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The Making of a Millionaire: Walking With Faith (In honor of Dr. Joe Dudley 5/9/1937-2/8/2024)

Dr. Joe Dudley is an American entrepreneur and humanitarian. He is Co-Founder of the DudleyQ+ brand and is one of the world’s most sought after entrepreneurial masterminds. He is the fifth of 11 children born to Gilmer L. and Clara Yeates Dudley. Joe was born and raised in a one-bedroom house along with his 11 brothers and sisters in the rural community of Aurora, in eastern North Carolina.

Labeled mentally retarded as a young man growing up in a farm, he was forced to overcome many challenges in order to be successful.  He credits his mother with inspiring him to prove to the world that he was just as able as anyone else by challenging him to “show them Joe”.  He was a fast and hard worker at a poultry plant and was able to save $100 a week to help pay for school.

This journey to success began in 1957 when he invested $10.00 in a sales kit and began selling Fuller Products door-to-door while still a student at North Carolina A & T State University (Greensboro, NC) and he went on to become one of the largest manufacturers of black hair products in the world. He was the Founder of Dudley Products Inc., Dudley Cosmetology University and the chain of beauty schools, Dudley Beauty School System.  In addition, he controlled other corporations. Dudley Products Inc. became a $35,000,000 a year company and has been listed in the top 50 in Black Enterprise Magazine’s Top 100 Black Owned Businesses.

Virtue had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Dudley in Winston Salem a few weeks after celebrating his 79th birthday.  Below is an excerpt of that interview.


Virtue -Thank You, Dr. Dudley. Share with us what was the turning point for you to get involved in business. What made you decide to get involved in business?


Dr. Joe Dudley (JD) - Well, for me to get in business, I think I need to take you all back from the beginning. And the beginning, [there were] eleven of us kids and I was labeled retarded. They told my mother Clara that I wouldn’t be anybody. Mom said to me “I know you’re a little slow, your teachers know you’re slow, you’re friends know you’re slow.” But that’s alright. I believe slow people can rule the world. You know when a slow one get it, they got it. I just didn’t do what most kids did. I mean, The good kids. My sister was in the same class I was in. She was in the top of the school, I was the bottom. She’s two years younger than I. They said I’d be married before I was seventeen years old, which was alright with me. I wasn’t interested in the things I should have been interested in. So, one day this young lady came to me, and she said “Joe, I want to get married”, I was so excited. I didn’t know what I was going to do. She said “But, It’s not you”. I said what you mean, be serious. She said “I want smart kids, and you’re retarded.” 

That was the day that changed my life. And I said to her, “I bet you it’s not so and so.”  Well, he was helping her to get her homework done and I couldn’t even get my own homework done. I said “I bet you it’s not so and so.” She said yes. I said, “well you may have some smart kids, but they going to be ugly because he’s ugly.”  So, I made up my mind that day that I was going to put something in my head and nobody could take that away from me. I went all the way back to first grade books and I studied. I studied first grade, second grade, third grade all the way up to tenth grade. I became a pretty great student, but it was hard for me to catch up for all that I had missed, but I did well for the last two years…And I decided, well, my brother kind of pushed me into going to college and I knew I should go to college. I was supposed to go to college, because all the kids, not at that time, but later on finished college.  If I hadn’t gone, I would have been the only one of the eleven kids. So I said ok, I’m going to make something out of myself.


Virtue – What do you think led to your success in business?

JD- I think the main thing was determination.  I wanted something.  I came from a family of hard workers.  I would recommend finding people that are doing something.  Look at what successful people do and study them.

Virtue – Who did you study?

JD – My mentor, S.B. Fuller

Virtue – What are the top characteristics of a good sales person?  Can anyone sell?

JD- I think everybody can sell.  If you can drive a car, you can learn to sell.  I am a shy person; I like to be by myself, but selling is a vehicle anyone can learn.  Patience.  Be patient with yourself.  Initiative.  You’ve got to get started.  The biggest thing is to have a burning desire.  You have to have something you want.  I wanted to go to college and prove to that girl I was a good catch(laughter.)

Virtue- At what age should we get our children involved in business?  How did your children help out with your business?

JD – I think you should try to involve them as young as you possibly can.  I got them involved at 5 & 6 years old.  I had them involved in counting money.  They ran my stores, were clerks in stores, sweep the floors etc.  They all paid me back for college.  My son has a master’s degree; he does consulting.  My oldest daughter runs a company and my other daughter has spas and one business worth nearly 3 million dollars.

Virtue- What mistakes should be we try to avoid making when developing a business?

JD – I think the thing you want to avoid is making the SAME mistakes.  It’s okay to make mistakes, but don’t be afraid to fail.  Try and try hard.  Make sure you have a good program; have “stick-to-it-ness.”  You have to keep improving, never give up.  Set aside a part of the day for yourself.  Work harder on yourself than at a job.  Talk to yourself and never give up.

Virtue- Thank you Dr. Dudley.  You are an inspiration!

(To read more about the history of Virtue Today Magazine, order a copy of Virtue's Anniversary book at


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