A Day in the Life of Richelieu Dennis, Co-Founder of Sundial Brands

A Day in the Life of Richelieu Dennis, Co-Founder of Sundial Brands

The cosmetics tycoon is working to make the corporate world more welcoming to women. The market for black natural hair and skin care has long been controlled by the FAMILY-RUN company Sundial Brands. From a tiny enterprise selling handmade soap on Harlem street corners, co-founder Richelieu Dennis built Sundial, which includes top-selling brands SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage, into a firm the company claims is valued at $1 billion. Dennis, 48, still views Sundial, which Unilever recently purchased, as a means to an end.

“I think this is great inspiration for the people that are graduating today,” he said, “not just around how to move forward in the pandemic, but also the roles that they play in bringing justice, social justice, and economic justice to all of our communities.”

The difficulties of today—the pandemic, social inequality, climate change, and more—are top motivators for a new generation of innovators, entrepreneurial leaders who are trained to address complex societal problems, just as the events in Dennis’ own nation inspired him to make a difference.

By airing a commercial that seemed to target white consumers last spring, the corporation let down a lot of its supporters. Dennis and his team are determined to demonstrate that their goal is still to better serve their target audience, which is made up primarily of women of colour. Perhaps Dennis’ most recent endeavour makes this the clearest. He made sure the New Voices Fund, a $100 million first commitment to support businesses headed by women of colour, was established at the time Unilever was acquired. “We created this company little by little, community after community. That is the proper course of action.

Describe a recent weekday for us.

He started the day by calling my executive team at Sundial to give them an update. He then held meetings with the brands of SheaMoisture, Nubian Heritage, Madam C.J. Walker, and Nyakio to discuss new creative, community involvement, and strategy. Then he had lunch with a group of Black women business owners as a mentor.

Later in the day, he spoke with our New Voices Fund team about our launch and infrastructure, made a few calls to some of our agencies, and finished the day with a dinner meeting to go through the new Essence mission and strategy.