Madam C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867, in Louisiana to former slaves as their first child born into freedom. Orphaned at age seven, she often said, “I got my start by giving myself a start.” In her thirties, she suffered from hair loss and began experimenting with different hair treatments and products. For a time Walker worked for Poro Products as a sales representative and learned the business.
In 1905 Sarah and her daughter moved to Denver , Sarah as a sales agent for Annie Malone and also developing her own hair care product. After changing her name to “Madam” C. J. Walker, she founded her own business and began selling Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower. Her success grew fast and by 1908 she and her husband moved to Pittsburgh to open as beauty parlor as well as opening Leila College with her daughter Leila to train “hair culturists.”
In 1910 she opened the company’s national headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana, for manufacturing and training of the Walker Agents. Between 1911 and 1919, Walker and her company employed several thousand women as sales agents for its products. Madam C.J. Walker Preparations, which included facial treatment powders and other cosmetic treatments created for and marketed to African American women made Madam CJ Walker one of the nation’s first women millionaires.
By the time she died on May 15, 1919, at her estate in New York, she had helped create the role of the self-made American businesswoman and had established herself as a pioneer of the modern black hair-care and cosmetics industry. Walker's name became even more widely known by the 1920s, after her death, as her company's business market expanded beyond the United States in Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti and South America.