Estee Lauder was born Josephine Esther Mentzer on July 1, 1908 in Queens, New York.
She, along with her eight brothers and sisters lived in the apartment above her father’s hardware store. Estee found her first job selling creams devised by her uncle, a chemist, Dr. Schotz. His company, New Way Laboratories, sold creams and lotions to beauty shops, beach clubs and resorts.
In 1930, she married Joseph Lauter (later changed to Lauder); they separated 9 years later and re-married each other in 1942. Taking from her earlier inspiration of her Uncle, she and her husband began formulating their own beauty creams, and in 1947, they formed Estee Lauder, Inc.
She continued making creams with her partner. In 1948, Estee met with the manager of Sak’s Fifth avenue with her new beauty creams. After much deliberation, Sak’s agreed to carry her product, which subsequently sold out within two days.
Excited from her first successful venture, Estee set out to expand and improve her line of beauty creams and lotions. Her big break had inspired her and with rejuvenated ambition, she set out to sale every major department store in the United States, with her products. She succeeded in acquiring contracts with Neiman-Marcus, I. Magnin, and Marshall Field’s.
After unsuccessfully trying to convince several advertising agencies to take her company on as a client, Estee decided to do her own campaign by offering free samples in the mail and free gifts with the purchase of one of her products. (A practice the company still uses today).
Her big break would come in 1953, when she developed Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew, a combination bath oil and perfume that retailed for $8.50. In the first year of production, she sold more than 50,000 units. Her Youth Dew was a mainstay of the business accounting for nearly 80% of sales the first few years.
Continued expansion of her line soon included a line for men, Aramis as well as a the first ever hypoallergenic line, Clinique. By the mid-1970s, her products were available in every major department store in more than 70 countries.
In 1995, Estee Lauder, Inc. went public, and four years later it became the nation’s largest cosmetic company accounting for more than 50% of all retail beauty products sold across the USA.
After more than fifty years of determination, and hard work, Estee Lauder became the only woman on Time magazine’s 1998 list of the 20 most influential business geniuses of the century. Estee remained active in the company, until 1994, when she broke her hip.
On April 26, 2004, Estee died in her Manhattan Apartment, leaving behind a legacy and a fortune started in her kitchen with an idea and a dream. Today the Estee Lauder brand is available in over 118 countries. In 2006, Estee Lauder was ranked 340th on Forbes Fortune 500 with revenues in excess of $6.4 Billion, and employs more than 25,000 people. Her grandson William Lauder currently serves as the CEO.