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How SheaMoisture is working to close the racial wealth gap

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Average read time: 4 minutes

The brand’s first Impact Report highlights the partnerships and programmes it supports to help Black-owned businesses grow.

Close up of a Black woman’s hands as she dips fingers into a jar of Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie hair product

The inequality in incomes, assets and opportunities between Black and white households, also known as the racial wealth gap, stands at more than $11 trillion in the US today.

That’s why SheaMoisture is taking inspiration from its founder to create new possibilities for Black entrepreneurs to thrive. As the No.1 multicultural hair brand in the US, it’s reinvesting at least 1% of its net sales* income every year in the Black community. And its 2022 Impact Report (Opens in a new window) reveals the progress so far.

Published in November, the report shows that the brand has awarded $10 million in grants, educational programmes, partnerships and donations that provide economic opportunities for underserved and under-represented business owners.

Highlights include:

  • The Next Black Millionaire Fund (Opens in a new window), which launched in 2021 and provides businesses with $100,000 in funding and business development support. The three inaugural recipients (Opens in a new window) were announced in July 2022.
  • Over 50,000 hours of education delivered to Black business owners.
  • More than $900,000 provided for entrepreneurial education opportunities between 2020 and 2021.
  • Investment in more than 250 under-resourced, Black-owned small businesses.
  • Over $1 million in Covid-19 relief provided for businesses and communities in 2020, and $1 million pledged for community resilience in 2021.
  • More than 53,000 West African women in cooperatives have received fair wages in the brand’s shea butter supply chain.

Investing in the future

This report illustrates the work that’s happened, but more importantly it points to the work that still needs to be done. We hope to inspire others to join us to accelerate the wealth cycle for Black generations to come.

Cara Sabin, CEO of SheaMoisture’s parent company Sundial Brands and of Beauty & Wellbeing for Unilever North America

Cara Sabin, CEO of SheaMoisture’s parent company Sundial Brands and of Beauty & Wellbeing for Unilever North America, explains.

“When I first took the helm at SheaMoisture, our founder Richelieu Dennis invited me on a trip to Ghana to visit the women who run our cooperatives and hand-craft the shea butter for our products. It was a deeply personal experience to be there with those women and feel the power of generations of entrepreneurship stretching back to Rich’s beloved grandmother Sofi Tucker, who first began selling shea butter products in Sierra Leone in 1912,” she says.

“The seeds planted then were nurtured over time. And as a Black-led, women-led business, it’s our hope that the seeds we continue to cultivate today will further power generations of Black and Brown entrepreneurs, and inspire other businesses to do the same. There is much more work to be done. But we’re excited about how much fruit our current and future investments will bear.

"We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished and are humbled by the impact we’re able to create within our communities,” Cara adds.

“This report illustrates the work that’s happened, but more importantly it points to the work that still needs to be done. We hope to inspire others to join us to accelerate the wealth cycle for Black generations to come.”

A woman making shea butter in Ghana. Her bare feet, hands and part of her pattered dress are visible. Ground shea nuts are in a bowl in her left hand.
A woman hand-crafting shea butter at a SheaMoisture cooperative in Ghana

Operations with ethics

Reinvesting in Black-owned businesses is one way SheaMoisture aims to enrich lives, families, businesses and futures – and it’s also working to increase equity in Black communities through its operations, as the report details.

  • The brand is committed to ethical sourcing, with key raw ingredients purchased from cooperatives in West Africa that provide women with fair wages and new opportunities.
  • SheaMoisture prioritises Black-owned business for collaboration on marketing, events and partnerships.
  • And as part of Sundial, the brand is a certified B Corporation (Opens in a new window), belonging to a global movement for an inclusive, equitable and regenerative economic system.

This work began over 30 years ago when SheaMoisture Founder Richelieu Dennis established Sundial Brands with his philosophy of business as a source for good.

In 2017, Richelieu entered into an acquisition deal with Unilever, a partnership which included the creation of the New Voices Fund, a venture capital fund that invests in entrepreneurs of colour. Together with the Dennis Family, the New Voices Fund has invested over $100 million in portfolio companies.

Paying it forward

As a community, we need to lean into our village to build Black wealth. SheaMoisture has been doing this work from day one and the brand has always put its purpose first.

Angela Yee, US radio personality and entrepreneur

In tandem with the report and to celebrate 30 years of investing in Black entrepreneurship, SheaMoisture recently partnered with renowned US radio personality and entrepreneur Angela Yee to announce its first Community Impact Grant for small business entrepreneurs.

“As a community, we need to lean into our village to build Black wealth,” said Angela at the launch in November.

“SheaMoisture has been doing this work from day one and the brand has always put its purpose first. As an entrepreneur myself, I know how important this work is, and am excited to team up with them and help other entrepreneurs who are trying to build their own hustle.”

SheaMoisture received over 1,200 applications from Black small business owners who work to address needs in their community. The two winners of this $10,000 grant will be announced in January 2023.

Looking ahead, SheaMoisture is aiming to become a $1 billion brand, demonstrating how purpose-led businesses can simultaneously be successful. Among the future goals laid out in the report include another $10 million worth of community investment by 2025.

[*]

Net sales refers to net sales value (NSV), which represents gross sales (volume x list price) – efficient ordering discounts.


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