Madam C. J. Walker

The first self-made American woman millionaire

Hey, it’s me again trying to make a summary based on the life of Madam C. J. Walker, which I was first aware of when watching Netflix, Self Made series. I didn’t know her and became interested in her life, as many other entrepreneurs I admire.

A timeline was created where I added insights from a business point-of-view. A marketing takeaway was also created.

Madam C. J. Walker

The first self-made American woman millionaire


"As was common among black women of her era, Sarah suffered severe dandruff and other scalp ailments, including baldness, due to skin disorders and the application of harsh products to cleanse hair and wash clothes. Other contributing factors to her hair loss included poor diet, illnesses, and infrequent bathing and hair washing during a time when most Americans lacked indoor plumbing, central heating and electricity."


Hair products and straightener comb for African American women “Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower”. She didn’t invent those products though. Those products already existed and were sold in Sears and Bloomingdale’s, but mainly for white clientele.
She adapted them for black women, researching the competitors and testing herself until the perfect formula was created. She then moved to Indianapolis and built the HQ, which included the factory, hair salon, beauty school and laboratory.

Distribution channels

Walker System, which trained nearly 20,000 black women to become hair-growth and scalp specialists through the use of Madam C. J. Walker’s products.

Gender diversity

“Many of the company’s employees were women, including key members of staff”

Competition means need. People are already spending money

“Walker's product line had several competitors. Similar products were produced in Europe and manufactured by other companies in the United States”

Very large niche (African-American women) within a huge market (Beauty)

“Heavy advertising, primarily in African-American newspapers and magazines, in addition to Walker's frequent travels to promote her products, helped make Walker and her products well known in the United States.”

Giving back to community

Madam C. J. Walker was an active voice for the black community. Not only in Indianapolis, where an YMCA for the black community was built among other beneficiaries of her activism, but all over the United States (from Florida to North Carolina, to New York).

As we can see, technology aside, we can relate much of Madam C. J. Walker’s effort to build a company and techniques used in earlier 1900s with modern businesses playbooks.


Marketing takeaways

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