Each year we recognize, celebrate and support fast-growing companies whose success illuminates the competitive advantages of being in the inner city. For nearly 20 years we’ve invited these outstanding businesses to an annual conference and awards ceremony in Boston to celebrate their achievements, learn from each other and promote growth.
The 2018 Inner City 100 Conference and Awards will be held October 1 & 2 at the Seaport Hotel in Boston’s Seaport District.
For your convenience, the Seaport Hotel is offering special hotel rates for conference attendees. Click here to access until September 10th
Entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist Richelieu Dennis has a passion for entrepreneurship and innovation that traces back to his family’s roots in Africa and that is sustained by a vision to fill unmet consumer needs around the world. As the founder, CEO and Executive Chairman of Sundial Brands, his passion has resulted in the 27-year-old family-founded, run & operated manufacturing company’s success today as the maker of top hair, natural, bar soap and bath and body brands via its SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage lines, as well as its newest brands and forays into prestige beauty via its Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture hair care line and Nyakio skin care line.
After being widowed at a young age, Richelieu’s grandmother – Sofi – sold handcrafted Shea butter soaps and salves in Sierra Leone to support her family. She became known as a healer throughout the countryside and taught these recipes to her grandson. In 1991, upon graduating from renowned business school Babson College and unable to return to his home country of Liberia because of civil war, Richelieu partnered with his college roommate, Nyema Tubman, to pursue a bold concept: address specific skin and hair care issues that had been traditionally ignored by mass market skin care companies. Drawing from deep family traditions, Richelieu incorporated four generations of recipes and wisdom into natural bath and body care products and co-founded Sundial Brands with his mother – Mary Dennis – and Nyema.
With a foundation of family heritage and his own cultural experiences, Richelieu leads Sundial’s vision to serve under-served consumers through problem/solution products made with natural and certified organic ingredients. As a result, he has become recognized in the market for research innovation because of his continual testing and incorporation of culturally authentic and globally-sourced ingredients into his formulations. By focusing on the unmet skin care and hair care needs of a diverse range of consumers, Richelieu has led the beauty and personal care manufacturer from selling its products on the streets of New York City to selling in and co-creating a comprehensive portfolio of product offerings with America’s largest retailers across mass, prestige, drug, grocery, beauty supply, natural and other specialty channels, as well as extending its direct distribution to the UK, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, and the Caribbean, with
more to come.
In November 2017, Richelieu architected a first-of-its-kind deal in the beauty and personal care industry – marking a continuum of almost three decades of demonstrating how business can be done differently and creating new paths to building a lasting legacy. With the landmark acquisition of Sundial Brands by Unilever, Richelieu negotiated the largest natural personal care deal ever in the U.S. and also the largest consumer products deal by a majority black-owned company. Most critically, as part of this purpose-driven agreement, he and Unilever created a groundbreaking US$100 million New Voices Fund to invest in and empower women of color entrepreneurs.
Richelieu is also an innovator in the identification of and response to the cultural shift in the U.S. which has resulted in the New General Market, which Sundial defines as an amalgamation of cultures, ethnicities, and demographics aligned against commonalities, need states and lifestyles, e.g. an inclusion approach rather than a traditional segmentation approach. Through his vision and the company’s Community Commerce business model, its purpose-driven way of doing business, Sundial equips underserved people and communities with access to the opportunities and resources that enable them to create lasting value for themselves and others. Extending from the company’s shea butter and coconut supply chains in Ghana, to executive education and investment for girls and women of color entrepreneurs at institutions including Darmouth/Tuck School of Business and Babson College in the U.S., to organizational partnerships including the Jackie Robinson Foundation and WACO Theater Center, to support of Todee Mission School, the Smart Liberia – GET program and UNIFORM in Liberia, Sundial’s Community Commerce efforts are building stronger, self-sustaining communities and enterprises around the world.
Under Richelieu’s leadership, Sundial has been certified as a B Corp company and holds a Fair for Life social and fair trade certification. Additionally, in 2015 Sundial was named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in the United States and received the 2015 Corporate Social Responsibility of the Year Award from WWD/Beauty Inc, while Richelieu and Nyema received the Lewis Institute Changemaker Award from Babson College for their efforts in challenging the status quo, creating positive social change and making the world a better place. Sundial has also previously received Black Enterprise’s “Emerging Business of the Year Award,” which recognizes businesses that have poised themselves for growth, and in July 2017, the company made its debut at #10 on the Black Enterprise BE 100s list – recognizing the largest black-owned companies in the U.S. In addition, SheaMoisture received the 2016 Ad Campaign of the Year Award from WWD/Beauty Inc for its “Break the Walls” efforts, and both SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage have garnered awards from publications including Allure, Better Nutrition, Ebony, Esquire, Essence, Family Circle, Life & Style, Natural Health, Parents, Prevention and Real Beauty, among others.
In 2017, Richelieu founded Essence Ventures, an independent African-American owned company focused on merging content, community and commerce to meet the evolving cultural and lifestyle needs of women of color. In January 2018, the company announced that it had acquired Essence Communications Inc. from Time Inc. – reestablishing ESSENCE as a 100% black-owned independent company. Richelieu currently serves as the chair of Essence Ventures. Richelieu has been named by OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network to its inaugural “SuperSoul 100” list celebrating a dynamic group of 100 trailblazers using their power to move the world forward and whose vision and life’s work are bringing a higher level of consciousness to the world around them and encouraging others to do the same. He has also been named by Fast Company as one of the “Most Creative People in Business.”
In December 2017, the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, conferred upon him one of the nation’s highest honors – the distinction of Knight Commander – and admitted Richelieu into the Most Venerable Order of the Knighthood of the Pioneers.
Karen Gordon Mills is a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Business School and a leading authority on U.S. competitiveness, entrepreneurship and innovation. She was a member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, serving as the Administrator of the
U.S. Small Business Administration from 2009 to 2013, and is an expert on the economic health and well-being of the nation’s small businesses.
Mills frequently provides analysis and insight on the small business lending market and its impact on the nation’s economy, including on the rapid growth of “fintech” online lenders, which she details in two working papers: The State of Small Business Lending: Innovation and Technology and Implications for Regulation (November 2016) and The State of Small Business Lending: Credit Access in the Recovery and How Technology May Change the Game (July 2014). With a focus on the link between entrepreneurship and middle-class opportunity, she authored portions of the Harvard Business School U.S. Competitiveness project’s reports Growth and Shared Prosperity and The Challenge of Shared Prosperity.
Mills is President of MMP Group, which invests in financial services, consumer products and technology-enabled solutions. She currently serves as a director of several fast-growing entrepreneurial companies, including First Aid Beauty, and is Vice Chair of Envoy, an immigration services provider. Mills is Chair of the Advisory Committee for the Private Capital Research Institute, co-Chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Main Street Finance Task Force, and serves on the Board of Directors of the National Bureau of Economic Research. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Harvard Corporation, Harvard’s highest governing board.
As SBA Administrator, Mills served on the President’s National Economic Council and as a key member of the White House economic team. At SBA, she led a team of more than 3,000 employees and managed a loan guarantee portfolio of over $100 billion. Mills is credited with turning around the agency, streamlining loan programs, decreasing processing times and reducing paperwork, which led to record-breaking years for SBA lending and investments in growth capital. Additionally, Mills led efforts to help small businesses create regional economic clusters, gain access to early-stage capital, boost exports, and tap into government and commercial supply chains.
Prior to SBA, Mills held leadership positions in the private sector, including as a partner in several private equity firms, and served on the boards of Scotts Miracle-Gro and Arrow Electronics. In 2007, Maine Governor John Baldacci appointed Mills to Chair Maine’s Council on Competitiveness and the Economy, where she focused on regional development initiatives, including a regional economic cluster with Maine’s boatbuilding industry.
Mills earned an AB in economics from Harvard University and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where she was a Baker Scholar. She is a recipient of the U.S. Department of the Navy’s Distinguished Public Service Award, their highest civilian honor, and is a frequent guest on news outlets and an opinion writer, with recent placements in Fortune, Forbes, The Hill, Harvard Business Review, U.S. News and World Report and American Banker.
Governor Patrick joined Bain Capital in 2015 and is a managing director of the Double Impact business. Prior to joining the firm, he served as Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for eight years. Before entering public office, Governor Patrick was Executive Vice President and General Counsel of The Coca-Cola Company. He also worked as Vice President and General Counsel of Texaco, Inc. and served on the company’s Executive Council. Governor Patrick was previously a Partner at Day, Berry & Howard and a Partner at Hill & Barlow. In 1994, he was appointed by President Clinton as Assistant Attorney General overseeing the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Mr. Patrick graduated cum laude with a BA degree from Harvard College and earned his JD degree from Harvard Law School.
Nancy E. Pfund is Founder and Managing Partner of DBL Partners, a venture capital firm whose goal is to combine top-tier financial returns with meaningful social, economic and environmental returns in the regions and sectors in which it invests. As a leading player in impact investing, DBL has helped to reveal the power of venture capital to promote social change and environmental improvement, and Ms. Pfund writes and speaks frequently on the field of impact investing. She sponsors or sits on the board of directors of several companies, including; Farmer’s Business Network, The Muse, Advanced Microgrid Solutions, Off-Grid Electric, Primus Power, and, prior to their public offerings, Tesla Motors and Pandora. She also served on the board of SolarCity, and was on both the audit and compensation committees, and also chair of the corporate governance committee from 2008 until its acquisition by Tesla in December 2016. Ms. Pfund was featured #17 in the 2014 FORTUNE Inaugural World’s Top 25 Eco-Innovators; and appeared on Fast Company’s 2016 List of Most Creative People in Business. She serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Geographic Society, as a member and former chair of the Advisory Council of the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University; the UC Davis Center for Energy Efficiency; and co-chairs the Yale School of Management Program on Entrepreneurship. She has been a Lecturer in Management at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Yale School of Management; and is a C3E Ambassador to the U.S. Clean Energy Education and Empowerment Program, led by the U.S. Department of Energy. She is also a founding officer and director of ABC2, a foundation aimed at accelerating a cure for brain cancer. Ms. Pfund received her BA and MA in anthropology from Stanford University, and her MBA from the Yale School of Management.
ICIC is proud to work with dedicated partners on the Inner City 100 Conference and Awards: