the store. You’d go into the retail
store and the experience was horrible. If you were a person of color
who walked into a retail environment back then, you were basically
segregated. I used to say the only
place in America where segregation
is legal is in the beauty aisle.
Can you explain what that looked
like, how it could happen?
First, you would walk in and you’d
be followed around the store. Your
products would be isolated over in
this corner in the back, on the bottom here with poor lighting. And
then the assortment would be horrible. We found that it took a black
female consumer a trip to five di;erent retail stores to get the products
to do her hair. It took us 16 years to
get into retail, because we didn’t
believe that that was the right way
to service our customers.
Sundial is certified as a B Corp and
as a Fair Trade company. How do
you see those movements? Are they
making a di;erence?
You can see the impact just by walking into a store. The isolation is
all but gone, and the messaging is
respectful and thoughtful. So there’s
real change around how you look
to serve underserved consumers.
B Corp and Fair Trade, those certifications have helped because they’ve
provided their consumer with comfort that this company or this brand
or this product aligns with the person’s values. Consumers are more
aware today. But there’s a lot of misinformation as well. A certifying body
allows you to take comfort in, hey,
there’s been some measurement here.
You sold the company to Unilever
in 2017. What was that process
It took us about five years. We like to
Was Unilever the only company
think of ourselves as a mission with a
business. The mission needs to con-
tinue to be developed, but it needs
to be developed at scale, because
if we’re going to actually bring the
economic impact and inclusion into
these communities, into our supply
chain, all of these women in West
Africa, we’re going to have to find a
much bigger platform.
you considered selling to, or were
there lots of suitors?
There were lots of suitors, but none
that had already demonstrated the
desire and the ability to do this
right. Unilever had done Ben &
Jerry’s years before. Also, not many
companies have the sophistication
and the supply chain that Unilever
has across the globe.
Did you at any point think
“Unilever is the problem”? I mean,
Unilever is why the market looked
like it did for so long. Did you ever
see that as a contradiction?
Dennis bought the assets of Essence, the pioneering magazine for African-
American women, from Time Inc. in 2018. That gave him control of the Essence
Festival, a hugely popular musical and cultural gathering. At this year’s event,
former First Lady Michelle Obama (left) was interviewed by Gayle King.
If you were a person of color who walked into a retail environment back then, you were basically segregated.