Businesswoman Helene McCusker’s first exposure to Merle Norman Cosmetics was when she used the company’s makeup line when she was a student at Holy Cross High School.
When McCusker decided to do something different after 18 years of corporate life, she gravitated toward a product she trusted. So, she and her husband Michael decided to purchase the Dover franchise of Merle Norman.
McCusker has parlayed her years of managerial experience at IBM and Citicorp Insurance into a successful business.
Norman founded the company in 1931 in Los Angeles, Calif. and the company is now celebrating 80 years in business. Jerry Mills opened the Dover store in 1953.
McCusker sat down with the Dover Post to share some of her secrets to success.
Q What do you like most about your work? What do you like least?
A What I love most is that every day, every hour is different. You never know who’s going to walk in the door. Women are looking for assistance; we’ve been here for so long they just know our reputation for quality. And, sometimes, they just want somebody to listen to. That’s something I never expected when I got into this business. It’s an aside of the job. That’s what I love about it. It sounds so Pollyanna, but there is nothing I like least. The customers are good. It’s not like I have to deal with any problems.
Q What advice do you have for someone else looking to open up a business?
A The first thing I would say is that you have to have a deep desire and passion to want do this everyday. You don’t walk away. It’s not like a job where you walk away and say, ‘I quit.’ You invest your time, your energy, your money, yourself. I think a part of me is in this place. Whether it’s a McDonald’s franchise or a gift shop or a hardware store, then you have to want to do it. And people can tell. With any store, you can tell if someone wants to be there, can’t you? How many times have you gotten, ‘This is my department’ instead of ‘This isn’t my department but I will get somebody to help you or call a manager. In the last couple of years since the economy tanked, I have noticed some of the bigger stores doing that locally. Why? People have to want to come and see you.
Q What developments do you see in the future of your business?
A Women are never going to give up on makeup. Despite the economy, women are still coming in there, thank goodness. It’s a personal thing; it makes them feel good. It’s in our DNA. It’s something to make you feel good. And you have to take care of your skin. You get one face and that’s it. You’d better take care of it.
Page 2 of 2 - Q What is something people may not know about your business?
A We have been in Dover for almost 58 years. We still offer free consultations and lessons on how to put the makeup on. That’s how the company was founded – ‘try before you buy.’ And we are made in the U.S.A. still. Some of our things, like sponges, puffs and brushes are outsourced, but our actual makeup and skincare is made out in California. That’s the way it’s been for 80 years.