Never Had a Chance

Posted by on August 21, 2013

A Monday Morning Memo for the Clients and Friends of Williams Marketing

Orphaned at the age of 7, she’s a black, self-made millionaire who offers powerful advice to all who will listen. “There is no royal flower-strewn path to success,” she once commented, “and if there is, I’ve not found it. If I have accomplished anything in life, it is because I have been willing to work hard.” To teenagers she says, “Don’t sit and wait for opportunities to come, you have to get up and make them.” But it’s on the subject of civil rights that her voice rings out most clearly; “America doesn’t respect anything but money. What our people need is a few millionaires.”

Her magnificent, 30 room Italian Renaissance mansion was designed by one of the world’s leading architects, and it’s name, “Villa Lewaro,” was given to it by Enrico Caruso, the legendary opera singer. Obviously, this is a woman of extraordinary elegance, wealth and taste.

Can you name our black female millionaire? I’ll give you a clue – she died exactly four years before television was invented. Now that sort of shoots your Oprah theory all to pieces, doesn’t it? No, the great opera singer Enrico Caruso wasn’t just an historical figure to Sarah Breedlove, he was a personal friend, and Sarah wasn’t just America’s first black, female millionaire. She was America’s first self-made female millionaire of any color.

Born in 1867 on a Louisiana plantation, Sarah was the daughter of former slaves who died when she was seven. When Sarah was 18, she had a baby girl. Her husband died 2 years later. Yes, the woman who would become known throughout the world as Madam C.J. Walker began her long walk toward fame and fortune as a black, 20 year-old widow with a 2 year-old baby on her arm. And she did it during a time when America was not only violently racist, but deeply sexist as well.

“I got my start by giving myself a start,” she says, “I came from the cotton fields of the South. I was promoted from there to the washtub. Then I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing cosmetics. Everybody told me I was making a mistake.”

Evidently, “everybody” was wrong.

How about you? Do you have the patience, tenacity and grit to bang the hammer of hard work against the anvil of your disadvantages until you’ve pounded your future into a shape that you like? Or do you just plan to sit there with your fingers crossed and wait for “your big break” and then, when it doesn’t come, whine about how you “never had a chance?”

Roy H. Williams

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