Black Women Entrepreneurs
This photograph, dating from 1927, was captioned "A. E. Malone, Manufacturer of Toilet Articles." The practices she implemented became a model for combining business enterprises with racial responsibility. Courtesy the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center
As a high school student in Peoria, Illinois, Annie Turnbo Malone (1869–1957) discovered that she had an interest in chemistry. Combining this with her talent for grooming and styling her sister's hair, she began marketing hair and scalp treatments for African American women and soon developed a reputation for producing quality products. Realizing the potential to grow her business in a new niche market, Malone moved to St. Louis at the time of the World's Fair in 1904, where she continued making hair-care products and selling them door to door. Moving again to Denver in 1905, Malone copyrighted her business as the Poro Company and began opening beauty colleges dedicated to training hairdressers to care for African American hair. Malone used her success to further her philanthropic goals and to provide jobs for thousands of African Americans, both for the workers at her company headquarters in St. Louis and for the thousands of sales agents the Poro Company employed throughout the United States in the Caribbean. At the peak of her career, in the 1920s, Malone's personal worth reached fourteen million dollars.