Origins of an Idea

In his travels as a book salesman, McConnell made two important discoveries. First, he quickly noticed that his female customers were far more interested in the free perfume samples he offered than they were in his books. He made these fragrances himself to serve as “door openers” when he traveled from home to home. Second, McConnell saw women struggling to make ends meet and recognized in many of them natural salespeople who would easily relate to other women and passionately market the products his new company would first sell -- perfumes.

 

McConnell's First Sales Representative

McConnell’s first recruit for Avon, then known as the California Perfume Company, was Mrs. P.F.E. Albee of New Hampshire. Not only did he provide Mrs. Albee and other early Representatives with an earnings opportunity when employment options for women were extremely limited, he fostered a supportive environment with a familial feel. (The company newsletter was even called the “Family Album.”) In one of his regular letters to Representatives, he wrote: “All success lies in one’s self and not in external conditions. … Misfortunes are only a discipline, and there are possibilities which often are awakened by them which suggest to us the power and strength we possess, that perhaps otherwise would never have been recognized.” No wonder the Representative ranks rose to 5,000 in just 13 short years.