For more than ten years, Jennifer Hooper taught music to K-12 students and directed choirs at various Jackson schools. But about a year ago, she left that position.
After graduating from Union University, Jennifer got pregnant with her first son, Riley, during her first year of teaching. Having always been a full-time working mother, she struggled balancing her work and home life for years.
“I started noticing physical changes from the stress on my body,” she said. “I would come straight home from work and go to sleep—so the time I did have with my kids wasn’t quality because I was exhausted.”
The guilt of not having enough energy to devote to her husband and kids added to her stress. Her mom once told her, ‘You give all the best parts of yourself to your job, and at the end of the day you don’t have anything left for your kids.’
Jennifer began seeking out alternative options to continue making sufficient income without sacrificing her time, health, and relationship with her family. A friend who had just signed up to sell Mary Kay products invited her to a facial party, so she decided to go to support her friend. There, she met a consultant, Chanel Weddington, with whom she would eventually go on to work.
Chanel shared the motto of the company: God first, family second, career third. Jennifer’s ears perked up when she heard this. Pretty soon after that, she signed up, thinking she would just save a little extra money on the side. Little did she know, it would only take her eight months to replace her teaching income.
“After a month or two, I realized this was a bigger opportunity than I originally thought,” Jennifer said. “I just ran with it after that and decided this would be the way I could get healthy again and be what I needed to be for my family. Before Mary Kay, I had to plan my life around my job, but now I can plan my life and my kids’ lives first.”
For her first eight months with Mary Kay, she continued to teach while working part time to build her customer base, recruit team members, and become financially stable enough to quit her job. By then, she had attained a sales director position. Just a year later, she earned a brand new car. The company will cover 85% of the car’s insurance, and as long as Jennifer continues to thrive in her business, it will be replaced with a new car every two years.
Being a mom of three boys who have their own schedules, Jennifer said the flexibility of the business is the reason she plans to continue her Mary Kay work for a long time. She is completely in control of setting her own schedule.
Jennifer starts every day by spending quiet time with the Lord. Mary Kay encouraged her girls to make a habit of waking up at 6 a.m. every day to focus on prayer, being still, and studying God’s Word.
After she gets her kids ready and off to school, she follows up with customers and reaches out to potential customers to set up bookings. At least once a week, she touches base with her sister directors, who hold each other accountable to their goals.
“There are five sales directors in the area, and I didn’t know any of them before Mary Kay,” she said. “I had never been a part of a group of women that encouraged each other quite like this. We celebrate each other’s successes and pour affirmations over each other. It really is like being part of a team.”
Jennifer calls the group of women a “sisterhood,” saying that Mary Kay really is all about women supporting one another. She intentionally sets out to serve the consultants on her team as well as new recruits, studying how she can best serve different women with different personalities and figure out what Mary Kay can offer individuals.
“My goal each month is to tell my story to 100 different women,” Jennifer said. “Whether it’s a quick facial with a little bit of my story, or an interview with someone who is really considering getting into the business or one of my girls who needs to hear that again.”
Before Mary Kay, Jennifer says, her life was on autopilot—she would just go through the motions of waking up and doing the same thing every day. She didn’t have control over the direction of her career, so she didn’t feel the need to set goals. Now she has a clear vision for the future of her business, which directly affects the future of her family.
“I was always afraid to set a goal because if I didn’t hit that goal, I would just disappoint myself,” she said. “I learned how counterproductive that could be. You’re always either moving backward or moving forward—you can’t just stay where you are in life.”
Jennifer decided that she wanted to move forward with her family, and that influenced the way she spent her time. She gained confidence as she moved up in the company, and, to her surprise, her own personal growth began to rub off on her family.
At 14 years old, her oldest son Riley wants to save for a car. He went out, got a job, and started setting financial goals all on his own.
Cody, 11, had a bad experience in a spelling bee a couple years ago and dreaded being in front of crowds. After Jennifer became a sales director, he was invited again, and he truly wanted to win. She affirmed him and studied with him every night. Since she was no longer teaching, Jennifer was able to take her time making breakfast, encouraging him as he left for school, and being there on the front row to support him.
“He was so confident,” she said. “I didn’t even recognize him up there. He wasn’t going to let fear conquer him. We even told him, ‘If you don’t win, the important thing is you give it your best.’ But he won! He felt really accomplished. I’ve really seen a difference in my kids.”
Not only has her family learned from watching her work; they’ve also played a big role in the business. Her husband Tony cooks dinners on the nights Jennifer has parties. Her three sons help stamp look-books, put stickers on products, and load her vehicle with products when she needs to travel. They all pitch in where they can and get to enjoy the rewards together.
Eventually, Jennifer hopes to help get her family to the point where they can be financially free. Tony wants to go back to school, and she wants him to feel free to achieve his dreams and not have to work a job he doesn’t love. The couple recently celebrated 19 years of marriage, but they have known each other since Jennifer was in the 4th grade. Together, they’re working on saving money for their kids to go to college and adopt a child.
Tony’s side of the family hasn’t had a girl for more than 100 years, and the couple has always wanted to have a daughter. In 2011, they had a miscarriage and knew that due to medical reasons, Jennifer didn’t need to have any more children. After Tony went on a mission trip and volunteered at a children’s home in Africa, they decided to start pursuing adoption.
“We have this daughter out there somewhere, and we know that we’re going to meet her someday,” she said. “We used to think it was selfish to tell people we were adopting just because we wanted a little girl. But then someone told me that adoption is never selfish because you’re changing a person’s life forever. So that gave us permission to finish out our family. We have a fund set aside, and we’re always praying about the next steps to take.”
In the meantime, Jennifer volunteers in the music ministry at City Fellowship Baptist Church. Now that she is no longer teaching full-time, she doesn’t have to say ‘no’ to as many ministry opportunities as she used to. After several years, the former music educator finally has time to devote to developing her personal skills of writing, playing, and performing for women’s conferences and ladies’ Bible study groups.
Jennifer wants other Jackson women to know that buying Mary Kay products is comparable to buying produce at the local farmer’s market as opposed to Walmart.
“Mary Kay is more than just lipstick,” she said. “You’re going to buy that mascara anyway, so why not support a local woman, someone you know? Women could change this community if we all helped each other work toward our goals together.”
Make sure to check out Jennifer's Mary Kay Facebook page.
Danica Smithwick is a senior journalism major at Union University, where she serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Cardinal & Cream. Otherwise, her life in Jackson consists of writing for the Jackson Sun, attending City Fellowship Baptist Church, and shopping for used books that she struggles finding time to actually read. She probably talks about Myers-Briggs and ice cream more than anything else.
Photography by Danica Smithwick.