Founder of Sundial Brands beauty products, richelieu dennis, discusses building a business instead of a career in an interview with Adam Bryant. His family taught him a few lessons about entrepreneurship, and he built up a multi-billion-dollar personal care company with his entrepreneurial skills. He is from Liberia, a country in West Africa bordering Sierra Leone, where his mother is from. His father grew up during civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Despite the killings, protests, insecurity, and unwarranted imprisonment in Liberia, Dennis said it was hard to live there. Because of the ongoing civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, he got a scholarship to go to college in the US and stayed there after graduation.
Dennis’ grandmothers were entrepreneurs from whom he learned how a business could affect future generations. His father was an insurance agent, and his mother worked with the Liberian government, but both of his grandmothers were economists. With the help of his mother and college roommate Nyema Tubman, Dennis created some of the best beauty products for African American women. With his mother by his side and Nyema Tubman as his partner, richelieu dennis became immersed in the business. His mother is described as a compassionate leader, which he uses as his leadership guiding principle.
In addition to the challenges of becoming an entrepreneur, Richelieu Dennis had to train more employees than he had expected, and they needed more infrastructure that supported their expertise. The foundation of Dennis’s business proved challenging, but he learned the value of having mentors and asking for advice from others. He now focuses on passing on his knowledge to those in need. Customers backlash against Shea Moisture after a new ad featuring mostly white women. The campaign was not appreciated by most, who felt it needed to be targeted toward the segment that made the brand successful. Dennis said the ad resulted from poor branding, but the company admitted it. He believes it will help new hires to become more familiar with the company culture in the future.