Madame CJ Walker is America’s first self made female millionaire. Walker thrived during an era when the regular distribution channels would not have been available to black women. Despite the obvious challenges to business development, she saw a need, and provided.
Her story is an example of how consideration for ourself and others can lead to effective, lucrative livelihoods. Here are five life lessons we can learn from her approach to business, family, and community.
1. Honor the knowledge in your family.
Madame CJ Walker was born Sarah Breedlove December 23, 1867. In 1888 following her second marriage, Walker and her daughter moved to St. Louis, Missouri. Initially, she learned about haircare through her brothers who were barbers there.
2. Solve a problem.
Better yet, solve a problem that is near and dear to you, and foster a passion that can change your community. Like many women of her day, Madame CJ Walker suffered from dandruff and other scalp ailments. As a woman of African descent during this time, the attention of doctors towards the health of skin and scalp would be extremely uncommon. Walker was, as they say, “the change she wanted to see in the world.”
3. Work for leaders in your field.
Madame CJ Walker expanded her knowledge by working for Annie Turnbo Malone, who in 1904 was a thriving African American hair care business owner. Walker helped Malone brand her product as, “Poro,” a West African brand meaning physical and spiritual growth. While some might view these women to have eventually become competitors I disagree. Together, these women helped each other build a customer base.
4. Let your day job support your side hustle.
Until, your side hustle is stable enough to be your main hustle. Walker continued working for Malone while she developed her own brand.
5. Get personal.
To promote her brand, Walker went door to door selling products and teaching women how to groom and style their hair.Where can you be more engaging? Walker built her brand by catering to a community that was largely ignored by corporate health and beauty. The result of her kindness was a legacy of entrepreneurship and philanthropy that would encourage all of us.