Estée Lauder: The Sweet Smell of Success

by K-Dean

Estee Lauder (left) applying her line of cosmetics on a customer.

Estée Lauder is the richest self-made woman in the world, after building a successful cosmetics empire of skin products and fragrances. She was born Josephine Esther Mentzer in Corona, Queens, New York in 1908. When she was a baby her parents gave her the nickname Esty, but with her father’s thick accent it sounded like Estée. She spent the majority of her childhood trying to make ends meet, while working with her nine other siblings at the family’s hardware store. While working for her father, she gained some experience in the world of business and learned how to become a successful retailer.

When she got a little bit older, she grew interested in her uncle’s business. He was a chemist who created creams, lotions, lipstick and fragrances. When she graduated from high school she set her sights on selling beauty products for her uncle. When she was in her early 20′s she met Joseph Lauter and married him in 1930. She changed her name from Lauter to Lauder, the original spelling of the family name. The couple had their first son Leonard in 1933, then separated, remarried and had another son, Ronald.

The Estée Lauder company was created in 1935. Her older son, Leonard was the chief executive of Estée Lauder and is now chairman of the board. One day when Lauder was getting her hair done, the salon owner was interested in how she obtained such perfect skin. She came back with several samples of her uncle’s creams and demonstrated how to use them. Soon enough Lauder was selling her products at the salon. In 1948, she persuaded the bosses of New York City department stores and managed to get some counter space at Saks Fifth Avenue to sell skin products and fragrances. After forty years in business, Lauder still attended every launch of a new cosmetics counter or shop. In 1953, Lauder introduced her first fragrance, Youth Dew which was a bath oil as well as a perfume. When Youth Dew first came out it sold 50 thousand in the first year and by 1984, it had sold 150 million.

Lauder died of cardiopulmonary arrest on the April 26, 2004 at her home in New York. She was believed to be 95-years-old, although know one can confirm her actual date of birth.

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