CEO of SheaMoisture Richelieu Dennis poses backstage at the Tracy Reese fashion show with SheaMoisture during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2015 on February 15, 2015 in New York City. Being a Black-owned business in the beauty industry presents a unique set of challenges. Through the years, we’ve received questions […]
Being a Black-owned business in the beauty industry presents a unique set of challenges. Through the years, we’ve received questions and judgments about our products and our business that I’m pretty sure few, if any, white-owned businesses have ever had to answer – like “Since you’re Black, your products are just for Black people, right?” or “We don’t really have a place in our store for a hip-hop beauty brand.” Now, I’ve loved rap music since the Sugar Hill Gang, Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh, but I couldn’t understand how personal care and beauty products made from organic and natural ingredients that simply serve people according to their hair or skin care need – whether curly, coily, wavy, straight, damaged, dry, oily or other – could be labeled as “hip-hop.” Then, it hit me. They weren’t seeing the products. They were only seeing me.
You could say I was born into entrepreneurship. My grandmother, who was from Sierra Leone, was left to raise four children in the 1940s in a rural village in West Africa after becoming a young widow. To support her family, she made natural skin and hair care preparations and sold them primarily to missionaries and villagers. Through both her personal experiences and her experiences as a village merchant, she learned – and taught me early on – that with an efficacious natural product, the consumer is not to be typecast. This is the legacy of my family and the brands we build at Sundial Brands (maker of SheaMoisture, Nubian Heritage and Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture).