The Entrepreneurial Legacy of Madam C.J. Walker


February gives us a chance to reflect on the experiences and accomplishments of African Americans throughout U.S. history and celebrate love. Today, we honor Madam CJ Walker, a trailblazer who forged a path of success as an entrepreneur before her time. Her lessons for growing her business are timeless and we apply many of them through our commitment to supporting our clients in their journey to financial wellness. Here are some of Madam Walker’s important lessons that we share with our clients:  

It is essential to believe in yourself. Walker is famously quoted as saying “I got my start by giving myself a start.” She endured hardship in her early life as an orphan and child abuse survivor, and later as a widow, and single mother, but Walker’s opportunistic and tenacious spirit repeatedly put her in the right place at the right time to succeed.  

Collaborate with others who believe in your vision.  When Walker began to experience hair loss, she worked with her brothers (who were barbers) and created a hair regrowth serum that would become the foundation for the Madam C.J. Walker Co.  To increase the chance of success, she learned how to run a business in the beauty industry as a commission agent for Annie Turnbo Malone, another successful black hair care product entrepreneur.

Invest in talent. Once her own business began to grow, Walker was able to employ workers at two different factory locations in addition to running a school for sales agents called “Walker Agents”. In recognition of the power of collaboration, community and support, Walker also organized clubs and conventions for the nearly 40,000 Walker Agents by 1919.   

Invest in yourself – in the form of money, time, or both.  In Madam CJ Walker’s case, she invested $10,000 of her own money into her manufacturing company when she couldn’t find any backers.  This made her the sole shareholder and later allowed her to have a lasting impact as a philanthropist. Today, she is remembered for contributions to the YMCA and the NAACP, as well as historical preservation funds and scholarships.

Walker’s lessons and success were driven by her passion for her craft and her ability to connect with community. Every day we strive to infuse our clients with her passion and strength. We love that you’re part of that journey and support LiftFund’s vision of leveling the financial playing field so we are able to grow more entrepreneurs like Madam CJ Walker.