Madam CJ Walker, infamously known as the first Black Woman millionaire in America, left an impactful mark on the Black haircare world. She created a line of products dedicated to repairing damage and growing strong, and healthy Black hair during a time where most women struggled to take care of their hair. Walker not only taught us how to maintain hair health but also gave us many lessons on what it takes to be a successful business owner. Here are 10 lessons we can learn from Madam Walker and the legacy she left behind.
1. Find Out the Community’s Wants AND Needs
One of the most important things about being a business owner is having a good or service that people actually want AND need! Madam CJ Walker’s ‘Hairgrower’ educated women on how to take care of their hair and what to use to do so. According to Statista, “The United States has the most lucrative hair care market of any country in the world, generating about 15 billion U.S. dollars in revenue in 2017.” Haircare products will never go out of style – enter or create a market with longevity.
2. Remain Flexible
You have to realise that your plans will not always go as…well, planned! Walker started out working at a salon when she realized she too could start a successful business – and she did. Developing hair growth products took time, patience, and a lot of room to pivot! When business isn’t going your way, keep in mind that perspective is key and there’s always another way to overcome the challenge at hand.
3. Remember Who You Are
It’s easy to get distracted with thoughts of ‘failure’ when business is taking you through the wringer. Always remember how far you’ve come, celebrate the small wins, and go for what you want. Walker didn’t allow anyone or anything to stop her from bringing her dream to life, she remained confident despite the obstacles and has contributed in a major way to Black beauty.
4. Pass It On
Known as “Walker Agents, women came from all over to learn from Madam CJ Walker. She established beauty colleges that provided education for about 50k women. Walker believed in liberating women and instilling self-worth and Black pride in as many women as she possibly could! Don’t hold back on the lessons you’ve learned and the business experiences you’ve had. Share the wealth – that’s what a real BAUCE woman does.
5. Redistribute Wealth
Do. Not. Hoard. Wealth. Breaking generational curses and spreading wealth amongst the Black community should be a goal on every entrepreneur’s list. Walker was described as “the greatest benefactress of her race”, donating to causes such as lynch funds, the YMCA, and the Mary McLeod Bethune school. Give back in every way you can. Not only does this benefit Black people as a whole, but you do yourself a favor when you support and uplift others. Put good energy into the universe, receive good energy tenfold!
6. Tell a Story
For every product that exists, there are 100 more just like it, the only difference is the brand. People want to know who they are supporting and doing business with. Not only did Walker create these products, but she created them because she needed them herself. Tell a story, show vulnerability, show how your product benefits you – this gives your target audience something/someone to relate to. After all, our ancestors used word of mouth to do everything before technology was invented. Storytelling is in our genes!
7. Advertise! Market!
Eye-catching headlines, photos, and quotes are key when it comes to marketing. Madam CJ Walker used newspapers and word of mouth to spread the word about her business and products. Take some time to do some research on your target audience – what marketing techniques can you use to your advantage? Where will you advertise your business?
8. Intuition Is Key
Madam Walker had a dream about the hot comb, soon after, she developed an essential haircare tool within the black community that we still use today. She could’ve dismissed the idea, but she ran with it instead. (I’m sure most of our ears and foreheads wish she hadn’t!) Our dreams, thoughts, and intuition never lie – trust yourself, trust the process and bring your amazing creations to life.
9. Take Care of Your Team
Many of us have worked for business owners who aren’t the greatest leaders. The people who worked with Walker were offered trips, opportunities to attend conventions, bonuses, AND were mostly Black women. Take care of your team and your team will take care of you.
10. Leave a Legacy
One thing’s for sure, Madam CJ Walker left behind a legacy not only for her family but for all Black people. She showed us what it means to pour into ourselves and the community to experience life to its fullest. She remained humble, worked hard, and gave us a story and inspiration to cherish for all time. After she passed, The Walker Building was established in her honor – for us, by us. The building provided Black people in Indianapolis with a safe space to be in community with one another. It featured a salon, barbershop, restaurant, coffee shop, drug store, ballroom/meeting room, theater, and so much more. From this, we experienced luxury, and gained motivation and inspiration to follow in Madam CJ Walker’s journey to greatness!