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Profile: Madame CJ Walker

A brief history of how Madame CJ Walker’s beauty empire created unprecedented professional opportunities for black women, and left an empowering legacy of entrepreneurship.

AIRED: 4/23/2019 | 00:02:42
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Annie Malone, a self-taught chemist, formulated a product that would help black women straighten their hair without damaging it.

After creating her 'Wonderful Hair Grower,' Annie Malone took it to her market.

And so she begins to develop this company.

She begins commissioning sales agents to sell a hair preparation that she created and so it was a way for her not just to make money and to build what becomes the Poro company.

She would develop a system of Poro beauty colleges where women could come and train and then eventually open up avenues for women to become entrepreneurs by owning their own businesses.

She's employing Black women, trying to get them on her salesforce and one of the women who does join her salesforce is none other than Madam C.J. Walker Born to sharecroppers, the woman who would become known as Madame Walker had an even bigger vision for the black hair care industry.

With two dollars and a tireless work ethic, she truck out on her own.

Walker begins to believe that she doesn't have to have a boss and so she begins to make her own products.

She needs to be where there are a lot of Black people where there are a lot of heads for her to use her products and so she's now on the road selling her products.

And she would demonstrate on someone in the town.

She would train the women.

She would find the woman who had the most spark and make that woman her agent and then she would travel to the next town and she would repeat that.

Madame CJ Walker Would Build a business empire, and become the first self-made woman millionaire.

What she's able to build is far greater than a product line.

She's giving African American women the opportunity to have independence in the kind of work that they do.

They're protected in many ways from the indignities of domestic work.

It allows African American women to set their own schedules, work on their own time and serve within their own communities There was a testimonial letter from a woman who said, you have made it possible for a colored woman to make more money in a day selling your hair products than she could in a month working in somebody's kitchen.