Many self-made bosses jumped for joy when they heard about Netflix coming out with a new series, centering around the life of Madam C.J. Walker. It was inspired by her great-great grand-daughter A’Lelia Bundles’ biographical book “On Her Own Ground”. As Black History Month comes to an end, let’s all learn more about the first black female millionaire in America.
Madame C.J Walker’s real name is Sarah Breedlove. She was born on December 23, 1867, on a cotton plantation in Louisiana. Her parents were slaves. By the time they had her they were free, which made her the first in her family to be a free-born child. By age 7 she was an orphan and by age 14 she got married. One of the reasons she married so young was because she was trying to escape an abusive household. By age 20 she was a widow and had a 2-year-old daughter.
Sarah knew she did not want to live a life of financial distress. Plus she had a baby looking up to her. So by 22, she moved to St. Louis Missouri. There she became a part of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, where she met many business-minded black men and women. This inspired her. She was a washerman only making a measly $1.50 a day, but she had dreams of building an empire.
By the early 1890s, Sarah had financial troubles and a scalp disorder. Her hair was falling out and she needed a solution. She became her own hero and created hair care treatments with home remedies. She used Annie Turbo’s Malone “The Great Wonderful Hair Grower”. Annie was a successful black hair care entrepreneur. She recognized her ambitious spirit and hired her as a sales agent.
From Rags To Riches
Sarah moved to Denver Colorado in 1905. There she fell in love with Charles Joseph Walker, an advertising agent, and got married again. With that marriage she reinvented herself, learning about marketing from her husband. She changed her name to Madam C.J Walker and created her own hair care line. Her husband was a great supporter. He was the driving force behind her getting promoted all across the country. Before she knew it, she went from making $1.50 a day to gaining thousands of customers and employing 3,000 workers. Indianapolis became the state where she relocated, and from there she built a factory for her products. She created countless job opportunities for women of color. She educated, trained, and encouraged many through her various clubs/conventions. With 40,000 workers in the United States, Central America, and the Carribean, she truly transformed herself into a self-made boss. Her net worth was the equivalent of several million dollars by her late 40s.
As she got older, she developed high blood pressure, which caused the health of her kidneys to deteriorate. But that did not stop her from being a kind, giving person. In her will, she asked that one-third of her money be given to her daughter. The remaining two-thirds was to be given to charity.
To this day there are hair products bearing her name. Madame C.J Walker Beauty Culture is available at Sephora retailers. The United States Postal Service issued a stamp in the remembrance of her. She proves that if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, your past does not determine your future.
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