A Beautiful Legacy: Richelieu Dennis, Founder and CEO of SheaMoisture, Talks About Blending Business and Family
SheaMoisture began as, and continues to operate as a family business. In this Q&A, Richelieu Dennis, its Founder and CEO, gets candid about the perfect formula for blending business and family, and how new, practical ideas take shape and eventually become a part of the SheaMoisture product mix.
Tell us about the perks of owning and operating a family-run business.
Carrying down our family traditions and recipes, making them with my family and sharing them with people around the world: that is the biggest perk. My grandma, Sofi Tucker, sold shea butter to support her family after she was widowed at a young age. She passed down her recipes to me, and showed me how to make her natural creations. My family and I began making and selling these products as street vendors. Buzz about SheaMoisture got around, and soon Target began carrying our products. Shortly thereafter, Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Duane Reade and Wal-Mart began carrying our collections. SheaMoisture is grandma Sofi's legacy, so we know she'd be proud.
Did you plan to pursue a career in the hair and skin care industry?
I've always been interested in making natural skin care with our family recipes. I grew up around these homemade remedies, and there was never any question that my family and I would end up making them on a bigger scale. At SheaMoisture, natural, healthy living and empowerment are part of our DNA, and it's always been important for us to change the perception of beauty from a myopic single standard of beauty, to many standards of beauty, self-acceptance and wellness. Acceptance is what's beautiful, and so is health and wellness.
What have been some of your biggest successes as a company?
Having the media honor us with awards has been exciting, including awards from Allure, Prevention, Natural Health, Essence, Ebony and Parents. Also, our booming, engaged community — whether it be bloggers, folks on our social media pages, or those who attend our many events and shows — is an amazing group, and they continue to help us get it right. We celebrate our community and consider them part of the family.
How do you decide which products you’re going to create for consumers and when? Is there a vetting process or is it based on what’s mostly highly requested?
We always reach out to community and find out what their needs are in terms of skin and hair care. They're our best product development team. We work with our customers, retail partners and our SheaMoisture teams to create products that offer real solutions to skin and hair. It's got to perform. Each product has to do what it says, but in a natural way that's healthy for the entire family.
We are so excited that our September subscribers will receive a brand new SheaMoisture product: the Coconut & Hibiscus Spot Correcting Moisturizer. Is there anything you would like subscribers to know about it?
Our new SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Spot Correcting Moisturizer aids in gradually diminishing dark spots and discoloration — naturally — with songyi mushroom. It's a healthier option to products that contain synthetic lightening/fading ingredients that may be harsh on skin. It also contains hibiscus extract and certified organic shea butter, which is ethically sourced from seven women's co-ops in Northern Ghana. We work directly with the women in the co-ops to pay them above market prices for their shea butter.
What is the most important thing a woman can do to properly care for her skin?
Avoid the hype and stay focused on your skin's individual needs. Use what works for you and keep it simple. Treat your skin's concerns and reject the feeling that you need to try everything out there immediately. Pick several key products and build on that. Read the packaging, study the ingredients, and don’t reach for every brand that’s incorporating the latest buzz ingredients just to keep up with the trend. Most likely the latest buzz ingredient won’t work for everyone.
When, in your opinion, is a woman at her most beautiful?
When she embraces her natural beauty. There's nothing more beautiful than a woman who's happy to be herself, and not someone else. You see that confidence and it's more beautiful than any one physical trait.
What’s next for SheaMoisture?
Stay tuned this spring for a completely new and exciting set of products from us! Different from anything else we've ever done. We're getting it ready for you, right now...
We love debuting new products, just for our subscribers. To make sure you don’t miss out on any other newly released goodies, subscribe now to our October COCOTIQUE Box.