Avon is rightly known as the company for empowering women. This is a mission we have lived since we were founded in 1886 by David H. McConnell, who gave women the unprecedented opportunity to achieve financial freedom.
While selling encyclopedias door-to-door in New York, David H. McConnell noticed that the women preferred his free gift with purchase - a bottle of perfume - rather than his books. This led him to a revolutionary business idea. McConnell set up shop in his basement, and launched the California Perfume Company, picking the name to conjure up excitement about California and the gold rush.
He enlisted women to sell perfumes to their communities, and to recruit others to do the same as "General Agents," or independent Sales Representatives. In 1886, it was practically unheard of for a woman to run her own business. On the heels of the Industrial Revolution in the U.S., women were mainly confined to jobs in agriculture, domestic service and manufacturing. McConnell's first recruit was Mrs. P.F.E. Albee of New Hampshire, and he affectionately dubbed her the "Mother of the California Perfume Company." Mrs. Albee, a 50-year-old wife and mother of two, began traveling by train and horse-drawn wagon to sell perfume in the Northeast.
A year later, McConnell built a manufacturing laboratory in Suffern, NY and issued his first full-color catalog. The book seller-turned-perfume entrepreneur was a true visionary. He pioneered an industry that would later become known as direct selling. Especially important, his revolutionary idea empowered women at a time when only 20% worked outside the home. Thus began Avon's rich heritage of empowering women.
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