President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has conferred on the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sundial Brands, Richelieu Dennis, Jr., one of the nation’s highest honors.
Dennis is the successful United States based Liberian entrepreneur who is making headways in the cosmetic market.
President Sirleaf, at an investiture ceremony convened at the Cecil Dennis Auditorium at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday, conferred on Dennis the distinction of Knight Commander, and was admitted into the Most Venerable Order of the Knighthood of the Pioneers.
Prior to the conferral, the President described Dennis as one of the many unsung Liberian heroes who are relatively unknown at home but are making their homeland proud by the great jobs they are doing in the Diaspora.
Dennis’ company, Sundial Brands, which is a household name in New York, is a leading skin care and hair care manufacturer and maker of brands including SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage committed to making the highest quality products possible with natural, certified organic and ethically-sourced ingredients. The company is widely credited with introducing the concept of the New General Market to the beauty and retail industries.
President Sirleaf told the audience, which also included the honoree’s wife, children and other family members, that Dennis is one of few Liberians who is willing to pursue goals that look almost impossible; that he is committed to the ideals of those who want to succeed and are willing to suffer the consequences for the positions and levels they want to excel to.
“Richelieu, you are one of Liberia’s unsung heroes,” the President said. “Many years ago in 1997 a decision was made to change the course of events to start that long journey and this is where we are today.”
President Sirleaf described the honoree as a person who doesn’t like to be talked about too much; he even wanted the ceremony to be a low profile one. “Today Richelieu, you are no longer an unknown hero because what you have done many can attest to. Thank you for being what you are and for the success you have made of which Liberia is proud,” she said.
Richelieu Dennis Jr. was born in 1969 unto the union of the late Richelieu Dennis, Sr. and Mary Dennis in Monrovia. The senior Dennis is a graduate of the Booker Washington Institute (BWI) and its famous class of 1959. He ran an insurance company in Monrovia but passed when the younger Dennis was just 8 in 1977. He was an economist working for the government.
Dennis’ company is worth over hundreds of millions of dollars and is a major force in the US market. The company’s uncompromising focus on research and innovation enables it to continuously explore holistic and culturally authentic practices and ingredients from around the globe and incorporating them into the unique skin and hair care formulations of its brands.
Sundial is a certified B Corp Company with a Fair for Life social and fair trade certification – proudly self-manufactures its natural and certified organic ingredient products at its state-of-the-art facilities in Long Island, NY.
In his response at the ceremony, a visibly overwhelmed Dennis, Jr. said his company is one of the major employers in the United States and he is working out modalities to bring some of those jobs back to Africa, especially Liberia.
“Somewhere along the way, we’ve got to bring those jobs back into our country so our people can benefit,” he said, and lauded President Sirleaf for the level of work in the country. He said he has reached such a level because of the support of his mom, wife, children and other relatives.
Dennis learned his entrepreneur skills from his maternal grandmother, Sofi Tucker. He remains true to the deep family legacy and inspiration of his grandmother who, widowed at age 19, began making handmade shea butter soaps, salves and other products and selling them to missionaries and villagers as a way to support her family in her native Sierra Leone, and eventually became known as a village healer.
The Sundial Brands CEO, upon completing high school at the St. Patrick’s Catholic School, went to the United States to attend the renowned business school at Babson College. Upon graduating in 1991, he was unable to return to Liberia because of the civil war.
Driven by his passion for entrepreneurship and sustained by a vision to fill unmet consumer needs, Richelieu partnered with his best friend and college roommate, Nyema Tubman, the son of Cllr. Robert Tubman, to pursue a bold concept: address skin and hair care issues traditionally ignored by mass-market companies.
Drawing from deep traditions born out of his African roots, he incorporated four generations of recipes, wisdom and cultural experiences into a natural bath and body care products, co-founding Sundial with his mother – Mary Dennis – and Nyema.
Sundial’s supply chain extends to the United States and Africa, focusing on entrepreneurship, women’s empowerment, education, and wellness. In 2015, Sundial was named to the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the United States.
Building upon its foundation, Sundial’s products are inclusive, serving all people to address underserved issues such as hyperpigmentation, dark spots and the special needs of textured hair, as well as consumer demands for efficacious natural products.
Meanwhile, the investiture ceremony was attended by several dignitaries including members of the diplomatic corps, several ministers of government, family members and friends. Also present was the political leader of the Alternative National Congress, Alexander B. Cummings.