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avatar for Richelieu Dennis

Richelieu Dennis

SheaMoisture
CEO
Noted entrepreneur and philanthropist Richelieu Dennis is a born businessman.  As the CEO of Sundial Brands, a leader in the fast-growing new general market for culturally authentic skin and hair care and cosmetics, Richelieu has carved out a successful niche in the personal care and beauty category, and turned adversity into lucrative business.  His passion for entrepreneurship and innovation are family traits, going all the way back to Africa.


As a young widowed mother, his grandmother Sofi sold handcrafted shea butter soaps and salves in Sierra Leone to support her family. She taught these recipes to her grandson Richelieu. And after graduating from renowned business school Babson College in 1991, and unable to return to his home country of Liberia, he partnered with childhood friend Nyema Tubman to pursue a bold concept. Drawing from his deep family traditions, Richelieu incorporated four generations of recipes and wisdom into handmade natural bath and body products. In 1992, he and Nyema began selling their creations along the sidewalks of Harlem, and the rest is history.

Richelieu, his mother, Mary Dennis, and Nyema founded parent company Sundial Brands and the SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage brands, producing skin and hair care treatments with natural and certified organic ingredients. The products became a hit throughout New York City and received strong-word-of-mouth, which drew the attention of national retail chains.  Both brands’ products soon became available at major retail outlets across the U.S.  


Now operating in two state-of-art manufacturing facilities with a skin care lab and executive offices, SheaMoisture is available at mass market retailers including Target, Walgreens, CVS, Ulta, Rite Aid and Duane Reade; Nubian Heritage is available at Whole Foods, Vitamin Shoppe, Wegmans, Earth Fare, Sprouts, Pharmaca and independent health food stores throughout the country.

 

Through the years, Richelieu has remained true to his vision of offering products that address specific skin and hair care issues that have traditionally been ignored by mass market skin care companies. He’s become a research pioneer in his field by continually testing and incorporating rare natural and ethically sourced ingredients from all over globe into his formulations.

In 2008, under Richelieu’s leadership, Sundial received the Black Enterprise “Emerging Business of the Year Award”, which recognizes businesses that have poised themselves for growth by carving out a special niche and adopting creative marketing techniques. Both brands have garnered awards from publications such as Allure, Natural Health, Family Circle, Prevention, Parents, Esquire, Essence, All You, Ebony and Real Beauty, among others. 

 

Richelieu has pioneered a Community Commerce program at Sundial. Since shea butter is central to the company’s products, it’s ethically sourced from women’s co-ops in Northern Ghana, and Sundial invests in over 2500 women entrepreneurs. The company doesn’t just buy the women’s raw materials — it helps them develop self-sustaining businesses. An ethical wage premium is paid to these enterprising women, and Sundial aids in monitoring practices to ensure that the efficiency, health, profitability and quality of life is elevated for members of the coop. The women in Ghana become Sundial’s partners, not just suppliers, and with their rise in income, they experience greater health, access to education and the benefits of financial freedom.

Richelieu lives in Long Island, NY with his family. As an avid, constant gardener, he continues to draw inspiration for his products from the many flowers and herbs he grows.

 

My Speakers Sessions

Thursday, March 19
 

10:05am