Naisha Covarrubias – Mary Kay Global
Mary Kay is a global skincare and cosmetics manufacturing beauty brand—and has been a path to entrepreneurship for people since Mary Kay Ash founded the company in Dallas in 1963. Over half a century later, the brand continues to empower women with business opportunities and trusted products while also evolving to meet the needs of its independent contractors, known as independent beauty consultants, to meet today’s ever-evolving consumer expectations.
So says Naisha Covarrubias, who is smoothing out any legal roadblocks on that path. With the company since November 2018 and its chief counsel of the global business group since October 2022, she’s helping Mary Kay give its independent beauty consultants more options, from traditional in-person sales to digital transactions—and everything in between.
According to her, while anyone can sell Mary Kay products, the goal of the company was—and is—to provide women across the world a way to gain confidence and learn business acumen while earning extra income selling products to customers. Traditionally, independent beauty consultants would sell products through personal events such as at-home skincare parties.
Advances in technology mean independent beauty consultants can now reach a much wider audience and have options in how they communicate and connect with their customers, she says.
Yet, the challenge Mary Kay’s sales and legal teams faced as they moved towards creating digital selling solutions, especially at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing quarantines, was ensuring independent beauty consultants retained full autonomy. This became even trickier for Covarrubias and her team as they had to navigate digital rules and regulations on a global scale.
She says they’re making strides forward and have already started rolling out a digital selling platform in Asia—it’s now live in Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines and will soon be in Singapore as well—but need to find other solutions for the U.S. and other countries.
“As a company, Mary Kay is staying true to its founding principles and business model even as we celebrate our 60th anniversary this year,” Covarrubias tells Vanguard. “This is much harder than it sounds in a rapidly, constantly changing world.”
The rosy glow of innovation
Covarrubias says staying relevant and true to those principles and business models requires continual innovation, especially as the aim is to create digital selling solutions that are both seller and customer friendly.
In Asia, rolling out the digital platform required her and her team, as well as the business, sales and other internal corporate teams, to look at all local regulations, including data privacy, as well as import and taxation.
She says a lot of nuances exist in the global markets in which Mary Kay’s contractors sell, down to how payments are processed.
For example, Malaysia has a national payment processing system called Financial Process Exchange, which allows customers to purchase products online using their bank accounts. However, to use the FPX, a business must be registered in the country. This seems simple enough, except many of Mary Kay’s contractors are selling as a part-time business, creating challenges to register as a stand-alone company.
Yet, Mary Kay can’t register on their behalf either, as technically, each contractor is the owner of their own Mary Kay business, with the company only supplying the products that the independent beauty consultants purchase. Consequently, beauty consultants—not the company—assume the role of merchant of record for retail transactions. This unique setup poses difficulties for many payment service providers. So, Covarrubias and her team found a different method, working with various vendors to restructure payment flows and options.
They’re looking to do the same for Mary Kay’s other markets, including the U.S. and Europe: working with vendors to modify and mold more traditional digital platforms and payment solutions for its contractors to use.
“This is a crucial step forward for the company and a necessary one to help beauty consultants meet their customers where they are,” Covarrubias says. “Selling has significantly shifted to the digital sphere, and people can now more easily make connections through social media and other digital channels…and we’re supporting that.”
60 years of stories
Covarrubias and other internal teams hope to have digital platforms and social selling options available to sellers in all markets in the very near future. While this is a major project, the company is also taking some time to celebrate its 60th anniversary this year with the theme of “Empowering women then, now and always.”
Using #MaryKay60 on social media, the company is encouraging its millions of global entrepreneurs to share their stories. A special anniversary video also ran every 15 minutes for a week in New York City’s Times Square.
This year also marks the company’s return to family leadership, with Mary Kay Ash’s grandson Ryan Rogers taking the helm as the chief executive officer.
“It’s very exciting because her intention was always to have Ryan guiding the company,” Covarrubias says.
That family feeling and legacy is one of the reasons Covarrubias joined the company and is enjoying the work so much. After obtaining her law degree in 2005 from the University of the Pacific, she worked in a niche legal field as a railroad defense attorney for several private firms—until May Kay recruiters won her over.
“I left the industry in which I had established my career and expertise, but everyone was so amazing, and the company values aligned with my own; my husband urged me to take the opportunity, and I just went for it,” she recalls. “I’ve had no regrets.”
She started as a managing counsel, responsible for the company’s North American markets. Then, she went from overseeing legal support for the North American region and the U.S. compliance team to managing corporate legal support for all global markets. She has a lot of fun supporting global business operations internally and externally, especially as she and her team work together to predict and stay ahead of future obstacles.
“I enjoy helping carry on and strengthening the spirit with which Mary Kay Ash started this company: women gaining confidence and independence,” Covarrubias says. “She was a forward thinker 60 years ago, and it’s exciting to be a part of a company where the leadership continues looking forward, so we can keep empowering our independent beauty consultants.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Fall I 2023 Edition here.
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