April 26, 2004 by

Estée Lauder


Categories: Business

elauder.jpgJosephine Esther Mentzer started a small business making beauty products in her kitchen and turned it into an international cosmetics empire worth $10 billion.
The Queens, N.Y., native was always called “Esty” by her family. A school administrator once spelled it “Estee,” and the new name stuck. She wed businessman Joseph Lauter (later changed to Lauder) in 1930, and joined forces with her uncle John Schotz to create her first make-up products. Soon Estée began experimenting with her own blends of creams, ointments, perfumes and powders.
In 1939, Estée and Joseph divorced. They reconciled and remarried in 1942, then went into business together. Joseph handled the administration of the cosmetics company, and Estée worked as the product creator and saleswoman.
Estée Lauder gave free demonstrations at beauty salons for women waiting under hair dryers, and hawked her wares to women walking down Fifth Avenue in New York City. Then in 1948, she persuaded a buyer at Saks Fifth Avenue to place an order. She and her husband cooked up all the creams and delivered them to the department store. Within two days, Saks sold out.
Several department stores, including Bloomingdale’s, Marshall Field, Neiman-Marcus, Harrods in London and Galeries Lafayette in Paris, placed orders for Lauder’s cosmetics. Lauder traveled to each new store to design her counters and personally trained the saleswomen. Because she couldn’t afford an advertising campaign, she gave away a free gift with each cosmetic purchase and hoped word-of-mouth would spread.
By 1953, Estée Lauder was a household name. Over the next 50 years, Lauder created 2,000 new products, such as White Linen and Cinnabar perfumes, the Clinique line of allergy-tested products and the Aramis line of men’s toiletries.
The Lauders’ two sons joined the business as well. Leonard A. Lauder took over as CEO in 1982, just after his father died, and nearly quadrupled annual sales by 1995. Ronald S. Lauder left his position as chairman of Lauder International to serve in defense and ambassador posts during the Reagan administration. After a failed bid for New York City mayor, he returned to the family business. This year, Forbes magazine estimated the net worth of Lauder’s sons at $5.1 billion.
When the company went public in 1995, she was given the title of founding chairman. Last year, Estée Lauder sold its products in more than 130 countries and controlled 45 percent of the cosmetics market in U.S. department stores.
Lauder received France’s Legion of Honor in 1978. The astute businesswoman published her autobiography, “Estée: A Success Story,” in 1985, and spent her final years giving parties and contributing to various philanthropic causes. She was the only woman listed on Time Magazine’s 20 most influential business geniuses of the 20th century.
Lauder died on April 24 from cardiopulmonary arrest. She was 97.

8 Responses to Estée Lauder

  1. Diane Ransom

    The world has lost an ICON. Although I never knew the woman, her makeup and perfume lines have been a part of my life since I was 13 years old, and now I am 47. I pray the beautiful, sophisticated, and extrememly talented woman found, in life, our One True Savior, The Lord Jesus Christ. May He hold her precious soul in Heaven forever.
    My Deepest Sympathy to the Family
    of The Incredible Ms. Estee Lauder.
    Diane L. Ransom

  2. Susanne Bass

    I love and continue to use her products; a classy Jewish lady with an extrodinary family! May Hashem (blessed be HE), bless them all!

  3. Sultan Ahmed

    I was inspired by Estee Lauder’s products some ten years ago and although being a man, I found her products to be amongst the best I have bought, especially having used products in the same category from accross the world. Her death has created a vacuum in the world of cosmetic development, one that will never be fulfilled. America has lost a great cultural icon, a woman that was responsible for taking America onto the international stage of cosmetic innovation and keeping it there for well over half a century. She became an inspiration to men, women, enterpreneurs and companies alike. She succeeded in a time when it was virtually imposible for women to have the recognition she gained. Her death has touched millions from accross the world.
    May her soul rest in peace. Amen.
    Sultan Ahmed
    The University of Huddersfield

  4. Jordan Owens.

    Estee Lauder will be sadly missed, she was a legacy, a strong force in the cosmetics industry.I really do love her perfumes and colognes for men, they are just wonderful.My sympathys go out to her dear family.May her dear soul rest in peace.God bless you.

  5. GREG

    What CLASS- She showed true class, she showed that EVERYONE CAN BE BEAUTIFUL-
    She will remain forever YOUTHFUL in EARTHLY MEMORY

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