Since March is Women’s History Month, I was thinking about the advice that successful, practical women can give us. This led me to the idea of presenting lessons of success from two history-making women: a woman of the past who was born to poor ex-slaves and became the first self-made female millionaire and a woman of today who is a media mogul.
Let’s start with Sarah Breedlove [aka Madam C.J. Walker]. She is the first American self-made female millionaire and one of the most successful black/ African-American entrepreneurs of all time. Born in 1867 on a cotton plantation near Delta Louisiana to poor ex-slaves, Sarah was an orphan at age seven, a wife at fourteen, a mother at seventeen and a widow at twenty.
In response to her own hair loss and suffering self-esteem, Sarah created a hair remedy which she promoted by traveling the country. She gave lecture-demonstrations and trained other black/ African-American women to be door-to-door beauty culturists, eventually opening her own beauty college. Her goal was more than making a sale; she wanted to raise black/African-American women’s self-esteem and confidence in their own beauty and intelligence thus helping to free them from a life of servitude and dependence. She would encourage her students by saying, “I had to make my own living and my own opportunity. But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.”
Madam Walker used her wealth to donate large sums of money to various educational charities, spoke against the practice of lynching and fought for the fair treatment of black/African-American soldiers during WWI. To her, money was something that was best when used for the larger good; she once said, “I am not satisfied in making money for myself. I endeavor to provide employment for hundreds of the women of my race.”
When asked for her thoughts on her career, Madam Walker stated simply: “There is no royal flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it for if I have accomplished anything in life it is because I have been willing to work hard.”
A woman making history today is Nely Galán, the founder of Galán Entertainment and former president of entertainment for Telemundo.
Nely was the first Latina president of a U.S. television network [Telemundo], and is an Emmy award-winning producer of over 600 episodes of television in Spanish and English. She was the first Latina to appear on The Celebrity Apprentice with Donald Trump on NBC, owns her own real estate development and investment company, is a board member of Count Me In, The Smithsonian, and sits on the Coca Cola Advisory board.
Nely brought her passion to life in founding The Adelante Movement, an organization which focuses on uniting and empowering Latinas economically. She told WomensDay.com, “Once you know what you want, write down a plan to achieve it. I like to plan for a year, then break it down to each month, week and day. Focused intention and small actions every day create results.”
Ms. Galán also shared these tips which helped bring about her success:
- “If you have a business idea, you have to make sure that what you’re thinking about doing can make money. We often have ideas and really haven’t figured out if it’s something people want. “
- Feed yourself first. “When helping others so much, you may become resentful when you see them begin to succeed. If you feed yourself first, you won’t.”
- Use your jealousy as a guide. “Seek out those you find yourself being jealous of and become friends with them. Learn from them if they really have what you want.”
Ask for Mentorship. “We can’t do this alone. Allow yourself to learn from others.”