US-based Liberian billionaire, owner of ESSENCE and Sundial Brands Richelieu Dennis, will host Essence’s 25th-anniversary festival starting from July 4-7 this year in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; as ex-President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf jets out this Friday to deliver the keynote address at the festival’s Global Black Economic Forum.
Previous keynote speakers at the festival have included former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US TV Mogul Oprah Winfrey, Hollywood Star Halle Berry, former US President Barack Obama, and Bishop TD Jakes, among others.
This year’s appearance will include Ghanaian President Nana AddoDankwaAkufo-Addo and former President Sirleaf in addition to its more than 500,000 annual international audiences over the course of three days.
In 2018, through his holding company SheaMoisture Dennis acquired Essence Communications Inc., the brand that owns Essence magazine and the annual Essence Festival, from Time Inc…
With a total impact estimated at US$4 billion since its birth, the ESSENCE Festival has created a “home” for Black women and their societies as the world’s largest entertainment, cultural and empowerment experience and celebration of global black culture.
After 2 decades, this year’s celebration will mark the return of the ESSENCE Black Excellence Awards with the aim of honoring individuals making the difference in their communities around the globe. For the first time ever, the festival will also introduce the Global Black Economic Forum, Food and Wine Festival, Fashion House and Wellness House with international integration of African culture and talent.
Dennis, who has never held any political position in Liberia acquired his riches through the selling of Shea butter on the streets of New York.
Born and raised in Liberia, Dennis migrated to America to study but didn’t return after his graduation in 1991, due to the raging civil war in Liberia.
Following his decision to stay, he then began Sundial with a college roommate Nyema Tubman alongside his mother, Mary Dennis.
“We began producing soaps created from my grandmother’s recipes in our Queens apartment and started selling them on the streets of New York City to earn a living. As our company increased we began nurturing our family stateside, our different cultural influences and walks of life helped us even better understand the criticality of an inclusive point of view. That has contributed to how we view the world, how we view business, and perhaps most significantly, how we view our purpose in both,” Dennis said during a live chat with Lifehacker last August.
“We began our company out of a need to survive, but we’ve built it with the aim of not only to help others survive but to prosper,” Dennis further said.
His Sundial Brands (famous for brands such as SheaMoisture) has grown to become one of the largest natural beauty businesses in the United States. In 2017, the company was sold to Unilever for an estimated $1.6 billion.
While at Unilever, where he remains as CEO of Sundial Brands, Dennis launched the New Voices Fund, a $100 million fund that will invest in businesses owned or managed by women of color.By Othello B. Garblah