As a woman in business for herself, you might be faced with the following questions:
How can you turn what you have into a million dollar business?
What obstacles must you overcome?
What do you need?
Sometimes figuring it out can be so daunting.
So what do you do? Read. There’s an answer to just about anything you can think of online. Wanna know how to grow tulips in the middle of winter? Just Google it.
The other day, you were researching self-made millionaires and came across the name Madam C.J. Walker. It wasn’t the first time you’d heard of her. In fact, you learned about her in school. How she made a fortune selling relaxers. Right?
Wrong. It’s only now that you know she didn’t create relaxers. A black man named Garrett Morgan from Cleveland did that. Madam C.J. Walker made her fortune selling hair growth and scalp treatment products to black women. The products were so successful that she went on to become the country’s First Female Self-Made Millionaire. WTH!? Why aren’t there movies about her? Why didn’t you know? Well, that’s why we have to do our research. There’s a lot we don’t know and a lot they don’t want us to know. Who can we blame? The information is there.
The good news is, suddenly this idea of creating a million dollar empire seems more doable because she did it. Madam C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove in Louisiana as the first free child born to slaves. She was orphaned at age 7, married at 14 and a widow with a child before her eighteenth birthday. Talk about overcoming obstacles! With no formal education, she reinvented herself by taking her 3rd husband’s name (Charles Joseph Walker) to become the Madam C.J. Walker that we know. Her husband, a newspaperman, advised her on how to advertise and promote, while she learned about products and how to sell door-to-door working for another successful black entrepreneur of the time, Annie Malone. Madam C.J. Walker would eventually build her own factory and train women across the country on grooming,selling, and building their own business empires is truly inspiring.
How can this help us today?
Well, for one, it shows that there will always be a need for products geared towards black women, be it hair or otherwise. Think about it, her company was created over 100 years ago and we’re still in need of products that address hair loss and growth. Not much has changed.
There’s always room for more.
So many women don’t start their companies because they feel the market is flooded. ‘Oh so and so already did that.’ Not true. Annie Malone was wildly successful too. In fact, some argue that she was the country’s first female self-made millionaire. Whatever the case, both she and Madam C.J. Walker sold hair care products and both were huge feminists, activists and philanthropists. Both left a huge mark on the world.
MBAs are great but not necessary.
Madam C.J. Walker’s story also proved that you don’t need a fancy education to attain success. Some people believe that a degree defines us; yet Madam C.J. Walker learned from the people around her. Don’t they say, ‘surround yourself with great people?’ We also have the added benefit of the internet, which offers online courses, books and video tutorials on just about everything. There’s so much free information at our fingertips!
Work ethic still applies.
Let’s take a second to talk about Madam C.J. Walker’s work ethic. She sold door-to-door. Hello. As dope as the internet is, let’s get back to some of those good old-fashioned ways. There’s something about getting in front of people and demonstrating, talking and relating that can’t be beat. Your friend Felicia Leatherwood who created Loving Your Hair Workshops does just that. In addition to the United States, she travels to Africa and Europe to educate black women on how to care for and love their natural hair. She could sit behind her computer, but her business grows with every move she makes.
This idea that we can’t have our own businesses is a fallacy, We can be entrepreneurs and we don’t have to spend our lives working for other people. We can be millionaires or even multi-millionaires. Oprah is the epitome of what it means to be self-made.
Is there a recipe in your family? Do you have a remedy for the common cold? High blood pressure? Low sex drive? Hey now! Do you have something to offer the world? Are you the next Madam C. J. Walker?
Currently, she writes a social commentary blog called THE BREW and when she’s not doing that, she loves writing about the psychology of hair! Find her in Jersey City where she resides with her husband and two girls. Follow her on twitter and instagram