Sarah Breedlove Walker was born in 1867 to former slaves in northeast Louisiana. Orphaned at a young age, she made her way to St. Louis and supported herself as a washerwoman for 18 years. A scalp condition caused some of her hair to fall out, and she experimented with a variety of homemade concoctions in an effort to regrow her hair. When new hair sprouted, it was soft and shiny, and her friends asked to try some of her miracle formula.
There were virtually no hair products available specifically for African-Americans at the time, and Sarah saw a business opportunity. She found she had a knack for marketing, and before long, she founded the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company with her husband, Charles Joseph Walker. Sarah tirelessly sold her product door-to-door and recruited other women to do the same. By 1910, she had over 1,000 sales agents, which gave her time to develop new products like hair conditioners and facial creams.
The woman who had $2 to her name when she arrived in St. Louis was a millionaire by 1914.