Cheers to those, who rise in their quest to improve humanity. It doesn’t require great courage to share acts of kindness, but merely garner the courage to give back to the community. History has shown us many great business leaders, but only a few have displayed the kindness required to support worthy causes. One such inspiration is Mary D. Ahrens.
Doing corporate philanthropy right
Since the beginning of her sales career, Mary has had a passion for all aspects of the hair goods industry. She was 17 when she started in this business, and her management at the time, as she says “went out of their way to teach me and help me succeed, professionally speaking, I was more or less adopted.” The year was 1986, and Mary just started her career as a secretary at Conair and worked for almost 27 years holding various positions, including Vice President of Sales. Becoming the youngest corporate officer, she beautifully orchestrated extensive growth in distribution, sales and profits uplifting the company sales and profits, making the brand a market leader in the hair accessory category.
After her 15 exceptional years as a Vice President at Conair, Mary, in 2017, founded Beauty Forward, LLC., with the intent to help children in need. Under the umbrella of her new company, Mary launched the brand Hair4Good in 2020. “We are a female-owned, entrepreneurial, philanthropic, USA-based company out of Wilton, CT,” says Mary. Hair4Good is a philanthropic hair accessory company that offers innovative and beautiful hair accessories and styling tools. Mary’s philosophy is to make the world a better place for children in need. Every product that has been bought by consumers not only adds beauty to one’s life but also benefits the lives of children. “Our product goal is to give women the tools to help them feel more beautiful on the outside to match their inner beauty,” Mary adds, “We donate 50% of our profits to Children’s charities and the other 50% is invested back into the company.” The company stands out for its philosophies, philanthropic mission, and innovative product design and development. “Our philosophy is to give priority to benefiting others over personal gain and profit,” says Mary.
Being a female with vast experience in the hair care business benefited her. There is an advantage for Mary as a woman in this business since she uses the products every day and has a clear understanding of woman’s hair needs and what is trending. Though several challenges were presented in her path, she overcame them and broke the glass ceiling. By quoting, “to me, being a leader isn’t about sex or race. Being a leader is about work ethic, vision, listening skills, and kindness,” she emphasizes the traits that every leader must possess.
The biggest challenge faced by Mary was the launching of her company amid a global pandemic. As people turned homebound, they were not necessarily dressing up or wearing boutique hair accessories it wasn’t the best time for starting a business. Additionally, the industry was already dominated by corporate giants. It is hard for any business to grow in such situations but Mary was cognisant of the risk of putting her finances on the line. Her idea of integrating compassion into her enterprise was the focal point of her company. “Hair4Good was started with the sole purpose of supporting Children’s charities,” states Mary. With that, another challenge appeared—going digital, where she and her team strived to communicate its message through social media as efficiently possible. “I overcame this obstacle by maintaining my work ethic and being open to learn about the complexities of social media. Having great partners was the key.”
Moreover, reflecting on her journey, she shares fortunately she never experienced being stereotyped in her career, and continues to say, “I am proud to say that I helped to break the glass ceiling, was the youngest officer in my previous company’s history, and one of few female officers at the time.”