by Jessica Lane
November 28, 2017
Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images For SheaMoisture
Unilever has officially acquired Sundial Brands, which includes their flagship brand SheaMoisture, Nubian Heritage, Madam C.J. Walker and nyakio™. The deal also includes a $50 million investment into the newly minted New Voices Fund, created to empower Black women in entrepreneurship.
“I’ve always wanted Sundial Brands to be an inspiration to other minority-owned companies of how a business against all odds can achieve excellence, have significant social impact in our communities and be successful on a world stage,” said Richelieu Dennis, founder and CEO, Sundial Brands.
The story behind Dennis and his Sundial brands is a true American rags-to-riches story, despite his Liberian background. Dennis, alongside his mother and his college roommate Nyema Tubman, transformed Sundial into a $700 million business. They went from selling raw black soaps and essential oils from the blocks of Harlem and Bed-Stuy in the early 90s to corporate boardrooms and million-dollar marketing campaigns.
This is a BIG MOOD –> @Unilever Acquires @SheaMoisture Parent Company @SundialBrands To Expand its Offering of Hair-and Skin-Care Products Aimed at Black Women https://t.co/R3Ji09wRiJ pic.twitter.com/7xO3EiMOFx
— Sakita Holley (@MissSuccess) November 27, 2017
Isn’t this the dream-come-true we all wish for? To grow a business from the pots and pans of our own kitchens to a multi-million dollar acquisition? This might be the dream, but we’re feeling so uncomfortable with Unilever backing this brand after their missteps earlier this year.
Who can forget this controversial ad? And then, the epic backlash across Black Twitter and every news outlet.
SheaMoisture rose to prominence because the Black hair and skincare market lacked exactly what SheaMoisture possessed. It praised blackness with natural products uniquely crafted to moisture us, while embracing us into its purpose-driven mission. We fell in love, then SheaMoisture let us down.
In a quest to broaden their market, they pissed off the people that loved them – us, black women. We saw this as a personal affront. As soon as they got put on, they left us for a white girl. And honestly, we’ve been skeptical of their decisions ever since.
According to the press release, Sundial Brands will remain a separate unit within Unilever and Dennis will continue as CEO. But can a Black business get gobbled up by a conglomerate and remain the same? Or will they exchange their mission and their passion for more dollars?
TELL US: Are you proud of their achievement or skeptical of their future with Unilever?