Lauder (July 1, 1906 – April 24, 2004) was an American businesswoman who was the co-founder, along with her husband, Joseph Lauder, of Estée Lauder Companies, her eponymous cosmetics company. Lauder was the only woman on TIME magazine's 1998 list of the 20 most influential business geniuses of the 20th century. She was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was inducted to the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1988.
Lauder was born Josephine Esther Mentzer in Corona, Queens in 1906, one of nine children born to a Hungarian Jewish mother, Rose Schotz Rosenthal, and a Czechoslovak Jewish father, Max Mentzer.:114 When she was a baby, her parents wanted to name her Esty, after her mother's favorite Hungarian aunt. When it was time for the clerk to write out the birth certificate, her mother chose Esther instead of Esty. She did so because Esty was too unusual and no one knew how to spell it. Esty was her parents' nickname. When her father pronounced Esty, it sounded like Estée, due to his accent. Much of her childhood was spent trying to make ends meet with most of the nine children helping out at the family's hardware store.
It was while working in this store that Lauder got her first taste of business. Her father’s hardware store gave her a better understanding of entrepreneurship and what it takes to be a successful retailer. Her childhood dream was to become an actress, her “name in lights, flowers, handsome men".
As Estée grew older she became more interested in her uncle's business than her father's. She agreed to help her uncle, Dr John Schotz, a chemist. He owned a company called New Way Laboratories and all the day long he sold numerous beauty products. Lauder was fascinated as she watched him create creams, lotions, rouge, and fragrances. Her uncle taught her how to wash her face and do facial massages. She graduated from Newtown High School. After high school, she focused on her uncle's business. She called one of his creams Super Rich All-Purpose Cream and began selling beauty products to her friends.:115 She sold creams like Six-In-One Cold Cream and Dr Schotz Viennese Cream to beauty shops, beach clubs and resorts.
She met Joseph Lauter when she was in her early 20s. On January 15, 1930, they married. The surname was later changed from Lauter to Lauder. The Lauders's first child, Leonard was born March 19, 1933.
They separated in 1939 (when she moved to Florida), but remarried in 1942. They had a second son, Ronald. The couple remained married thereafter until his death in 1982. The Estée Lauder company was created in 1935. Her older son, Leonard Lauder, was chief executive of Estée Lauder and is now chairman of the board. Her younger son, Ronald, was a Republican political appointee in the Reagan administration, among other endeavors. One day, as she was getting her hair done at the House of Ash Blondes, Florence Morris, the salon owner, came up to her. She asked Lauder about her perfect skin. Soon, Lauder came back to the salon and handed out four of her uncle's creams and demonstrated how to use them. Morris was so impressed that she asked Lauder to sell her products at her new salon.
In 1948, she persuaded the bosses of New York City department stores to give her counter space at Saks Fifth Avenue. Once in that space, she utilized a personal selling approach that proved as potent as the promise of her skin regimens and perfumes. Even after forty years in business, Estée Lauder would attend every launch of a new cosmetics counter or shop.
She would give her famous friends and acquaintances small samples of her products for their handbags; she wanted her brand in the hands of people who were known for having "the best". Princess Grace of Monaco once said, "...I don't know her very well, but she keeps sending all these things".
In 1953, Lauder introduced her first fragrance, Youth Dew, a bath oil that doubled as a perfume. Instead of using their French perfumes by the drop behind each ear, women were using Youth Dew by the bottle in their bath water. In the first year Youth Dew sold fifty thousand, by 1984, the figure had jumped to one hundred and fifty million. Lauder was a subject of a 1985 TV documentary, Estee Lauder: The Sweet Smell of Success. Explaining her success, she said, "I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard."
Aged 97, Lauder died of cardiopulmonary arrest on the April 24, 2004 at her home in New York, but her significance in the beauty industry remained. She left behind a lasting legacy and a brand name that is recognized in more than 120 countries.
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