As the founder, CEO and Executive Chairman of Sundial Brands, Richelieu Dennis oversees a 27-year-old family-founded, run & operated manufacturing company producing top hair, natural, bar soap and bath and body brands via its SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage lines, as well as its newest brands and forays into prestige beauty via its Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture hair care line and Nyakio skin care line.
After being widowed at a young age, Richelieu’s grandmother – Sofi – sold handcrafted Shea butter soaps and salves in Sierra Leone to support her family and taught these recipes to her grandson. In 1991, upon graduating from Babson College and unable to return to his home country of Liberia because of civil war, Richelieu partnered with his college roommate, Nyema Tubman, to pursue a bold concept: address specific skin and hair care issues that had been traditionally ignored by mass market skin care companies.
With theacquisition of Sundial Brands by Unilever in 2017, Richelieu negotiated the largest consumer products deal by a majority blackowned company. As part of the agreement, he and Unilever created a groundbreaking US$100 million New Voices Fund to invest in and empower women of color entrepreneurs.
In 2017, Richelieu founded Essence Ventures, an independent African-American owned company focused on merging content, community and commerce to meet the evolving cultural and lifestyle needs of women of color. In January 2018, the company announced that it had acquired Essence Communications Inc. from Time Inc. – reestablishing ESSENCE as a 100% black-owned independent company. Richelieu currently serves as the chair of Essence Ventures.
Richelieu has been named by OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network to its inaugural “SuperSoul 100” list celebrating a dynamic group of 100 trailblazers using their power to move the world forward and whose vision and life’s work are bringing a higher level of consciousness to the world around them and encouraging others to do the same. He has also been named by Fast Company as one of the “Most Creative People in Business.”
In December 2017, the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, conferred upon him one of the nation’s highest honors – the distinction of Knight Commander – and admitted Richelieu into the Most Venerable Order of the Knighthood of the Pioneers.