The bath & body industry owes an unpayable debt to enterprising and hard working people of color. For Black History Month, we took some time to research a few super inspirational women to share with you here. Both Annie Malone and Madam C.J. Walker are true icons in Bath & Body history.
Before deciding to write this post, I had never heard of Annie Malone. What an inspiration! She was the first black female millionaire, born in 1920 to former slaves, one of eleven children, and a high school dropout. Looking for a way to straighten hair without ruining it, she invented her first hair-care product and started selling it door to door. She became so wealthy that she was able to buy a whole city block in St. Louis and build Poro College on it – the first American school of black cosmetology.
Even though she was incredibly wealthy, she lived very modestly – because she gave most of her money away. She used her considerable wealth and influence to benefit orphans, college degrees for African American students, women’s independence, and financial freedom for African Americans. Not only is the bath and body industry indebted to her, but the world is a better place because of her. Sadly, her business did not survive, so her contribution is often overlooked in favor of people like Madam C. J. Walker – a student of Annie Malone’s! Want to know more? Read all about her at the Freeman Institute’s website.
Madam C. J. Walker
Madam C. J. Walker got her famous door-to-door techniques and sales agent structure directly from Annie Malone. She worked for Annie as a sales agent, earning commission as she sold Poro products door-to-door. At the same time, she worked on developing her own pomade. Her journey to entrepreneurship started with a problem, much like many soap and hair care product makers today – her hair was falling out and nothing else she tried helped. When she was able to develop a product that worked, she was happy to share it with others.
Not only was she able to build a factory to produce her hair care product, but she also taught beauticians, who used and sold her products for commission. Like Annie Malone, she used her wealth to improve the lives of those around her. Causes she cared deeply about include care for the elderly, education, and the advancement of African American well-being.
We could be kept busy all year writing about how the bath and body industry has been & continues to be advanced by brilliant people of color. In fact…that’s not a bad idea! Nominate one of your favorite companies in the comments that is owned by a person of color and maybe we’ll feature them on our blog. We can’t wait to learn from our amazing community. Check out a cool bio and video on Madam C. J. Walker at bio.com.