How Madam C.J. Walker’s Legacy Fueled My Own Success

emmelie de la cruz and madam cj walker

Getty Images, Emmelie de la Cruz

Emmelie De La Cruz is an entrepreneur, the founder and chief marketing strategist of One Day CMO, a business consultancy that helps small- to medium-sized brands that serve people of color set themselves up for success. Throughout her career, she’s looked to Madam C.J. Walker, the Black haircare pioneer and first self-made woman millionaire in America. Here, in her own words, she shares the lessons from Walker’s iconic story that resonate with her the most.

When talking about Madam C.J. Walker, most people lead with the fact that she’s a self-made millionaire. Even by today’s standards it’s an impressive feat, and she did it in the early 1900s before women could even vote. What people often leave out is everything she did to get there, which to me, is even more inspiring.

Early in my career, when I was just out of college, a mentor mentioned Walker. Intrigued, I did a deep dive into her story and learned more about the trajectory of how the company came to be. With each detail I uncovered, I began to apply them to my own life and work. These are the ones that have had the biggest impact.

Have a Connection to Those You Serve

A crux of Madam C.J. Walker’s story is that there’s a lot of power in having a connection to the people you serve. She is known as one of the first to create the ‘for us, by us’ business model. Companies run and staffed by white men were developing beauty products for Black women without understanding their hair texture or needs—they were just winging it. With products like her Wonderful Hair Grower, a scalp conditioning and healing formula, Walker was committed to helping Black women achieve healthier hair from her own experience. She also created a network of thousands of independent sales agents to sell the brand across the country and at conventions, and helped them grow their own businesses and then eventually their wealth.

emmelie de la cruz at work

Emmelie de la Cruz

Taking her cues, I’ve become unapologetic about how I approach marketing and who I choose to do business with. My mission is to help advance brands that have a deep-rooted commitment to bettering the lives of Black and brown women, just like Walker.

Don’t Be Afraid to Follow Opportunity

Walker moved her business operations all over the country — from the west to the northeast, and traveling around the south in between. That’s been very similar to my story. You can’t be afraid to pick up, start fresh, and figure it out.

I’m from the Bronx, and I lived in D.C., Atlanta, and now Dallas. I’ve always gone where I felt I could grow my business. I realized that the best opportunities aren’t always going to be in your hometown or current city. You have to be able to not only expand your territory, but also think about how you can grow your product offerings to better serve your audience.

Move the Community Forward

I have a saying: ‘I serve my way to success.’ That’s exactly what Walker did. She hired Black women and invested in conventions and conferences to teach them not just how to sell her products, but how to become business savvy themselves so that they could become economically independent.

In my work, I’m big on not just showing someone how to do something, but also equipping them with the skills they need to really be able to do it for themselves.

Pave the Way for Others

I believe that women of color are inherently scrappy to be entrepreneurial. Anticipating needs, being problem solvers, and finding solutions—all of these things that we get applauded for as ‘strong Black women’ are the very things that make us good entrepreneurs. Madam C.J. Walker was really the first success story, and she paved the way for so many. She built a business that still lives on to this day and was committed to education and philanthropy. And that’s her biggest legacy.

For my own legacy, I hope that I can inspire other Afro-Latinas like me to see entrepreneurship as not just a possibility, but also as an innate talent that’s been cultivated in us through generations and lifetimes.

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Search this website