Beauty Queen: Estee Lauder

She turned cosmetics into a big business by making the experience at the sales counter a personal one

Leonard Lauder, chief executive of the company his mother founded, says she always thought she "was growing a nice little business." And that it is. A little business that controls 45% of the cosmetics market in U.S. department stores. A little business that sells in 118 countries and last year grew to be $3.6 billion big in sales. The Lauder family's shares are worth more than $6 billion.

But early on, there wasn't a burgeoning business, there weren't houses in New York, Palm Beach, Fla., or the south of France. It is said that at one point there was one person...

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