True or False: Mary Kay is Taught at Harvard

You may have heard this claim from a Mary Kay director or consultant.

They claim that Mary Kay’s business plan is taught at Harvard business school.

Well, don’t tell Harvard Business School. They are sick of MLM consultants using this line because it isn’t true.

What IS true is that Harvard Business School is the world’s leading supplier of business “cases”. These cases provide background information about a company and examine critical junctures in their development.

Case studies are not opinions of the company or situation.

And Case Studies ARE NOT endorsements of the business or the business model, nor do they “teach” that business. (I’m not really sure what anyone who says that Mary Kay is “taught” means by that anyway.)

The case method is a process of teaching students by using detailed accounts of real-world business situations and has been used with great effectiveness by Harvard Business School since it was developed by its faculty in the 1920s. You can read about the case method on the HBS website.

A quick search on the Harvard Business School website found seven case studies involving Mary Kaydating from 1981 to 2004. AmoYou can find them on the Harvard Business School website. You can view these and order copies by following this link.

If anyone tells you that Mary Kay is taught at Harvard Business School they are either

1. Simply repeating what they’ve been told by an uninformed director;

2. Lying in an attempt to give validation to the Mary Kay “business”; or

3. Are too dumb to make the distinction between studying a subject and endorsing it.


  1. all of your comments seem to be things that someone said wrong. i just started mary kay and i haven’t heard any of these things I know I won’t be making a 50% profit and nothing close to it especially in the beginning. I haven’t heard that i will win a car by selling, I know thats only by recruiting. And also I know that mary kay isn’t taught at harvard, if it was then i would be getting a free expensive education. Everyone on this site probably just wanted to get rich and didn’t realize all the time and money you would have to put into it. That’s why they say it’s your own business. If you were to start your own business no one would give you free inventory for your new store, and you wouldn’t just work for an hour to selling at your store you would need to take time to reorder your products and go to trainings to learn how to run your business. It really makes sense if you take it as an actual ‘business’  and not get- rich-quick

  2. But it’s not a business.  If you actually owned a business, you could sell the business.  It’s more of a franchise.  You “own” the right to sell MK products to your clients, under their rules and direction. 

    My EESSD often quoted “MK is taught at Harvard” and I’ve seen it in several scripts.  It’s not true.  It may be used as an MLM example, but it’s not taught, and I find it to be extremely misleading,

    Also, have you heard you can make executive income working part time? 

    The presentation of the “opportunity” is misleading.  If one was to open a business, I agree they would need the training/experience to do so.  How many were approached with the “opportunity” as “would you like to open a MK business?” 

    • Kimberly says:

      I have only been with Mary Kay for 3 years and I do earn an executive income working about 20 hours a week ($70K a year). I am not in debt because of MK, I make money. I did invest in intitial inventory (my choice) and quickly paid off that investment. Now my business is a cash only run from profits and commissions I make. I have earned 2 cars in those 3 years.
      I think that if someone commits to working their business and treats it accordingly they can be as successful as they chose to. It is a career as an independent contractor. You are your own boss.
      I think sites like these are started for any company who has disgruntled employees (or ex-employees) who want to vent because it did not work out for them. What probably did not was was the person themselves.

      • Thank you Kimberly! Too many people look for something wrong with the company – it’s all based on what efforts a consultant puts into it. Self discipline is what kept your financial house in order. Kudos to YOU for doing it the right way!

      • Well stated. As a former corporate ladder climber myself I love the power I have without the pressure. I can do as much or as little as possible. Let’s also realize that there are young millennials that need a flexible way to earn income and this is perfect for many of those women. I can’t say enough about how I have grown. I am grateful for the opportunity to empower women.

  3. It is like a franchise, the rules are very strict, you can only sell to home-based parties or individuals in their homes or your home, you can only advertise to your small circle of contacts using the MK ecards, or on the company website. You cannot sell at any retail establishment, or even on ebay or online auctions. This business is extremely tough on the selling end because the culture has changed, people are too busy, too rigid in their schedules to allow time for home parties, and it is almost impossible to get a group together at a home for purchasing cosmetics, that these women can get anytime anywhere as part of their errands and at half the cost. People don’t want to be bothered with home parties anymore, at least not where I live, so the company thrives on recruiting.

    • Good points Kelly. I would just add that the company thrives on recruiting and always has because it’s an MLM and that’s the whole basis for an MLM thriving.

  4. I also want to say that I have actually seen the Mary Kay Marketing Plan in a textbook that was used in a class taught at Harvard Business School – the school doesn’t ‘teach’ it but it is in one of the textbooks they use as a great example!

  5. Harper’s Magazine just ran an article that asserts that MK may fit the definition of a Ponzi Scheme and that in truth, fewer than 300 of its 600,000 strong sales force actually earn what MK promotes as an “executive level” salary. Of course, decide for yourself:

  6. WOW! There’s a lot of anger coming from some of these posts! I am a Mary Kay consultant and have been for 9 years. I absolutely love teaching people how to take care of their skin from the inside out. Mary Kay is my ministry as well as my business. To the 3 nay sayers, it sounds like something didn’t work out well for you and it’s sad to hear. Just because something doesn’t go well for you it doesn’t mean you should try and spoil it for everyone else. I truly enjoyed my job in the corporate world, I just didn’t enjoy being governed by the corporate world rules like you don’t like Mary Kay rules. Mary Kay offers a personal service that you wont get in any department stores while running errands, thats one of te things that set us apart plus many more that I wont mention because I’m not trying to defend what Mary Kay stands for. I only want you to understand that bitterness turns into envy and envy into hatred. Why put yourself and others through the agony, move on! Peace, Love and Happiness! Be Blessed

    • The only real anger I’ve ever seen on this site in the 6+ years it has existed is from current Mary Kay consultants and directors who tend to come here and feel required to tell us that we’re being negative and the only reason that MK didn’t work is because we didn’t work. Pure garbage.

  7. NOTMaryKay says:

    Thank you LJ. The rest of you Mary Kay mouthpieces should shut up and stop spreading your MK lies.
    I’m pretty “positive” that you’re being clouded by the pink fog.

  8. Supermom36 says:

    I also am a MK senior consultant. I’m not real sure if MK is taught at Harvard, but I do know that a MK national sales director just came back from Harvard this week, from teaching a MK business class. She was invited and has a degree from Harvard. I think Inwould rather ask her about what they teach than take someone’s word for it that has never been to Harvard. This same director was also invited to the presidential inauguration.. So she isn’t just talk. There are many high society directors in Mary Kay. They will tell you that Mary Kay has made it possible and they are living the dream. The house in Diary Of A Md Black Woman is also owned by a Mary Kay consultant. She bought it from Tyler Perry and that isn’t the house she lives in. She has 3. Just one that she Only holds events in. My friends just got back from there. They had a blast! If u work ur business it will work for you. My daughter is getting her 3rd car in 18 months. It does work!!!

    • Your information is pretty vague. Maybe an NSD was invited to Harvard to speak or teach a class. About what? And maybe she does indeed have a degree from Harvard.

      However, the whole point of Directors spouting the “Mary Kay is taught at Harvard” line is to try to validate the whole business. There are lots of business models, and MLM is one of them. That doesn’t mean it’s a good one. But then again, it makes the company a WHOLE lot of money, so it is good in that respect!

      Only a very small percentage of women make it to the ranks of NSD and they do so by scratching and clawing and recruiting their butts off. It IS NOT done by selling the product, it’s done by recruiting more people into the pyramid.

  9. Brad Roche says:

    Is Mary Kay’s business plan similar to Arbonne’s?

  10. inquire best first !!! mk is not pyramid !!!!!! go to search better before speaking so silly! but it is not studied in Harvard, but is given as a good example in the course !!!!!!

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