Annie Malone was one of the first African American businesswoman, inventor and philanthropist. In the first three decades of the 20th century, she founded and developed cosmetics for African-American women.
Annie was born in 1869 on a farm near Metropolis in Massac County, Illinois. Her parents were slaves. Annie attended public school in Metropolis,Illinois. She took particular interest in chemistry. However, due to frequent illness, Annie was forced to withdraw from classes.While out of school, Annie grew so fascinated with hair and hair care that she often practiced hairdressing on her sister.
With expertise in both chemistry and hair care, Turnbo began to develop her own hair care products. At the time, many women used goose fat, heavy oils, soap, or bacon grease to straighten their curls, which damaged both scalp and hair. By the beginning of the 1900s, Turnbo moved with her older siblings to Lovejoy, now known as Brooklyn, Illinois.While experimenting with hair and different hair care products, she developed and manufactured her own line of non-damaging hair straighteners, special oils, and hair-stimulant products for African-American women. She named her new product “Wonderful Hair Grower” To promote her new product, Turnbo sold the Wonderful Hair Grower in bottles from door-to-door.Her products and sales began to revolutionize hair care methods for all African Americans. One of her selling agents, Sarah Breedlove Davis (who became known as Madam C. J. Walker. When she set up her own business), operated in Denver, Colorado until a disagreement led Walker to leave the company.
This development was one of the reasons which led the then Mrs. Pope to copyright her products under the name “Poro” because of what she called fraudulent imitations and to discourage counterfeit versions.
Poro was a combination of the married names of Annie Pope and her sister Laura Rober. Due to the growth in her business, in 1910 Turnbo moved to a larger facility on 3100 Pine Street. In addition to a manufacturing plant, it contained facilities for a beauty college, which she named Poro College.The building included a manufacturing plant, a retail store where Poro products were sold, business offices, a 500-seat auditorium, dining and meeting rooms, a roof garden, dormitory, gymnasium, bakery, and chapel. It served the African-American community as a center for religious and social functions. By the 1920s, Annie Turnbo Malone had become a multi-millionaire. Annie funded many programs and ensured that her employees, all African American, were paid well and given opportunities for advancement. Annie’s business thrived until 1927. She died in 1957,at the age of 87 in Chicago,Illinois.