Richelieu Dennis: Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
Who is Richelieu Dennis?
Entrepreneurship! There are people who entrepreneurship runs in their blood, like Richelieu Dennis. Entrepreneurship runs in his entire family, from his maternal and paternal grandmothers to his father, mother, and himself.
Surprisingly, Richelieu’s father and grandmother were business partners like how he is with his mother today. What a family of entrepreneurs? Besides being an entrepreneur, Richelieu Dennis is also an investor and a philanthropist. He believes in the promotion of people’s welfare. His philanthropic endeavors are an exciting read. The following sections of this content highlight Richelieu Dennis’s professional and philanthropic accomplishments.
Richelieu’s professional endeavors unknowingly began when he was still in college. It was all merry for Richelieu Dennis as he finally received a scholarship. At that time, Richelieu Dennis did not know that the scholarship was one of the stepping stones to his breakthrough. Richelieu Dennis started selling shea butter products to his classmates in Babson College. Where did he get the supplies from? Fortunately, Richelieu Dennis’ mother was a pro in making such products. She used to supply him with the shea butter products and later used the money he earned for personal upkeep.
- So, how did the shea butter idea come?
Although he ended up operating a multi-billion manufacturer of top beauty and personal care products, Richelieu Dennis’ initial ambition was to return to Liberia after his studies and become a citrus farmer. He is proud that he became more of a harvester, still in line with farming. Though not a citrus fruits farmer!
According to Richelieu Dennis, he decided to focus on shea butter because it was one of the essential products that have been in their culture. People have been using shea butter to protect themselves from the sun for centuries in Liberia. So, Richelieu Dennis saw an underutilized potential gap where there was little or no commercialization of the use of these products. And that made him stand out.
- From a college survival gig to a street vending business
After Dennis’ mother came to the United States of America for her son’s graduation, the college survival gig evolved into a street vending business. With the help of his mother, Richelieu Dennis began preparing different shea butter products, including incense and soap. They also made shea butter by the ounce or pound and displayed them for sale in Harlem, 125th street, fifth avenue.
- Breaking even, standing out, and breaking out
Many people would ask how Richelieu Dennis reached the point of breaking out from the street business. There might have been many guys on 125 street selling different items on card tables? But, Richelieu Dennis believes that very few of them had the kind of education he got from Babson. So, Richelieu Dennis took advantage of his college education and started delivering products to several customers. Richelieu Dennis and his mother would receive an order from other vendors and deliver using a Toyota Previa.
The delivery service grew to the point that they would supply to county fairs and flea markets. After supplying in health food stores for months, Richelieu Dennis and his business partner started to think about going the retail way.
- From vending on 125 street to owning a retail company
It took Richelieu Dennis and his mother approximately 16 years to fully transition to retail. Richelieu Dennis joined hands with his mother (Mary Dennis) and his best friend (Nyema Tubman) in 1991 after his graduation and founded Sundial Brands. Richelieu Dennis served as Sundial’s CEO and chair until December 2019. Under Richelieu Dennis’ leadership as CEO and chair, Sundial experienced tremendous growth from selling natural hair and beauty products on NYC streets to working with major US retailers. Richelieu Dennis co-created an all-inclusive portfolio of offers with several primary US retailers and thus gained a global distribution of their products.
Currently, Richelieu Dennis has four jobs. He has been the CEO and founder of Sundial Brands since its formation in 1991. Additionally, he is the CEO of Essence Ventures LLC, an independent consumer technology firm that he founded in 2017. Richelieu Dennis is also the CEO of New Voices Fund and founder of SheaMoisture. On the 2nd of October 2019, the entrepreneur invested in Seed Round-Solo Funds at a value of approximately $ 1.6 million. He has also had three other partner investments with Venture Round- NaturAll, Series A- Bitwise Industries, and Series A- Sweeten.
Richelieu Dennis’ philanthropist endeavors
- Sundial’s Community Commerce
Richelieu Dennis had all the interests of promoting people’s welfare which led to him setting up Sundial’s Community Commerce investments. Such a great move positively impacted millions of people throughout the company’s global supply chain.
In the United States of America alone, the company’s community commerce projects led to better infrastructure, healthcare access, better incomes, educational opportunities, entrepreneurial opportunities, safer work environments.
For that reason, Sundial Brands have received multiple industry accolades, Fair for Life, and B Corp certifications for its efforts in corporate social responsibilities.
As part of a purpose-driven agreement between Sundial Brands and Unilever, Richelieu Dennis created a revolutionary $ 100 million New Voices Fund. The fund’s primary purpose was to empower and invest in black women entrepreneurs.
Additionally, Richelieu Dennis’ aim was for women of color entrepreneurs to accomplish their dreams of skills building, leadership development, and networking opportunities.
Richelieu Dennis created this board after stepping down from his Sundial’s CEO and Chair roles. He partnered with Unilever and Sundial to take Community Commerce to the global association.
There is no doubt that Richelieu Dennis is a versatile individual who knows how to juggle between entrepreneurship and being a philanthropist. His contributions in both fields are exceptional. He is an inspiration to many aspiring entrepreneurs .