Black History Month could even be a monthly celebration of achievements for African Americans and a time to acknowledge our central role in U.S. history.
However today in honor of Black History Month, I’m excited to honor two African American Business Women who have made a big impact in so many people’s lives. We all can learn from them as we close out this month.
First I would like to start out with Madam C.J. Walker. The first African American Female Entrepreneur.
Madame C.J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, is an original “self-made woman entrepreneur ”. As a daughter to former slaves who was orphaned at the age of seven, Walker quite literally built her empire out of nothing.
Although she’s not with us. She has paved the way for several African American women entrepreneurs.
Lesson 1: Gain knowledge and knowledge first. Then make it your own – but better.
Her story of becoming the first African American self-made millionaire within the U.S. may be a prime lesson on the steps you’d wish to require to become a successful entrepreneur.
In 1904, She had been selling hair products for Annie Turnbo Malone, an African American hair-care entrepreneur herself. She used every minute of her time with Malone to eventually develop her own line.
Lesson 2: Build a team you’ll trust to make the dream work.
By 1906, She was married to Charles Walker, who eventually became her business partner and helped her market her brand. The dynamic duo would travel everywhere the Southern and Eastern us, while her daughter stayed in Denver, Colorado to assist with the mail orders.
Lesson 3: Await signs it’s time to grow your staff and relocate your business.
By 1910, She was on her path to success and moved her business to Indianapolis, Indiana, where she settled the headquarters for the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company. Her headquarters was amazing; it had a house, factory, laboratory and later a beauty school to train her sales agents. With business thriving, she was ready to hire both management and sales teams.
Lesson 4: Make your business mission not just about the merchandise. Madam C.J. Walker created a movement to empower women.
Lesson 5: Know your product and your audience. Her success is actually because of her ability to acknowledge as a whole, gain the knowledge and put together a dream team. But what made her success skyrocket in such a quick amount of time were her sales skills.
Secondly, I would like to finish with Oprah Winfrey.
Going from an impoverished and violent childhood to an incredibly successful female entrepreneur, actress, producer and philanthropist. Oprah Winfrey has become one of the foremost influential and role models within the world.
Oprah has certainly changed lives for several people. But, she’s also inadvertently influenced women entrepreneurs, like myself.
Lesson 1: Always be authentic, be yourself everyone else is taken.
“I had no idea being your authentic self could make me as rich as I’ve become. If I had, I’d have done it much earlier.”
There’s only one Oprah Winfrey. She never imitated anyone else – regardless of what anyone told her early on in her career. She found her own voice that resonated with audiences and ultimately, it caused her to become one of the foremost successful women of all-time.
People will support you and your business but if you’re not authentic they’re going to smell BS from a mile away.
Lesson 2: Be willing to take risks when others won’t.“I believe that one of life’s greatest risks is daring not to risk.” Oprah didn’t find success by playing it safe.
Lesson 3: Thrive on challenges, they will make you stronger. There will always be obstacles to beat as a business owner or woman entrepreneur rather than resisting these challenges you’ve got to be flexible and find out how to adapt. If you don’t, how do you expect to survive when the market changes?
Lesson 4: Do your very best always no matter what. No matter what your situation is in life, Oprah has always encouraged her audience to be their best, you should too.
Lesson 5: Remember when you share your story, it will make a difference.
Books were the passport to Oprah’s personal freedom. If you’re an Oprah fan, then you’re very aware of the personal struggles she’s experienced throughout her life – specifically that she was sexually abused at the age of nine. I can personally relate because I was sexually abused too at a young age.
Sharing these types of personal stories can help you build a relationship with your audience because other people can relate to you. It shows that you’re very transparent. That’s why so many women entrepreneurs like myself have been so open about failures because we understand how important it is for others.
It is my hope that these lessons will inspire you.
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