Trailblazers: Women Who Don’t Wait
“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 C.J. Walker
Sometimes we don’t even realize the trails that have been blazed before us. While reading to my 5-year-old daughter from the children’s book, Anthology of Amazing Women by Sandra Lawrence and Nathan Collins, I was reminded of the phenomenal story of Madam C.J. Walker.
As my daughter and I read together, I realized the journey I have taken as an entrepreneur has been taken by many women before me. My predecessors faced seemingly insurmountable odds, admittedly those much greater than mine. Since my journey hasn’t been easy, I found myself feeling grateful for and in awe of Madam C.J. Walker and countless other enterprising women for forging the path ahead of me.
Madam C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove in 1867. She lost her parents at a young age, endured abuse, and was married twice. Due to stress and poor living conditions, she developed a scalp ailment. Unfortunately, there was little available to treat it at the time. Sarah experimented with ingredients and eventually developed her own treatment for her scalp. She developed a full line of products for the needs of black women including heated combs, shampoos, and ointments. Madam C.J. Walker died in 1919, the sole owner of her business, which by then was valued at one million dollars ($14.6 million today). She was the first self-made female millionaire.
I cannot fathom the obstacles Madam C.J. Walker faced in her time, but despite everything, she was enormously successful and contributed to the success of countless other women (and organizations with her generous donations). As my own business continues to grow, I often think back to the apprehensions I felt when I first started, and imagine Madam C.J. Walker must have faced similar doubts. I didn’t know if I could do it, if it would work, or if it would ever grow into anything. I didn’t wait, I didn’t quit, and despite the setbacks, I kept getting up. But what matters the most is that I did it. Despite everything, and definitely in facing better odds than Madam C.J. Walker experienced, I did it. And I imagine that Madam C.J. Walker must have had a similar spark of tenacity that propelled her forward.
I started BloomBright in 2016 as a result of following my passion for recruiting for great companies in a way that was consistent with my values. As a result of treating people with respect and with a genuine desire to help them, the business has grown. I imagine Madam C.J. Walker was successful in part because of the same simple things that bring us success: integrity, passion, and genuinely caring for the people we serve.
I can’t pretend to know what it was like for Madam C.J. Walker as a black woman, especially at the turn of the 20th century. But here in the early part of the 21st century, I honor her as a fellow woman, and am grateful she did what she did to inspire me, and just maybe, to someday inspire my daughter, too.
When my daughter was 9 months old, our 85-year-old neighbor held her and remarked that he thought she would become President someday. This is the inevitable trajectory of history. Each woman makes more room for the women that come after her. My path was forged ahead of me by Madam C.J. Walker. And my heart and imagination cannot fathom the strong women that will forge a path ahead as my daughter continues to grow and carve out her own dreams.
According to a recent Forbes article, “You know what isn't budging for the 12.3 million women US entrepreneurs who founded companies? Access to capital. For a second year in a row, only 2.2% of investor funding went to women-led startups.” While there may not be many of us, we can keep dreaming and supporting one another. For the more we inspire, the more other women will rise and choose not to wait to make their dreams a reality.
Here at BloomBright, the realization of my dream come true, we seek to further the dreams of our fellow entrepreneurs and those who will join our ranks soon. We have a special place in our hearts for those who have overcome insurmountable odds, and we look forward to moving all of us forward together!
Cara Debbaudt, Founder & CEO