Our challenges often prepare us for leadership and develop in us a sense of courage, strength and perseverance. Take Mary Crowley, founder of Home Interiors & Gifts, for example. She is considered one of premiere business women in Dallas, Texas. Her life was not an easy journey, but she as a woman with a firm faith in God, she grew and learned through each struggle in her life.
Married in 1932 and with children coming soon after, she and her husband struggled to survive through the Depression. Mary realized that if she was going to be able to feed her family, she would need to find a job. Although jobs were scarce at the time, especially for women, Mary chose a store she wanted to work in, dressed up and armed herself with a confident smile, walked in the doors of the store and got the job!
Without realizing it at the time, this job enabled Mary to develop a shrewd business sense that later prepared her to become head of a multimillion dollar company. Sadly, her marriage crumbled in 1939. She began studying to be a CPA and worked full time at an insurance company. Additionally, Mary suffered from insomnia, yet she turned her problems over to God. She used to pray, “Lord, you know I’ve got to get my rest. You worry about these problems. You’re going to be up all night anyway.” She would then go to sleep, leaving her problems in God’s hands. Her faith in God never wavered, and she found her confidence and strength in Him during those lean years.
In 1948 she married David Crowley, Jr. whom she had met at the insurance company. As a newlywed, Mary wanted to make her home as attractive as she could, despite her limited funds. She took a job as an accountant in a furniture company, and soon she began to notice that as people came to buy furniture, they had no idea how to accessorize their new furniture. Ideas began to dance around in her mind as to how she could help these people, but she also longed to be home with her children. In God’s way and in His timing, He began to put it all together. Several years later, a man who imported gifts and decorative accessories, asked Mary to become his sales manager in a new direct-sales company.
After working with this company for only three years, Mary’s staff had increased to five hundred women selling accessories through home parties. Sounds like a Joseph-type success, doesn’t it? The owner was pleased with the success, but he decided to add cocktail parties into the company functions, and he put limits on the commissions the sales women could make. Mary told him she didn’t agree with these conditions, so he sent her the office furniture that belonged to her and he was done with her position. Mary grieved the loss of being tossed off of that mountain, but she trusted God and knew He had a plan.
It was then that she birthed her own company, Home Interiors & Gifts. Mary followed God’s leading, and she gave Him credit for the success of her company. She knew that it was God who opened the doors, but it was her responsibility to walk through them. Mary’s desire was to help woman and minister to their needs. Many of the women who became a part of her team had never held jobs before and even needed help with their appearance.
Soon Mary’s company was helping women both personally and financially, paying dividends and bonuses. The business continued to grow and in 1962, the sales force recorded one million dollars in sales. Sadly, it was the same year she was diagnosed with cancer. She ended up fighting two bouts (mountains if you will) of cancer, but continued to fight on and bless many women in the process.
Mary was one of the first women to serve on the board of directors of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. She received two honorary doctorate degrees before her death in 1986.[i] Today, the Mary Crowley Cancer Research Centers in Dallas provide hope to cancer patients by expanding treatment options through investigational vaccine, gene and cellular therapies. Despite the setbacks Mary faced, God used her perseverance and creativity to inspire women and bring hope to generations of cancer patients as well.
What can we learn from her story?
- Embrace the mountains in front of you and see them as opportunities for growth.
- Don’t blame others or make excuses.
- Do your work with excellence and integrity.
- Be faithful in the small tasks.
- Always ask, “Lord what do you want me to learn here?”
- Keep your eyes on God’s plan for you.
- What mountain are you currently facing in your leadership role?
- What is God teaching you personally through this challenge?
- How can you thank God specifically for this mountain?
This is an excerpt from Positive Leadership Principles for Women
[i] Mary Trotter Kion, http://www.historyswomen.com/1stWomen/MaryCrowley.html