Business Ideas – 3 Success Lessons from Madam CJ Walker

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Today we are taking a look at a woman that started out life in a slave family. After slavery ended, this woman would build a business and become the first self-made woman millionaire in the United States. This is the story of hair care and cosmetics business entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from her success.

“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

Madam C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove (born December 23, 1867) in Delta, Louisiana. Born into a slave family, Walker rose from her humble beginnings to establish herself as the first self-made woman millionaire in America. After experiencing a personal setback, Walker turned her fate around and used that setback to create a fortune. At a time when most African Americans were struggling to find work, Walker pioneered her way to the top of the hair care and cosmetics industries.
Walker would face a host of tragedies throughout her life, such as losing her parents when she was very young, losing her first husband, marrying two more times, but none of these tragedies is what made her look to start her own business. In 1904, crisis would again strike Walker’s life. She had been working so hard and eating so poorly that she began losing her hair. She tried product after product to try and help save her hair, but nothing worked. Later that year, Walker attended a seminar that would change the course of her life and make her do something about her problem.

Walker credits God with having given her the special hair remedy that would launch her business. God, however, could not do anything about the fact that there was already another entrepreneur selling similar products in St. Louis. Not wanting to face the competition head on, Walker decided to take her show on the road. In 1913, Walker bought a house in Harlem and decided to make it her company’s new headquarters. Slowly, the company continued to grow and by 1917, annual conventions were being held by Walker’s agents to train new and old recruits. By the time Walker died in 1919, she was 51 years old and one of the richest women in the country.

Action Item #1: Don’t Let Your Situation Be an Excuse

Action Item #2: Act on Crisis, Don’t Accept It

Action Item #3: Make Perseverance Your Motto

True Story

In 1917, Walker commissioned a 34-room mansion to be built for her on the Hudson River. It was her dream house, something she had worked for years to be able to afford. But when area residents found out who their new neighbor was going to be, they were less than happy. “One of the race,” wrote one newspaper, “is invading the domains of New York’s aristocracy.” The New York Times even wrote, “No woman of her race could own such a place. Does she really intend to live there?”

This was only some of the discrimination Walker faced throughout her life. One little-known story is about the time she went to the movie theater only to be charged twice what white people were being charged to see the show. She immediately hired an attorney and sued the movie theater, winning the case. She then went on to build her own movie theater to support the black residents of New York, which became a successful theater and did not discriminate against white residents. Anyone could come see the shows and everyone paid the same ticket price.


“I am not ashamed of my past. I am not ashamed of my humble beginning.”

“I am not satisfied in making money for myself. I endeavor to provide employment for hundreds of the women of my race.”

“I got my start by giving myself a start.”

What Do You Think?

Do you think you are too old to start a business or become successful? Do you turn crisis into actionable behavior and learn from it? Do you persevere and turn that perseverance into a learning experience so you will be a better business person? Tell me what you think by leaving a message below.


Sboey Chan says:

This is awesome!

Courtney Foster Beauty says:

this video was awesome! thanks for putting this up.. Your channel has been
very helpful as I look for ways to restart my career as a hairstylist.

Katina Washington-Uology says:


nutzforart says:

Thanks for this video. It became part of my ePortfolio for school to help
prove my argument that Madam CJ Walker is still impacting American business
As an older woman who went back to school recently, I am so happy to have
had this opportunity to discover this woman who has not been acknowledged
to the full extent that she deserves. She is my hero.
Madam C.J. Walker was a true human being in every sense of the word. She
worked tirelessly not only to achieve success for herself, she worked
tirelessly to bring justice and racial equality to our country.
I am a true fan and feel so grateful I got to discover Madam.

Evan Carmichael says:

Awesome – thank you!

Dieter De Paz says:


drprofcorp says:

Once again, a great video!

Evan Carmichael says:

Thanks – AND you’re the first comment!

Evan Carmichael says:

Such a great story – Thanks A’Lelia!

Evan Carmichael says:

Awesome – glad I could help keep the inspiration going!

A'Lelia Bundles says:

Evan, Thanks for sharing Madam Walker’s story with your audience and for
including her among the successful entrepreneurs you’ve chosen to
highlight. The Walker family loves to know that she continues to inspire
others and are grateful for your interest. A’Lelia Bundles Author, On Her
Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker President, Madam
Walker Family Archives aleliabundles(dot)com and madamcjwalker(dot)com

Evan Carmichael says:

Woo – thanks Amir!

Evan Carmichael says:

Great to hear! Thanks for commenting!

ztinad says:

Great Evan! Very inspiring!!!

OrganicBeauty says:

thank you for the video. I am an Agent for Madam CJ Walker and love it!

Evan Carmichael says:

Awesome -good luck with the launch!

Evan Carmichael says:

Thank you – I’m glad you enjoyed!

Cb Fleece Store says:

Love it! I like the last quote!

Evan Carmichael says:

Thanks so much!

Tarain Philip says:

Excellent Evan

Evan Carmichael says:

Glad you enjoyed it – thanks for commenting!

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