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Dudley, Joe(1939–) - Entrepreneur, business executive, Chronology, Tries to Rescue Fuller, Going Global, Philanthropist and Mentor

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Joe Dudley is a self-made millionaire who came from an extremely poor family. Dudley overcame the label of retardation and a speech impediment to become the president of one of the biggest black-owned businesses in the United States, selling beauty products to blacks around the world as well as offering educational programs in cosmetology. By age forty, Dudley was a millionaire, the father to three children, and a mentor to others. Dudley credits his success to hard work, deep faith in God, a positive attitude, and the desire to work as hard as necessary to succeed. The goal of Dudley’s company is to help others achieve economic empowerment and self-sufficiency.

Joe Louis Dudley was born May 9, 1939 in Aurora, North Carolina. Dudley was the fifth of eleven children born to Gilmer and Clara Dudley. Dudley was born with a speech impediment which, in combination with the hours he missed at school because of the farm, led Dudley to discount the value in school. Dudley became the class clown telling and playing jokes. As a result he was labeled by the school as mentally retarded. Dudley was held back in two different grades. It was not until he was a junior in high school and dumped by a girlfriend because he was not smart enough that Dudley decided to take academics seriously. He set out to read all the school books from the last eleven years of school. Dudley sometimes had difficulties reading the books, but stuck with it and learned. In the process, he developed a love of reading and the knowledge that people who read hold real power.

After high school, Dudley worked in a chicken factory in Hartford, Connecticut, until he saved up enough money for two semesters of college. Dudley began classes at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (A&T) State University. In addition to classes Dudley worked on the school’s farm and did housekeeping for a professor on weekends.

In the summer of 1957, Dudley went to Brooklyn, New York, to find work to earn money for the next school year. Dudley met a young man selling Fuller Products. Dudley was so impressed by the man, that he went to the Fuller offices and bought a $10 sales kit and began working for the company. Eventually Dudley became a good salesman and saved enough money to continue school in the fall. Dudley did not stop selling Fuller Products when he returned to school; instead he sold them at school and every summer in Brooklyn for the next four years. Dudley earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

It was through the Fuller Products Company that Dudley met his wife, Eunice Moseley. The two married in 1961 and began working together for Fuller. Dudley became a troubleshooter for Fuller Products in 1963, traveling to cities with poor sales and figuring out how to improve them. By 1966 Dudley decided to become a branch manager for Fuller but was disappointed when someone else received the promotion. Dudley was prepared to quit the company, but S. B. Fuller gave him the opportunity to become an independent distributor for Fuller Products in North Carolina. Being in charge of a distributorship taught Dudley that leaders must lead by example; if ge wanted the people who worked for him to do well selling Fuller Products, then he would also need to excel. Dudley’s business eventually became the top procuring distributorship for Fuller Products.

Fuller Products began facing financial problems in the 1960s. By 1969, Fuller Products was increasingly unable to supply its distributors, and Dudley decided to make his own products. Dudley bought a company called Rosebud Beauty Products and began producing them in the kitchen in the evenings. Eventually the city licensing department ordered Dudley to stop making the product at home. He acquired space in a strip mall, naming the new business Dudley’s Beauty Center & Salon. Business was so good that in short time, Dudley was able to open stores throughout North Carolina and in South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and New York.



Born in Aurora, North Carolina on May 9


Begins studying at North Carolina A&T State University


Begins selling Fuller Products


Marries Eunice Moseley


Begins manufacturing Dudley Products


Becomes a millionaire


Returns to Fuller Products to try to save the company


Buys the name and rights to produce Fuller Products


Launches Dudley Cosmetology University


Launches Dudley Beauty School


Builds hotel, Dudley Inn, and launches Dudley Q+ Travel Agency


Builds 80,000-square-foot plant and offices in Kernersville, North Carolina


Begins training cosmetologists in Zimbabwe and Brazil


Publishes Walking by Faith I Am! I Can! & I Will! The Story of How Joe L. Dudley Sr. Walks by Faith


Becomes largest black-owned industrial and service company in the United States

Eventually Dudley expanded the product line to include a professional line used by and sold only to cosmetologists. Dudley used the principals and business experience he had gained from S. B. Fuller, and his hard work paid off. By 1975, he was a millionaire.

Tries to Rescue Fuller

In 1976 S. B. Fuller asked Dudley to takeover as president of Fuller Products in the hopes of saving the company. Dudley sold most of the Dudley retail stores and moved Dudley Products to Chicago. He spent the next seven years running both companies simultaneously. He was able to improve Fuller Products, but eventually it became obvious that the company could not be saved. In 1984 Dudley bought exclusive rights to manufacture Fuller Products and use the Fuller name. Then he moved Dudley Products back to Greensboro, South Carolina. Eventually a new plant was built in Kernersville, which continued to produce Dudley’s complete product line, including cosmetics, hair care, personal care, and books and videotapes on hair care and motivation.

In 1988 Dudley launched Dudley Cosmetology University (DCU) in Kernersville, North Carolina. The school offers advanced cosmetology programs designed to help licensed cosmetologists improve their skills, attitude, self-esteem, and earn continuing education credit. Dudley opened Dudley Beauty Schools in 1989, which provide training to would-be cosmetologists. Dudley’s schools are located in Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Durham, North Carolina. Students may take classes in cosmetology, manicuring, esthetics, and management training, or students may train to become instructors of cosmetology, esthetics, or manicuring.

In 1991, DCU Inn was built, a hotel in which students and national sales managers stay. The next step was opening Dudley Q+ Travel Agency, which takes care of the travel needs of Dudley’s students and national sales managers.

It quickly became apparent that local hotels could not provide the space and time necessary for Dudley’s sales and company meetings. Dudley employees helped to renovate an abandoned gym to make the 7,000-square-foot Yeates Convention Center. The convention center is named after Dudley’s mother Clara Yeates.

In 1994 Dudley built an 80,000-square-feet plant, laboratory, and headquarters in Kernersville. The building received the 1995 Efficient Building Award for Building Management in a Manufacturing Facility. The design of the building was such that it has a 33 percent reduction in energy use as compared to conventional buildings.

Going Global

In 1994, North Carolina governor Jim Hunt asked Dudley to serve as an advisor to a group of business people looking at the possibility of building business relationships in Africa. Dudley agreed. In Zimbabwe, Dudley met with President Robert Mugabe. The two men thought along the same lines. Both felt that the best way for blacks to improve their lives was through economic empowerment. Upon returning from Africa, Dudley formed Dudley Products International Exchange and Development Program. Its purpose was to find people and companies who wanted to help people in Africa become more self-supporting. Next, Dudley formed a joint venture with Zimbabwe’s Harare Polytech and the Chinhoyi Technical Teachers College. Under the joint venture, Dudley Products would teach interested students hair care techniques and provide hands-on training. In 1995, Dudley Products formed a partnership in Brazil with Senac Technical School, which is part of Servi o Nacional de Aprendizagem Comercial in the Sao Palo area of Brazil.

In the early 2000s Dudley Products have expanded to Martinique, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Canada, South Africa, and the Bahamas. By 1997, over 10,000 people had come from all over the world to be educated at Dudley Beauty Schools and Dudley University. In 2001 Dudley Products was listed on Black Enterprises 29th annual report of top black businesses. In 2002, Dudley Products was the largest black-owned service/industrial company in the United States with sales of $80 million and over four hundred employees. Dudley also formed a multimillion dollar distribution partnership with W&W Spices Ltd. of Grenada. Dudley intended to distribute a new product called GNO, which is made of 100-percent-pure distilled oil from Grenada nutmegs. The product is billed as an all-natural topical pain reliever.

Philanthropist and Mentor

Over the almost fifty years Dudley has been in business, he has been recognized many times for his work and the help he has provided to blacks in the United States and around the world. Dudley was presented the Vision for Tomorrow Award by the Direct Selling Association in 1991, and that same year President George H. Bush named him the 467th Daily Point of Light. He received the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Award in 1995, which is given to ten people annually who have achieved success despite the circumstances in which they grew up. In 2004 Dudley received the Business Courage Award from the Los Angeles Black Expo.

As Dudley was mentored by S. B. Fuller, so he believes in mentoring other blacks. Dudley established a corporate mentoring program in Greensboro, South Carolina for students at the James B. Dudley High School. The success of the program led to the development of the Eunice Dudley Ladies Program for high school girls. Students in both programs are expected to be role models for their fellow students. Another program Dudley began is the Dudley Products Collegiate Sales Manager Trainee Program, which, according to his book Walking by Faith I Am! I Can! & I Will! The Story of How Joe L. Dudley Sr. Walks by Faith , is “designed to develop a strong base of young, talented black entrepreneurs for the world.”

In 1991, Dudley was elected to the board of his alma mater North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Dudley served as chairman of the American Health & Beauty Aids Institute in 1995 and has participated in Wendy’s Enterprise Ambassador Program, sponsored by Wendy’s founder, Dave Thomas. Dudley has sponsored the Black Teenage World Pageant. He also served on the board of Southern National Corporation which includes BB&T Bank from 1992 to 1998.

Dudley is committed to training leaders for today and tomorrow. According to his book, Dudley teaches blacks to “say yes to success, to maintain a positive attitude, to not consider difficulties a problem, instead to consider them as challenges, and to teach people that for every disadvantage there is an equal or greater advantage.”

Dufay, Charles [next] [back] Dudley, James B.(1859–1925) - Educator, college president, Becomes College President, Chronology

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about 7 years ago

My name is Rose Musau and I partner with an Allumni of Dudleys University Mukina Kivuvani-Maingi. We have a hairdressing school and would like to partner with Dudleys for an agency in Nairobi, Kenya. We are willing to fly to South Africa to meet with whomever has an agency. Kindly send us the contacts for the agency.

Thank you and look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards.