Hotel management

Richelieu Dennis on the differences between starting a business and a career

In an interview with Adam Bryant, Richelieu Dennis, founder of beauty products company Sundial Brands, discusses building a business versus a career. Dennis applied his entrepreneurial skills and some lessons from his family to build a multi-billion dollar personal care business.

Richelieu Dennis Background

Richelieu Dennis was born and raised in Liberia in West Africa. He grew up in a time when there were civil wars where his father is from and Sierra Leone, his mother’s country. His family often fled for safety from violence in both countries.

According to Dennis, living in Liberia was difficult. There have been numerous murders, student protests, insecurity and wrongful imprisonments. Luckily, he got a scholarship to go to college in the United States and stayed there even after graduation due to the continuous civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

His parents and their influence on his leadership style

Dennis’ father ran insurance and his mother was an economist working for the Liberian government. But both of his grandmothers were entrepreneurs from whom he learned how a business could impact future generations.

He is absorbed in what his mother taught him about business. In fact, she even became his partner. With his mother by his side and college roommate Nyema Tubman, Dennis has created some of the best beauty products for African American women. Dennis describes his mother as a compassionate leader, a trait he has chosen as his guiding principle in leadership.

leadership lessons

Becoming an entrepreneur has not been without its ups and downs. Contrary to his expectations, Richelieu Dennis had to work with more new employees to bring them up to speed. They also lacked the infrastructure to support the expertise of these employees.

Despite the challenge of laying the groundwork, Dennis learned the benefit of having mentors and reaching out to others for ideas. He is now focused on passing on his knowledge to people who ask for help.

Feedback from beauty product customers

Natural beauty brand Shea Moisture has faced backlash from customers after a new advert featuring mostly white women. The campaign was not well received by most Shea Moisture customers, who felt that the campaign was not aimed at the market segment that made it what it is today.

According to Dennis, the ad was the result of brand mismanagement, but they admitted the error. He says he learned the need to immerse new hires in the company culture.

Hiring process

Rich Dennis believes Sundial Brands is a goal-driven business model. During the hiring process, a big concern is whether the new employee is coming to build a business or a career. He believes you can’t build a business by building a career.

Additionally, his interview checklist is whether a person will contribute to building the company’s cultural infrastructure. Its focus is on employees who value diversity of thought and flexibility and are willing to leave the comfort of their office to work in an open layout.

According to Dennis, asking questions from job candidates gives him a clear understanding of what matters to them, whether it’s building their career or building a business.

Richelieu Dennis’ advice to new graduates

Dennis believes that making the world a better place takes time and commitment. His advice to new graduates is to have belief in everything they do, to achieve success and to achieve a certain level of leadership.

People face many challenges when starting a business or leading people. Dennis’ advice is to stick to what they believe in no matter what. He used this strategy for 26 years and remained successful.


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