Madame Millionaire: Madame C.J. Walker (1867-1919)
“I had to make my own living and my own opportunity. But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.”
Madame C.J. Walker turned selling into an art. Known as the first black women millionaire in the United States, she was born Sarah Breedlove, the daughter of former slaves. Walker went from being an uneducated farm laborer and laundress to one of the 20th century’s most successful, self-made women entrepreneurs, according to the official website for Madame C.J. Walker.
Walker suffered from a scalp ailment that caused most of her hair to fall out. So she came up with some homemade remedies and after working for Annie Malone, another black woman entrepreneur who made beauty products, Walker founded her own business in 1905. Her first product–Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, a scalp conditioning and healing formula.
She also reached out to help other women get into business. She created the Madam C. J. Walker Hair Culturists Union of America convention in Philadelphia in 1917 and it is considered one of the first national meetings of businesswomen in the country.