Richelieu Dennis and His Thoughts on Appropriation, Investing, and Community

BLNDED Media had the opportunity to attend the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce’s annual luncheon featuring business mogul and social impact investor, Richelieu Dennis, in an effort to discuss the state of black business.

Dennis is the CEO and co-founder of Sundial Brands, a natural skincare and beauty empire worth $700 million that is redefining beauty and business. Dennis is also the Chairman of ESSENCE Ventures and has recently launched the New Voices Fund, a fund of a $100 million that supports black women-owned businesses. Overall, he is on a mission to redefine business by creating and building generational wealth in our communities by investing in black-owned businesses, especially those led by women of color.

Greater Austin Black Chamber
Photo Credit: Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce

It’s no secret African-American women face great adversity and are presented with less opportunity and access to capital. Regardless, they continue to be the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the United States according to the 2017 State of Women-Owned Business Report. Dennis, originally from Liberia, was inspired by his mother and grandmother who taught him family recipes, wisdom, and cultural experiences. He pays it forward by empowering millions of families around the globe through community commerce, mentorship and funding through the New Voices Fund which “focuses on making equity investments and creating an ecosystem that empowers women of color entrepreneurs to reach their full potential by addressing three of the most pertinent issues preventing their long-term success – access, capital, expertise.”

During the luncheon, Dennis stated, “In the past six months we have invested $40 million to businesses led by women of color. Imagine the impact of investing $40 million in black women run businesses and the effect it can have in our communities and for our children. Our children can grow up and see their mothers build businesses, gain advice and receive access to capital; these things have been so hard for us to get and we think this is a game changer. However, if it’s a $100 million or $1 billion, it doesn’t solve the problems in our communities. No one family or business is going to solve those problems. It’s going to take all of us working towards these objectives to solve these problems.”

Dennis feels that in order for us to build sustainable communities, it’s important to create generational wealth in them and monetize our culture because if we don’t, somebody else will.

“When you buy and you sell, you take the profit and invest it back into the community. Until we own our economics, we won’t own our culture. It will continue to be appropriated.”

Regardless of what society shows us, Dennis says entrepreneurship can be taught and indeed is in most African-American households where family members have side hustles.

“Because of our circumstances in this country and globally, we’ve been forced to be entrepreneurial for centuries – it’s ingrained in us. We have the most valuable culture on the planet, why not monetize it? I’m a big component of monetizing the culture and I think it comes with a responsibility though. If you take from our culture, you must put back into our culture. Let’s focus on how we can truly create wealth in our community and for us as individuals as opposed to us increasing our spending power.”

“We hope to be an example that you can look to when you think about the impact you want to make.”

We appreciate all the work Dennis is doing to change the narrative for the black culture and build an innovative business that is founded on family legacy, community infrastructure, and generational wealth. Dennis made it clear that in order for us to reclaim our power we must support and invest in our communities and take ownership of our culture.

During our interview, Dennis said, “The best way to support us is to buy SheaMoisture because that’s what fuels it all. Standing up and being accounted for in the culture. Taking ownership of the culture, like what you guys are doing at BLNDED by talking to entrepreneurs and founders getting the message out. That’s letting the world know we are not just ballplayers or musicians, we’re business people, doctors, and lawyers, but we’re contributing to our society and driving our culture forward. Pray for us as a community that God may continue to open doors for us and guide us in ways we can really drive the culture forward, drive our businesses forward and take care of our families.”

If you’re looking for access to capital, mentorship or business resources, consider joining the New Voices community and apply for funding or other resources by visiting and completing a business profile.

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