She Became The First African American Female Billionaire After Starting A Line of Beauty Products

paulynn - illustrative purposes only

We love learning about some of America’s earliest successful female entrepreneurs. For example, do you know the story of the woman who would eventually become the first African American female billionaire after starting a line of beauty products?

Her name was Annie Turnbo Malone, and she was an inventor, businesswoman, and philanthropist.

Born in Illinois in 1869, Annie became an orphan at a young age and went to live with her older sister. During her years in public school, she discovered a love for chemistry. Another passion of Annie’s was hair and hairstyling. At home, she began experimenting with hair and haircare and created some of her own products.

Around this time, it was normal for women to use things like soap, animal fat, and even bacon grease in their hair to maintain it. They were actually doing more harm than good, and Annie wanted to create products for black women that would straighten, strengthen and nourish their hair.

By the early 1900s, Annie moved to Brooklyn, Illinois, to manufacture some of her products. One of her most popular ones was a hair stimulant called “Wonderful Hair Grower,” in which she sold bottles door-to-door.

Her products began to take off, and by 1902, she moved to St. Louis, where she employed three other salespeople to sell her products door-to-door. She only became more successful and was able to open her own shop there on Market Street.

To keep the momentum of her brand going, Annie attended press conferences, toured several states, and recruited more saleswomen to promote her products.

By 1910, she started selling under the brand name Poro and expanded her product line by selling makeup as well, like lipsticks, face powders, etc. By this time, she had opened a larger facility to sell from.

In 1914, she became Annie Turnbo Malone when she married Aaron Eugene Malone, a teacher and book salesman.

paulynn – illustrative purposes only

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