The Amazing Avon Lady When Karen Mulima hears complaints about lack of opportunity in the County, she seriously begs to differ. Karen is an Avon lady who has reached the top of her profession working locally. In 2004 she was declared the top sales rep in an enormous geographic area stretching from the Quebec border to Hudson Bay. When it comes to beauty products, Hollywood may go for Botox but Prince Edward County loves its Avon. Karen is proud to have snagged top honours at last. “I’ve been doing this exactly 20 years,” she says, “and I love it.” She has seen the Avon catalogue keep pace with fast-changing times and tastes. In addition to pretty lipsticks and perfumes, the little book now offers everything from anti-aging treatments to NHL bathmats. How did Karen achieve her outstanding success? She thinks it’s very simple. “You have to get out there,” she says. “You have to be available to people, you have to look after your customers.” Karen’s customers include lawyers, accountants and housewives, entire companies and housebound singles, and her deep understanding of customer service helps her please them all. “It’s not unusual to get a call from the bingo hall,” she laughs. “If a customer wins some cash and wants to pay me right away before she goes out and spends it, I’ll get right down there and collect it!” When economic development officer Dan Taylor congratulated her on her recent achievement she told him “I know some people say there aren’t many opportunities here, but I don’t agree. People in the County know what they want, they like to shop as much as anybody else, they want good service and they make very good customers.” Avon reps don’t advertise and you won’t find Avon in the phone book, yet Karen has hundreds of customers. In fact there are four members of Avon’s prestigious President’s Club living and working here in the County. As well as local customers, Karen has steady clients who move away but insist on still dealing with her. She shrugs and says “I never really wanted to do Belleville. But one customer moved there and talked me into it, so now I make a regular run up there.” She also has customers in Napanee and across the ferry, where she combines business with pleasure, visiting her daughters in Kingston as part of her road trips to make deliveries. Despite her modest demeanour, Karen is a powerhouse of precision with orders, packing and deliveries. Command control central is her cozy little living room. These days she uses a computer for invoicing, but still does a lot by hand, including writing customer information on hundreds of Avon bags before delivery days. “Two girls come in to help sort and pack,” she says. “We set up card tables and work all day, then they leave and I grab a bite to eat, turn on the TV and settle down to carry on working into the night.” She is surrounded by gifts, prizes and awards won during her 20 years with Avon, and every year her outstanding sales earn her an exotic vacation, too. Karen is a County girl, but went to college in the U.S. and spent four years in Kenya during a turbulent time for that country, working for a government minister who was assassinated shortly after Karen returned to Canada. Determined and smart, she loves living quietly in the County, and through her work has become an important and welcome part of many people’s lives. What’s in the future for Karen? “Avon wants their top reps to become sales leaders,” she says. “That means managing and recruiting people to sell for you. That doesn’t appeal to me.” She likes personal contact and fondly recalls the days of less business but more time to spend with each customer. Nevertheless she’s just as enthused about her work as when she started and plans to carry on selling her way. So don’t complain to Karen Mulima about lack of opportunity in rural areas. She and her fellow Avon Presidents Club members in the County, Elsie Wiersman, Dianne Wenn and Almona Hawes, are as busy and successful as they want to be, doing what Avon ladies have always done - delivering a little luxury right to the doorstep of great local customers. This story was brought to you by the Economic Development Department of Prince Edward County. We are looking for more County success stories. Contact Dan Taylor, Economic Development Officer at 613-476-2148 ext 246 or at email@example.com with your story.