Black History Month spotlight: Madam C.J. Walker

Painting of Madam CJ Walker

At Scentsy, we’re a family before anything else. And we’ve always believed in the power of individuality and inclusivity. It’s part of who we are. That’s why we’re excited to celebrate Black History Month, and honor the importance of diverse paths and perspectives, by focusing on iconic entrepreneur, activist and direct sales pioneer Madam C.J. Walker.

A force of nature

Born Sarah Breedlove in 1867, Madam C.J. Walker was orphaned and later widowed with a young child to raise on her own. Despite these significant challenges, she rose to become the first woman to build a multimillion-dollar fortune from the ground up. And while that would have been an incredible feat at any period in history, it was especially remarkable during a hostile pre-Civil Rights era when women and people of color were denied even the most basic opportunities.

Her remarkable journey toward self-made success began with a common affliction: hair loss. Fortunately, fate led Madam C.J. Walker to the 1905 World’s Fair, where she crossed paths with a female entrepreneur selling hair care products that Walker tried and ultimately loved. So much so that she became a local agent — or Consultant in Scentsy speak — so she could share the products with other women and earn some extra money.

A business is born

After remarrying and moving to Colorado, Walker decided it was time to branch out on her own. She invested $1.25 into creating her own line of hair care products, including her “magic potion” made specifically for Black women and their unique hair care needs. Walker had a head for advertising, and she began targeted marketing efforts while also sharing and selling her products door to door as she worked toward her next big step.

The rise of Walker Agents

In 1910, Walker was able to invest a significant amount of money into growing her business, at a time when it was virtually impossible for Black women to secure financial backing. She also made the progressive decision to help market and distribute her Walker System of hair care through Walker Agents, an all-women sales force that went door to door sharing her products. They earned commission, and like Walker herself, were able to rise from poverty and provide brighter futures for their families. Walker also implemented a rewards system for her agents, along with incentive and recognition programs to inspire them and help them grow their own wealth.

Slowly but surely, Walker’s business grew into an empire. Throughout her business ventures, she remained committed to promoting women within her company, and even insisted on appointing a woman to serve as company president.

To say that Madam C.J. Walker was a pioneer is an understatement. She created opportunities for herself and countless other women where there were basically none and built an empire from the ground up. And while that’s a remarkable feat under any circumstances, doing so around the turn of the 20th century, when women — and especially Black women — were marginalized and denied basic rights, is nothing short of legendary.

We at Scentsy owe Madam C.J. Walker a huge amount of gratitude for pioneering inclusivity and opportunity for all, and of course, for showing us the power of direct sales through those amazing Walker Agents.

Want to learn more about the iconic life of Madam C.J. Walker?

Here are some great resources:

 Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker, a miniseries available on Netflix.

The True Story of Madam C.J. Walker: Two Dollars and a Dream, a documentary available on YouTube.

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