Madam CJ Walker (born Sarah Breedlove) laid the beauty blueprint for black business owners. Besides creating products that we still use to this day, she thrived (and then some) when the odds were stacked against her.
Madam CJ Walker was the consummate entrepreneur who knew the only way to truly grow her business was by making it the center of her work. Many forget that long before her products gained national exposure, Walker put in overtime as both a budding business woman and launderess for other employers. Once she ditched the “9-5,” nothing was the same.
This is what we call a “Madam CJ Walker” moment; when someone makes the transition from employee to full-fledged boss. In celebration of our June box–which includes the new Madam CJ Walker line–we asked five black beauty bosses to recall their jump to independent business.
Our third spotlight is on Nicole Dupree, founder of 127|East, a line of vitamin enriched, high pigment and long wear lip colors.
Unsurprisingly, Nicole’s beauty secrets are not in short supply. She swears by ingesting apple cider vinegar (unfiltered with “The Mother”) 3 times a day for internal and external health. And there’s no such thing as a “bad hair day” as long as you have a stylish wig or head wrap.
Nicole on her Madam CJ Walker moment:
“As a plus model, my Madame CJ Walker moment came when I was backstage applying makeup and telling everyone who asked about my purple lipstick; what shade it was, where to get it and for how much. It was in that moment that I realized women love a good lipstick! I took that seed, along with the seed of entrepreneurship that my parents planted in me, and began researching how I can start my own brand. As time went on, a knee injury stunted my modeling career, which allowed me the time to focus on building my brand. With the help of my brother, branding genius Reggie Dupree of Final Draft Design, we collaborated and came up with the name 127|East…to honor our family. “127” [is] the house number of one of the first homes my grandparents purchased in Jersey City and that a majority of our family members grew up in, and “East” because it is located on the east side of our town.
At some point I realized, the only thing stopping me from the success was me and that I needed to do something most couldn’t fathom doing. Taking a $2,000 loan and starting a business, Madam CJ Walker is proof that nothing is unattainable if you put your mind to it.
If she was able to save money, formulate, distribute and mobilize others to get behind her and her product in the early 1900’s, there is no reason why this generation–with all of its advances in science and technology–cannot do the same.
It brings me extreme joy every time someone comes to me with a wider, brighter smile because they love the way they look and feel in one of my products. I also take great pride in knowing that people are looking at me as their motivation to start a business as well. That is why I do it; to inspire before I expire just like the great Madame CJ Walker.”
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