Madam C. J. Walker: First Black Female Millionaire

by | Feb 15, 2021

Contributed by the LaunchSource Community

Who is she?

As we celebrate black history month, we dig into U.S. history to acknowledge important figures whose existence impacted the world positively. Madam C.J Walker, a highly charismatic black woman and wife to Charles Joseph Walker, is just the right place to start.  Her original name was Sarah Breedlove, and she was born on December 23, 1867, and died on May 25, 1919. In the 52 years she lived, she left her footprints in U.S history. In fact, she is recognized in the Guinness Book of World Record as the first black female millionaire due to her self-made wealth. 

Walker was an entrepreneur and philanthropist, and she also engaged in political and social activism. She dealt in hair care and cosmetics products targeting black women, being the founder and owner of the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company. She was considered the richest African American woman in the U.S at the time of her death. 

What impact did she make as an individual?

Madam Walker is a significant figure in the history of the U.S because of her inspiring story. At the start of her career, she was a humble laundress, earning meager wages. Through self-determination and commitment, she realized an opportunity in her challenges with hair care and skincare, brought about by harsh cosmetics, poor diet, and poor hygiene. 

She provided a solution to a pressing problem in her target audience, the African American women. She also trained and employed over 20,000 black women, creating employment and enhancing the livelihoods of her employees. Walker was also a great philanthropist, she donated to charities, gave out scholarships, and offered her home as a meeting place for the black community.  She was also an influential political activist, and she donated part of her wealth to support various political causes. 

Lessons from her success in sales and leadership

The greatest lesson from Madam Walker’s story is to understand the value of patience, commitment, and gradual growth. She started marketing her products locally, going door to door to show black women a solution to a persistent problem at the time. She also took time to teach them the value of the products in grooming and hairstyling. 

Once she had established her brand locally, she expanded her presence by advertising in other regions of the U.S. This teaches the value of expanding, rather than staying content with only serving the local market, even when the sales are high. As salespeople and emerging entrepreneurs the lessons of patience and being focused on getting one thing right have never been more important in times where it’s easy to get distracted. Here at LaunchSource, we practice this everyday by staying focused in always improving and strengthening our core value driver for companies – providing predictable access to pre-vetted early-career sales talent.

How are you practicing these lessons in your role today?

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