SheaMoisture Founder And Essence CEO Richelieu Dennis Launches $100M Fund For Black Female Entrepreneurs

SheaMoisture Founder And Essence CEO Richelieu Dennis Launches $100M Fund For Black Female Entrepreneurs

There was a major announcement at this year’s Essence festival. In New Orleans at Essence Festival 2018, ESSENCE Ventures CEO, Richelieu Dennis, and hip-hop icon/actress/entrepreneur Queen Latifah announced a new partnership.

Dennis, who also founded the hugely successful natural hair care line, SheaMoisture, has launched a $100 million fund towards the development of entrepreneurial women. “The fund’s first partner will be Queen Latifah’s production company, Flavor Unit Entertainment, and according to Dennis, it will ensure Black creators “can own our content and not just be work for hire,” Essence reported.

“About six months ago, we announced that we were launching the new voices fund,” Dennis said during a festival press conference. “I’m proud to say that we get to officially launch the $100 million New Voices Fund for women of color entrepreneurs here at Essence Festival this weekend. Over the past six months, we have already either invested in or committed to, over $30 million in Black women entrepreneurs.”

“One of the most difficult things is struggling to find the capital to continue your ideas,” Latifah said. “So by supporting us, you are going to keep this engine running in a way you aren’t even going to imagine.”

The fund isn’t entirely a surprise. It’s been in the works for a while. “The hefty fund was born out of Dennis’ promise that after selling SheaMoisture to Unilever in 2017, he would prioritize allocating funds and resources to support women-run businesses,” Vibe reported.

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Richelieu Dennis

Essence Communications Chairman Richelieu Dennis and President Michelle Ebanks are seen at the 15th Annual 365Black Awards during the Essence Music Festival on July 8, 2018 (Photo by Donald Traill/Invision/AP)

“This journey is rooted in the fundamental belief that economic inclusion is our human right. We have to invest in each other to make sure that’s a reality,” he said.

“What many of you may not have known all these years is that when you were buying Shea Moisture products you weren’t just investing in that business,” Dennis added. “We need you to continue buying Shea Moisture so we can continue putting that money back in the community.”

Dennis founded Shea Moisture and Sundial Brands, a personal care company which focuses on shampoo, conditioner and body wash, in Harlem in 1991 by Liberian immigrants Nyema Tubman and Richelieu Dennis (and his mother Mary Dennis). In 2017, Unilever acquired Sundial Brands, for $240 million.

Under the agreement, “Unilever and Sundial are creating the New Voices Fund with an initial investment of $50 million to empower women of color entrepreneurs. The intention is to scale the Fund to $100 million by attracting investments from other interested parties. That’s $50 million dollars already committed to pay it forward,” Forbes reported.

In January 2018, Dennis acquired Essence from Time Inc.

The application form for the fund is live on the New Voices Fund site.