AVON: Empowering Women for Over a Century Through Direct Selling

May 17, 2022
By Daniel Park, The Avon Company General Manager and Head of LG H&H Americas

Flexibility, work-life balance, opportunity for all . . . these are some of the guiding principles driving the direct selling industry, principles not only appealing to women but also extremely forward-thinking. In the past, a woman’s duty to family often meant she was tied to the home and couldn’t enjoy a career or earn money of her own. For years, direct selling has afforded women with the ability to do both, long before the virtual, work-from-home days of COVID.

Avon, in fact, has been empowering women for more than 135 years and continues to do so today. Avon pioneered direct-to-consumer selling with women in charge, giving back to organizations that benefit women and transforming the cosmetic industry with its innovative products.


In 1886, the year the Statue of Liberty was dedicated, David H. McConnell was a traveling book salesman. He was giving away free perfume with each book sold, when he realized that his customers—mostly housewives—were more interested in the fragrance. This prompted him to start a fragrance company called the California Perfume Company that would eventually become Avon. McConnell noticed that women not only loved the products but also loved to network with other women, so he employed them to help to grow his business.

The first woman McConnell hired was Mrs. P.F.E. Albee, a 50-year-old wife and mother of two from New Hampshire. Considered the first Avon Lady, or Representative as they are called today, Mrs. Albee traveled by horse and buggy and developed a women-only network to sell directly to other women—now known as direct selling. She also helped create one of the company’s first fragrance collections, the Little Dot Perfume Set. In her twelve years working with the California Perfume Company, Mrs. Albee trained more than 5,000 representatives to sell cosmetics. At this time, only 20 percent of women worked outside the home. It would be another thirty-four years before women received the right to vote. As a firm believer in helping women support themselves, McConnell was truly ahead of his time.

The Avon name first began appearing on products in 1929, in honor of Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of McConnell’s favorite playwright William Shakespeare. The company was officially renamed Avon in 1939—two years after McConnell’s passing. To this day, Avon upholds the principles McConnell instilled while running the company.

As McConnell once said, “Let no difficulty stand in your way. Bring to bear the spirit of intensity. Put your heart and soul into the fight, and fight to win.”

Representatives continue to be at the heart of Avon’s direct selling today. Shopping with an Avon Representative is like getting style advice from your most fashionable friend or in-the-know beauty expert. Select a Representative whose selling style you like, and he or she will cater to your beauty needs. Representatives get to know you and what you like, recommending the latest and greatest products that they know you’ll love. Avon Representatives are always one step ahead, predicting what you might like next and finding beauty products to enhance your life. Avon Representatives are truly the original influencers.

Avon believes in a woman’s freedom to earn and learn on her own terms and in her own way. The Avon opportunity gives each Representative flexibility to work their Avon business anytime, anywhere. Avon offers free internal training courses and field management as well as mentoring and support from fellow Representatives. Avon also provides digital direct selling tools to help Representatives grow their businesses in addition to offering rewards, incentives, and financial growth opportunities for all Representatives.


Avon believes that women can accomplish anything they put their minds to and can look and feel beautiful while achieving their goals. Here are some notable moments over the years giving rise to incredible women.

1940s—Avon’s committee of prominent women awarded the Avon Medallion of Honor to World War II nurses and service women who showed great spirit and fortitude in caring for the wounded and for prisoners of war.

1950s—The Avon sales force almost quadrupled in size. In 1954, Avon supported its Representatives and their businesses by airing its first TV advertisement that included the famous slogan, “Ding Dong, Avon Calling.”

1967— Avon Running: Avon sponsored Katherine Switzer, the first woman to unofficially run the Boston Marathon.

1975—Avon launched a makeup line called “Avon Shades of Beauty” for Black women that included makeup, skin care, and hair care.

1977— The Avon Tennis Circuit launched for women.

1978— The Avon International Marathon was an annual women’s marathon event sponsored by the company. The Avon Women’s Marathons broke barriers by giving talented women runners confidence, opportunity, and exposure . . . a chance to prove they could do it.

1999—In 1999, Avon appointed Andrea Jung to be its first woman CEO.

1999—Avon’s brand slogan became “The Company for Women.”

2008—On International Women’s Day, Avon partnered with United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) to promote women’s empowerment and end violence against women.


Avon has launched innovative products like hydrating and highly pigmented lip color, pioneering anti-aging skin care and iconic brands such as Skin So Soft, a best-selling favorite since 1961. The company was the first to introduce alpha hydroxy acid to the mass market. Avon prides itself on constantly improving its formulas by delivering high-quality, award-winning products that you can feel good about. For example, Avon recently launched a clean and vegan skincare collection called Farm Rx, which features natural, plant-based ingredients and an innovative blend of botanicals that are slowly cold-brewed to extract antioxidants for peak efficacy.


Avon has supported the American Red Cross since its early days, helping it raise funds and honoring the women who worked for the organization by sharing the stories of their efforts and achievements. Consistent with its mission, Avon sponsored the centennial makeover of the Statue of Liberty in 1986 by bringing people together for the celebration. Lady Liberty symbolizes freedom and independence for all women.

Today, contributing to a variety of organizations is still at the core of Avon. The fight against breast cancer has become a huge pillar of Avon’s mission. Since 1992, Avon has contributed more than $800 million to breast cancer causes, educated 180 million women about this disease, and funded breast health screenings for nearly 20 million women.

Since 2004, Avon has also partnered with Feed the Children, an organization that works to improve nutrition, hygiene, and education in vulnerable communities around the world. Over the last seventeen years, Avon has donated over 17 million pounds of personal care, hygiene and beauty products, clothing, shoes, and home essentials to families in need. In that time, we’ve empowered and impacted nearly 1 million families and 4.4 million women and girls in the United States. The Feed the Children x Avon Box is delivered to women and their families year round and in response to disasters. As a result of the delivery of this box, we hear stories of improved self-confidence and empowerment. This box really became critical to women and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Avon is also proud to partner with Gyrl Wonder, a professional pipeline initiative giving rise to ambitious young women of color between the ages of seventeen and twenty-two. Similar to Avon’s promoting and inspiring female entrepreneurship through the opportunity to build businesses for hundreds of thousands of Representatives, Gyrl Wonder equips the young woman who has found her passion with the toolkit necessary to turn her interests into a career.

Avon designed its fundraising program so that Representatives can donate a percentage of sales from their stores to an organization of their choice. Avon fundraising is an easy, super-rewarding way for Representatives to grow their business while supporting communities in need.


In 2019, the South Korean consumer goods giant LG Household & Health Care acquired New Avon LLC (now known as The Avon Company). This transition ushered in a new era of innovation, transforming Avon’s beauty offerings. Under the ownership of LG H&H—with leading positions in all major categories including cosmetics, personal care, and home care—Avon is putting a fresh face forward like never before. With expanded shade ranges, healthy ingredients, clean beauty, and richer, longer-lasting fragrances, Avon is committed to bringing consumers and Representatives top trends, the latest formulas, and world-class products. Avon is shaping the future of beauty through new initiatives such as virtual try-on technology, the award-winning digital catalog, and live online shopping events.

While Avon’s portfolio and partnerships are modernizing, it continues to celebrate and support its proud history of empowering women through economic opportunity and entrepreneurship. The Avon and LG H&H partnership is just the beginning of a whole new world of beauty and direct selling.

Above all, Avon upholds its core mission every day, encouraging women to work hard and make a beautiful impact in the world. Avon continues to support and empower women through its business model, contributions to the well-being of women, and the amazing Representatives that are the heart of the company. Women’s empowerment is incorporated throughout every facet of Avon because it’s not just who we are—it’s what we do.

  • Features
  • May 2022