Making it in the entrepreneurship world isn’t as easy as it’s cracked up to be, especially when all the odds are stacked against you. That is why Madam C.J. Walker’s story is so awe-inspiring. This Marketing Magician became a household name in a relatively short amount of time, leaving behind an impactful legacy. So, who was Madam C.J. Walker?
This post is sponsored by Afrolovely to help share the love for hair, diversity, inclusion, and equity.
This serial entrepreneur wasn’t dealt a lucky hand in life. Born Sarah Breedlove to enslaved parents who were freed just before having her. Walker was the first in the family born free from slavery. Navigating life wasn’t easy, especially when a baby came into the picture, and she realized she had to provide.
Despite all her life challenges, she became one of the first self-made millionaires in America. The way she marketed herself and her hair products are truly unique, considering all that she had to overcome due to the time period she found herself in. Being a Black woman during this time no doubt had enough of its own challenges. Regardless, she was able to create a million-dollar business.
A Black business woman in the Jim Crow era
While slavery ended before Walker was born, these laws continued to restrict Black people as if they were still enslaved. These laws limited how freely they could utilize different areas of their life. This especially pertained to Walker when it came to business.
A Black woman owning a business during some of the worst times of the Jim Crow era was unheard of. Clearly, Walker didn’t allow this loophole in the 13th amendment to affect her. She was a motivated mother, determined to do whatever she needed to provide for her child.
While these laws cut off Black Americans from utilizing certain services, they created numerous opportunities for them to start their businesses. As they were being outcasted, they were able to cater to their own community, as did Walker.
It wasn’t until the late 1800s that women started to get any sort of rights. Even in the modern day, it’s hard for some people to accept that women deserve rights, but this was even more prevalent in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Sadly, reproductive rights, the right to education, the right to health, property rights, and the right to vote wasn’t widely available to women during the time of Walker. Despite this, Walker was able to achieve a wild amount of support from those around her.
The key to success for Madam C.J. Walker
Marketing toward consumers has been around for ages, but you may be surprised to learn what some of these tactics are. Even hundreds of years ago, people have found various ways to motivate people to buy. The key? Targeting people’s emotions.
Starting to lose her own hair, she felt the need for the products of her former boss Annie Turnbo Malone and joined her team of sales agents. The Great Wonderful Hair Grower” was a homemade recipe developed by Turnbo and extremely successful for African-American hair. Walker felt the need to do more with the product and very quickly outgrew her boss in ideas, entrepreneurship and marketing skills.
A fallout between the two strong-willed ladies was a great opportunity for Walker to start her own business. With clever marketing and perseverance, her product became the most wanted among African American women.
The number one rule of marketing is to empathize with your buyer to motivate them to act, and that’s exactly what Walker did. Her own hair loss and, therefore, search for treatment journey motivated her to sympathize with others who were experiencing the same hardship.
Walker found that many businesses only catered to white customers due to the Jim Crow era, leaving a hole to fulfill the need of Blacks in the community. This was the sweet spot that Walker was looking for. She understood the need in the community, focused on making desirable products that would fulfill that need, and then made the products easily accessible.
Walker and her crew did whatever it took to get the word out about her products. The key to this approach was going where the people were. This included going from door to door, advertising in magazines, and showing up at big gatherings to promote what they had to offer.
She also utilized customers and turned them into marketing agents for her business. The company motivated these customers through commission and trained over 40,000 people using Walker’s hair-culture college.
This approach was unique during its time and motivated consumers to undergo a total lifestyle change. Walker preached about the “Walker System,” which was used to promote healthier hair. To this day you can still find Madam C.J. Walker’s products. Or if you’d like to take matters into your own hands, like C. J Walker, experiment with ways to naturally grow your hair thicker. Having a brilliant mind like Walker may be the next thing that motivates you to start a business.
We definitely need more inspiring stories like Walker, although modern women do not have as many challenges as it was 100 yrs ago, women like her have inspired us and showed us with their struggle that it is possible. She would inspire women in despair in our modern era, in a country where there is still segregation towards women, to lift their heads high up and face their challenges.
Madam C.J. Walker continues to inspire
While it’s been over 100 years since Madam C.J. Walker’s passing, she still influences society today. Her determination to provide consumers with a clean and healthy lifestyle change, motivated by hair, can still be found today.
Despite all of the setbacks in her life, this determined woman was able to overcome them and end up on top. Her key to marketing is really what made her brand soar despite the limiting laws of the time.
Madam C.J. Walker continues to be an inspiration and motivating force to all women. Making us realize that everything is possible and you must believe in yourself and your dream.
Being a woman and a mother has been difficult throughout the ages. Women have been mistreated, abused, and looked upon as objects for all sorts of things at home and the workplace. Women had to be extremely determined and creative-minded, and dip into their masculine to survive in a patriarchal-dominated world. Yet this only has made them more eager to succeed and show what they are made of, and look upon the world with love and care. This is the success of one legendary mother and a woman who would not be crushed and would succeed no matter what.