BusinessPersonal Economics

Richelieu (Rich) Dennis: A CEO and a lifelong Philanthropist

January 22, 2022 (Edit) By: Matthew

Rich Dennis

In 1991, upon graduating from renowned business school Babson College, Richelieu Dennis partnered with his college roommate to address specific skin and hair care issues that had been traditionally ignored by mass-market skin care companies. Drawing from deep family traditions, Richelieu incorporated four generations of recipes and wisdom into natural bath and body care products and co-founded Sundial Brands.

By focusing on the unmet needs of a diverse range of consumers, Rich Dennis led the beauty and personal care manufacturer from selling its products on the streets of New York City to selling in and co-creating a comprehensive portfolio of product offerings with America’s largest retailers, as well as extending its direct distribution to countries across the globe.

With the landmark acquisition of Sundial Brands by Unilever, Richelieu negotiated the largest natural personal care deal ever in the U.S. and also the largest consumer products deal by a majority black-owned company. Most critically, he and Unilever created a groundbreaking $100 million New Voices Fund to invest in and empower women of color entrepreneurs.

Through his vision and the company’s Community Commerce purpose-driven business model, Sundial equips underserved people and communities with access to the opportunities and resources that enable them to create lasting value for themselves and others. From providing executive education and investment for girls and women of color entrepreneurs to organizational partnerships including the Jackie Robinson Foundation and WACO Theater Center, to support of Todee Mission School, the Smart Liberia – GET program, and UNIFORM in Liberia, Sundial’s Community Commerce efforts are building stronger, self-sustaining communities and enterprises around the world.

Under Dennis’ leadership, Sundial has been certified as a B Corp company and holds a Fair for Life social and fair trade certification. Additionally, Sundial was named to the 2015 Inc. 5000 list and received the 2015 Corporate Social Responsibility of the Year Award from WWD/Beauty Inc. The company made its debut at #10 on the Black Enterprise BE 100s list in 2017. Sundial has also previously received Black Enterprise’s “Emerging Business of the Year Award,” and SheaMoisture received the 2016 Ad Campaign of the Year Award from WWD/Beauty Inc for its “Break the Walls” efforts.

In 2017, Richelieu Dennis founded Essence Ventures, a 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 an independent company owned by African-Americans. Richelieu Dennis currently serves as the chair of Essence Ventures.

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