Ding-dong. Avon Calling. If you have ever bought Avon products in Brazil, there's a good chance that when you opened your door, you were greeted with the friendly smile of Frances Lawhorn. Frances has been selling Avon for 55 years and she's still going.
She was honored Thursday by her manager and co-workers at the Avon Christmas party held at the Nazarene Church in Brazil.
"Frances is a member of the President's Club which is the top sales people," Avon District Sales Manager Patty Tracy said by phone last week. "That's about 10 percent of the entire nation."
Recently Frances talked about her experience as an independent sales representatives for Avon since 1949. She went to work for the same reason most people work.
"I needed to help my hubby raise his kids," she said. "We needed the extra money."
Frances had wanted to work at the munitions plant in Terre Haute. Her husband, Leo, thought the full-time job would be too time consuming. He felt her time was more needed at home where she cared for Leo's sons Ralph and Eddie and later, raised a granddaughter, Nancy, as her own.
Frances didn't choose Avon. A friend was selling Avon and suggested she try it.
"I said, I couldn't even give a starving cow a bale of hay, let alone sell him one. I was fearful that I'd fail cause I'd never done anything like that."
But needing additional income, she asked Leo about selling Avon. He said he thought it'd be all right if she kept it part-time.
"My part time job sometimes started at 8 a.m. and might end with me doing paper work at 11 o'clock at night," Frances said.
She finds the company history quite interesting. The 118 year old business was founded by David McConnell, who owned the California Perfume Company. Wanting to increase his income, he started selling encyclopedias door to door and gave a small bottle of perfume with each set to encourage sales. He discovered that the ladies didn't want any more books but they did ask to buy more of the perfume. A business was born. He named the new company after his favorite vacation spot, Avon Bay, in England.
"I never missed sending an order until this year," Frances said. "I sold with a broken foot, a walking cast and while my husband was ill in the hospital in Indianapolis."
She broke her hip early in the year. Her doctor wasn't pleased with its progress and sent her to Union Hospital. Friend, Jessie Thomas, drove Frances straight to the hospital, not allowing her to stop at home where her order was setting on the table ready to be sent.
Now, many customers come to her house. Another friend, Barbara Philabaum, has helped Frances by delivering to patrons who can't come to her home.
Frances, who celebrated her 84th birthday Nov. 26, said what she's enjoyed most about her job is the many friends she's made.
She recalled once greeting a customer with, "Hello, I'm Mrs. Avon. Have you ever tried the Lawhorn products?"
To many in Brazil, Frances is, indeed, Mrs. Avon. Ding-dong.