This post is not a biography of Madam C .J.  Walker – her great-great-grand daughter, A’Lelia Bundles, has a wealth of information available from her blog, and  her books.

I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From there I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations….I have built my own factory on my own ground.” ~              Madam Walker, National Negro Business League Convention, July 1912

Image from wikimedia

Madam C.J. Walker, the first self-made U.S. woman millionaire of any race ~ Wikimedia

I woke up this morning with Madam C. J. Walker on my mind and I thought “I need to do a post about this Successful Female Entrepreneur.”

I had very little  knowledge of Madam C. J. Walker, 2 years ago that changed when I did some research for my Extraordinary Woman of the week series. I realized that Madam C.J. Walker was an outstanding female entrepreneur. As I read through her material I discovered her blueprint for entrepreneurial success. Madame C.J. Walker took specific steps that  can be duplicated, today,  for your business success.

Here are the steps I took away from readings  about this amazing woman.

Step #1

If you want to be an entrepreneur you don’t wait for permission – you give yourself permission –  as Madam Walker did:

“And from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations….I have built my own factory on my own ground.”(excerpt)

No more excuses. Think of all the challenges she had to go through  – she accepted those challenges as part of the success equation. You need to  that as well. Challenges and success  are on the opposite end of the same pole. You can’t have one without the other. I have seen entrepreneurs, especially online, give up because they determined their challenges were insurmountable.

Wanting something is not enough. You must hunger for it. Your motivation must be absolutely compelling in order to overcome the obstacles that will invariably come your way. ~Les Brown~

Step #2

Identify your ideal clients and give them what they want – not what you think they want.

Madame C. J Walker knew her ideal clients, the challenges they faced and how she was going to help them. You can do the same.

Answer these questions

Who do you want to serve?

Where do they hang out?

What do they need?

How are you going to help them?

Where do you get this valuable information? The internet makes it easy. What are they saying on social media, in forums, on blogs, what’s trending in Google etc.

No more excuses!  Research, listen, study, learn, implement and serve.

That’s what Madam C. J. Walker did.

Step #3

Learn from those who are successful at what you want to do

Madame C. J. Walker had a scalp ailment. Some of the products she used were from Annie Malone.  She became a sales agent for Annie Malone.  She became a student – she learned on the job. Product knowledge, marketing, customer service – she was like a sponge, absorbing all that was necessary for a successful business.  Madame C.J. was bold and she had a big dream.

She tapped into her creative genius and came up her own products and devised a marketing plan. Within a year or so she started her own business and began selling Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower,  scalp conditioning and healing formulas. She didn’t wait for it to be perfect, she made changes along the way.

What do YOU need to do to get your business up and running?

Do you need to get a coach or mentor?

Do you need new skills and/or knowledge?

Whatever you need is available today. Go for it! take the first step!

Tip #3

Marketing is an important component for your business success

You have to think outside of the box for sales and marketing strategies and if there isn’t a box, you have to be willing to build one.

Madam C.J. Walker understood sales and marketing. She knew she had to get her product in front of her ideal customers.  For a year and a half  she rolled up her sleeves and put on her traveling shoes and went to the areas where her ideal customers lived: the heavily black South and Southeast –  where she sold her  products door to door. She demonstrated scalp treatments, devising sales, and marketing strategies.

Where are your ideal clients hanging out?  Get to know them. Connect, form a relationship, listen,  share, be of service  and sell them what they need. If sales and marketing are not your strengths, study and learn or put someone on your team who has these skills.

Tip #4

Build a team and don’t be afraid to delegate and grow.

I’m not sure who said this “there’s no such thing as a self-made millionaire” but the message here is: you can’t grow a profitable business by yourself. If you have a business that’s going to fall apart when you take a vacation or absent of some reason, you have a job disguised as a business.You’ll need to trust others to do the day to day activities of your business. Do the things that only you can do and allow your team to do the rest.

Madam C.J. Walker understood this concept. Here’s one example – in 1916, she left the day-to-day operations of her manufacturing company in Indianapolis to Ransom and Alice Kelly, her factory fore-lady and a former school teacher.

Tip #5

Make monetary contributions to your community.

Here are a few documented examples of Madam C.J. Walker’s generosity – she  gave $1,000 to the building fund of the “colored” YMCA in Indianapolis.

She contributed $5,000 to the NAACP.

Most customers respect and support business owners who give money to their community. Your business cannot exist without your customers. Customer pampering will keep you in business even in a down economy.

Tip # 6

Nothing stays the same. Look for new ways to grow and be of service.

In 1913, Madame C.J. Walker traveled to Central America and the Caribbean to expand her business.

By early 1910, in Indianapolis, she built a factory, hair and manicure salon and another training school.

The world today is ever changing. One day some thing is new and the next day it’s outdated. It’s important for you to keep up with trends, technology and changes that affect your customers’ lives. You must embrace change. Innovate or create new products/services for your customers  changing needs. If you don’t give your customers what they need, someone else will. Pay attention, be flexible, or you will go our of business.

Tip #7

Become involved in your community and social concerns

Walker joined a group of Harlem leaders who visited the White House to present a petition advocating federal anti-lynching legislation.

Your ideal customers are in your community. They’ll appreciate you even more when you step out of your business to contribute to the community and and the issues that are important to them.

A happy customer is a loyal customer. It’s easier and cheaper to keep a loyal customer than to go and find one.


Show appreciation for your team members.

As her business continued to grow, Madam C. J. Walker organized her agents into local and state club and they were recognized and rewarded for their business success.

I believe Madam C. J. Walker’s Hair Culturists Union of America convention in Philadelphia in 1917 was one of the first national meetings of businesswomen in the country.

When you appreciate your team, they’ll be loyal and dependable. They’ll enjoy serving your customers and they’ll treat your business as if it’s their own. You’ll have less turn over and less headache. You can relax and enjoy the benefits of being an entrepreneur knowing you have a team that love and support you.

It’s a wrap

Madam C. J. Walker accomplished her entrepreneurial dream, so can you. She was born in 1867 a time of  incredible challenges.

No more excuses. You, too, can grow a successful profitable business.

I had to make my own living and my own opportunity. But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them. ~ Madam C. J. Walker

Resource: Madam Walker Essay” from by A’Lelia Bundles.

Your turn

What do you think of Madam C. J. Walker and her accomplishments? Are you an entrepreneur or thinking about being one? Please share in the comment section below.

If you ‘re having a difficult time dealing with everyday challenges –  you’ll benefit from my FREE strategy session. Contact me today. You’ll be glad you did.

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