it all the way out to little old Nova Scotia, Canada. When I was 19, I sold Mary Kay products and even won a diamond ring. The sales training was excellent and I could accept credit cards from my customers with a little pink portable card swiper that fit in a purse. That was high-tech when I was a teenager! Mary Kay was innovative and nurturing in a time when business was anything but, and the “Mary Kay way” paid my bills and let me party all the time by selling cosmetics in women’s homes. Soon, it was time to head off to the big city, Toronto, and get a Bachelor of Applied Arts degree in Radio and Television, so I had to leave my cosmetics customers behind. But my Mary Kay sales training came in handy for the rest of my life.

Mary Kay

Mary Kay in her gilded office, 1960s.

Mary Kay adopted the Golden Rule as her guiding philosophy, determining that the best course of action in virtually any situation was to treat others as she’d like to be treated by them. She felt that life had a proper order: faith first, family second and career third. Every year she treated her top sales force to pink Cadillacs and all-expense-paid trips to her home in Texas where they were treated like visiting royalty. There are now 3.5 million Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultants worldwide.



  1. Mary Kay still gives the pink Cadillac to high sellers. There is someone in my town that I see driving around in a pink Cadillac crossover SUV.

    Annie Malone’s story was fascinating, I’d never heard of her before. Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by Jennifer Milne — May 2, 2018 @ 10:18 pm

  2. How interesting!

    Comment by LIsa Ciarfella — May 3, 2018 @ 6:52 am

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