8 Entrepreneurial Lessons You’ll learn from Netflix “Self Made”

8 Entrepreneurial Lessons You’ll learn from Netflix “Self Made”

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua storytelling coach 8 entrepreneurial lessons from self made

You’ll cry. You’ll get angry. You’ll cheer, find the motivation and be inspired.

But most of all you’ll learn at least eight entrepreneurial lessons from watching Netflix miniseries “Self Made”.

“Self Made” is inspired by the story of American first black millionaire, Madam C.J. Walker who created a hair product line for black women. Her story has been preserved and shared by her great-great granddaughter A’Leila Bundles who wrote about her in the book On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker.

The story is set in the early 20th century: when women were not supposed to have aspirations, let alone black women; there was no online audience and traditional marketing was far from being authentic.

For a female entrepreneur like me and you the story is inspiring, it sets your brain on fire and charges with motivation. But inspiration and motivation is nothing if it’s not followed by actions.

Knowledge is not power, the activation of knowledge is. - Coach Carter Share on X

Take action: eight entrepreneurial lessons you’ll learn by watching “Self Made”

1. Don’t be silent, tell a story 

In one of the very first scenes, Madam C.J. Walker has to sell someone else’s hair product. And it’s painful to see her in the market screaming to no one the benefits of the hair product.

Feeling defeated, Madam C.J. Walker is about to give up when one woman approaches her. That’s when the entrepreneur changes tactic: “Look, this product saved my life” she says.

And goes on to tell the story of how she lost her hair, her husband left her, she was hitting rock bottom. And then she started using the hair product, the hair grew back and with that, her confidence. Guess what happens next? Madam C.J. Walker makes not one but twenty sales!

What’s the story you need to tell in order to persuade your clients, explain your whys?

During my storytelling coaching sessions with my clients I remind them you have to go through three stages of storytelling: knowing your story, owning your story and sharing your story.


2. Don’t let others project their fear on you

More than once throughout the series, Madam C.J. Walker is confronted by other people’s opinions and fears: “What if you lose everything?” “Women should know their place!” “You’re dreaming too big!”

But never once does she stop.

As entrepreneurs, especially at the early stage you are the one person with the vision, you have clarity. Trust that vision, invest time, energy, money in making that vision a reality. Let others keep their fear for themselves.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua storytelling coach 8 entrepreneurial lessons from self made

3. When you’re growing, keep growing

As soon as Madam C.J. Walker reached an objective she aimed for the next one and then the next one … she continued to scale her business, until she became a millionaire.

And that’s scary. But the truth is, as time passes you gain more experience, you train (formally and informally), you are more confident, you grow. Why shouldn’t your business grow with you?

Knowing when and how to grow your business requires a good dose of faith, trust and mindfulness. Because you need to able to measure how far you’ve come to admit it’s time to make a step forward.

4. It’s a battlefield, it’s supposed to be hard

Entrepreneurship is not a walk in the garden. It’s hard, it’s supposed to be.

Madam C.J. Walker herself went through betrayal, fire (literally), cheating, illnesses, losses.

I’d say I can’t imagine how she went through it all, but in fact I can. And so can you.

If you have made it this far is because you believe in your idea and its ability to help others. And you are ready to face anything life will throw at you. And for that, you have my support and admiration.


5. Go to your customers

At the beginning of the 20th century, there was no mobile phone, no internet connection, no Instagram nor Facebook. But still, Madam C.J. Walker managed to get to so many women.


She spoke at the market, she knocked on their doors, she made it easy for them to find her and then she shared her story with them.

Our job as entrepreneurs is to connect and listen to our clients. And as much as we’d like to avoid that sometime, there’s only one way to do that: getting to them, talking to them, finding them. By any means necessary.

6. Create a community

An army. That’s what Madam C.J. Walker called her sales representatives: an army of independent women going to serve other women. And what’s an army if not a community?

When you are clear on the purpose of your business, it’s much more easier to create a community around it. What you are selling is more than a product, it’s change.

You might have caught me saying that I’d like to think that I’m changing the world with my work as a storytelling coach. And that’s because I am determined to make female voices heard and visible. This, despite the fact that I want to be financially independent.

What’s your community? Who are you helping or would like to help?

7. Competition can motivate but is not your only stimulant

I loved the way in “Self Made” they created a strong relationship between Madam C.J. Walker and her competitor. The series suggests Madam C.J. Walker often had to come up with push-the-boundaries ideas because of her competition.

But competition cannot be the only factor that motivates your business. The willingness to serve others should do that.

8. What’s your legacy?

On her sunset boulevard, Madam C.J. Walker stresses that she wants to leave her business to her only daughter. And she does.

In marketing terms, they call this “exit plan”: what’s going to happen to your business once you’re gone? And I don’t mean gone as in being six feet under. I mean what happens next: are you going to run your business forever? Will your family/children take over it? Are you planning on selling it and start something new?

And that’s the final entrepreneurial lesson you’ll learn from “Self Made”.

The list could go on and on. If you watched the Netflix “Self Made”, what entrepreneurial lessons have you taken from it?

And if you haven’t, which one of the above resonated with you?

To your success!


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