Sundial Founder Richelieu Dennis 
By Erickka Sy Savané

It was a festive evening at Ginny’s Supper Club, the intimate downstairs lounge at Red Rooster in Harlem last week. I was there tagging along with my girl Sid, who gets invited everywhere, and honestly, anytime I can get away from an evening of doing homework with the kids is cause to get lit! Everyone else, however, was there to celebrate the merger between Sundial, the parent company that owns Shea Moisture, Nubian Heritage, Madame C.J. Walker and nyako, with Unilever, a multinational company that generated over 50 billion in sales last year. Although the amount of the merger was not made public, one can guess from the fact that Sundial is expected to turn over an estimated $240 million this year, that it ain’t too shabby. Sundial founder Richelieu Dennis will continue as CEO and executive chairman for the company that he started in 1991 with his mom and longtime friend, Nyema Tubman, all Liberians unable to return to the country once Civil War broke. Here are some highlights from the evening, along with the deets on the 100 million that Sundial plans to give black women!

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After a few drinks and some mixing and mingling with familiar and unfamiliar faces, Michaela Angela Davis, image activist and longtime consultant to the company, gets on the mic to introduce the man of honor, simply known as Rich. For anyone who remembers Rich from his days of selling soap out of his car in Harlem, or when he owned Nubian Heritage bookstore on 125th street and 5th Ave, a source of pride in the community long before gentrification, you know he’s come a long way. Michaela compares Rich’s success to hip hop.

“You started off on the street selling ounces of Shea, and now you’re in business!" she joked, saying that he was selling ounces of Shea when others were selling "other" things.

Rich walks up with his mama in tow, and Michaela explains that she is the real star of the company. It’s easy to see why. She’s a sweet-looking petite older lady, round, and soft spoken when she does speak. But don’t let the calm demeanor fool you. Introducing her as the most incredible human being he knows, Rich told a helluva story about how she wasn’t the type of mom to dish out praises growing up. In fact, if he received all A’s on his report card she said nothing. But if he came home with a B that was his a$s straight. He learned the level of excellence that was expected in her house and today he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sundial Founders Rich Dennis, (mom) Mary Dennis and Nyema Tubman
“If it wasn’t for that, the levels of excellence that we strive to have would not be here. So as I’ve lived my life and built this company with my college roommate, and co-founder Nyema, it’s been about excellence, thinking differently, caring about the people we care about deeply, and more than anything else, giving back to where we came from. This partnership allows us to do that. It gives us the infrastructure to do what we want to do."
And what is that exactly? He plans to develop communities, with a focus on black female entrepreneurs.
“Women of color are the backbone of our communities and the most under-served. This partnership allows us to impact women like my grandmother, single mothers like my mother, women from around the world who have an idea, but no resources. She may find it hard to get a loan from the bank, or she’s got a product that no one believes in. We want to take some of those obstacles out of her way.”
It makes sense, coming from a man who is making a quarter of a billion dollars off of his grandmama’s recipes. It sounds even better coming from their website.


Sofi Tucker

Our Story
Sofi Tucker started selling Shea Nuts at the village market in Bonthe, Sierra Leone in 1912. By age 19, the widowed mother of four was selling Shea Butter, African Black Soap and her homemade hair and skin preparations all over the countryside. Sofi Tucker was our Grandmother and SheaMoisture is her legacy.

So he sat down with the people from Unilever and they figured out a way to help black women around the world to use their business model called 'community commerce' to invest in them and their ideas so they too can build billion dollar businesses. It started with Rich's own money, and with Unilever pitching in, reached 50 million. And while 50 was great, it didn't feel like enough, so they rose it to 100 million. One. Hundred. Million. Dollars. To. Help. Black. Women. Create. Businesses. Around. The. World.

Obviously, he had to address people who say he’s selling out. To that he says the products aren’t going to change and because of how his business model is set up, he prefers the term ‘investing in.’

Imagine all those black women with family recipes that have been there for generations. Everything from hair and body products, natural cures for aches and pains, food recipes...anybody perfect their Granny's mac & cheese? It's endless. And to think that black women are already the fasting growing group of entrepreneurs in this country! So the next question is how to apply, because we're definitely going to follow-up on this. We'll keep you posted with info. on our end, but also research it on your own to figure out how to get a piece of the pie!


Michaela Angela Davis and Founder & CEO of Sundial Brands, Richelieu Dennis chat with Incoming EVP & COO of Unilever North America Personal Care Esi Eggleston Bracey about this groundbreaking purpose-driven partnership.

Will you be taking advantage of Sundial's initiative to support black female entrepreneurs?

Erickka Sy Savané is managing editor of CurlyNikki.com, a wife, mom, and freelance writer based in Jersey, City, NJ. Her work has appeared in Essence.comEbony.com, Madamenoire.com, xoNecole.com, and more. When she’s not writing...wait, she’s always writing! Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or  ErickkaSySavane.com

By Michelby Whitehead

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. It takes expertise in your industry, patience, tough skin, and excellent time management skills to see the profits you desire. If you are putting these things into practice but still haven’t garnered desirable outcomes in your small business, I have a question for you. Do you support other women with small businesses?

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Ramona Griggie Founder of Express Smile Atlanta
By Erickka Sy Savané

It was 2015 and Ramona Griggie’s oldest son was graduating from Duke University. It was an extra special time because after years of wearing braces, he was finally getting them taken off. So as a gift, Ramona promised to get his teeth whitened. Unfortunately, prices were out of control, ranging from $700-$900. But knowing that she couldn't let it end there, Ramona put on her super mom cape and began researching alternatives online. Eventually, she found a great product and a $250 machine to use for practice at home.

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Ramona Griggie & Son
“I started using my son, my husband and anyone else who came to the house as guinea pigs to practice the one-hour treatments,” says Ramona. “And it worked.”
 
Not only did her son get to have a beautiful set of pearly whites for his graduation day, but word spread, and people were standing in line for her teeth whitening services. Knowing that it was time to shift from her house to a legit working space, Ramona found a $300 per month rental and got going.
“It was a cute little setup where people would come and pay $100-$200 for a one-hour procedure,” explains Ramona. All was going well until she fell one day and suffered a concussion. With time off to think, she realized that she didn't like being away from her family for such long hours.

“I’m really a housewife with a side hustle, work-from-home, work-from-my-phone kind of person,” says Ramona.
Plus she noticed that people liked buying the $35 do-it-yourself kits.

So during the time it took for her to heal, Ramona closed the shop and began researching how to take her business online. She learned to build a simple website from scratch, at a cost of $20, got a free business telephone line and prepared for a January 2015 launch.

Knowing that marketing would play a key role in the success of her business, Ramona chose Instagram as her promotional platform of choice. From there, she called in a favor from local celeb ‘JuJu,’ aka rapper Cam’ron’s girlfriend, and convinced her to post a picture with a kit, along with a simple ad that Ramona put together.

She paid instagram $150.00 to run the promotion for 4 hours. What happened next was life-changing. Within a few hours, $8,000 came in and her Instagram following shot from about 500 to 10,000 followers.

“My local post office didn’t know what to do with all these orders, and neither did we,” recalls Ramona, of how she and her husband/business partner had to handle the unexpected load. “Our main goal was to make sure that people didn't have to wait for their orders.” It was around this time that Ramona realized that a significant number of African Americans don’t have dental insurance, but they could afford a $35 do-it-yourself teeth whitening kit.

Sensing that she had struck marketing gold, and knowing that the goal was always to reinvest, Ramona continued to study Instagram and made a list of other celebrities that she wanted to work with. Soon after, she paid $1,000 for her second sponsored post and made close to $50,000 in one day!

Amber Rose
And thanks to even more star power- Amber Rose, The Kardashians, Kevin Hart and plenty more- she’d made one million dollars in her first 60 days! With so much celebrity backing, one has to wonder if Express Smile Atlanta Teeth Whitening really works or if it’s just the latest insta-gimmick? To answer, Ramona says,
“First and foremost, the product works. We have very few returns, people buy multiple kits at one time, and we get tons and tons of reorders. And sure, the celebrity backing helps because people look at their teeth and they want to use the same product that celebs use to keep them white.”
Thanks to the overwhelming success of her online business, Ramona has since opened a flagship boutique in College Park, Atlanta where celebs like Blac Chyna, college students and even bridal parties can come and get one-hour treatments from certified technicians.
Courtesy of Express Smile Atlanta
So how does this multi-millionaire housewife stay grounded? 
“I’m a mom before anything else, so I make sure to live carefully. I have a CPA, a lawyer and people in place to make sure that we have money for retirement. I don’t buy expensive purses, and when my husband,who is an economics major, says ‘no’ to a purchase, it’s a no. It’s about balance and building generational wealth,” says Ramona, who grew up in Section 8 housing in St. Croix.

If there’s any piece of advice that Ramona would offer to other budding entrepreneurs it would be,
"Hustle, drive, keep it simple, research, do your do-diligence and know that it’s attainable. Also think about a product that people need and make it affordable. I was clear from the beginning that I wanted everyone to be able to afford to get their teeth whitened.”
 Looks like everyone now can! 

This article appeared on Essence.com. Click here to learn more about Express Smile Atlanta Teeth Whitening and follow the brand on Instagram.  

Would you use a DIY teeth whitener?  
 
Erickka Sy Savané is managing editor of CurlyNikki.com, a wife, mom, and freelance writer based in Jersey, City, NJ. Her work has appeared in Essence.comEbony.com, Madamenoire.com, xoNecole.com, and more. When she’s not writing...wait, she’s always writing! Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or ErickkaSySavane.com