Liberian-born Richelieu Dennis Jr. ’91 arrived to Babson College with high expectations. He intended to launch an orange, pineapple, and grapefruit stand-alone enterprise. He noticed, “4,500 kilometres from my homeland, when I went to university, an unexpected event happened. I found a house “. His ambitions had changed by the time he graduated in part as a result of the knowledge he gained and contacts he established while attending Babson. But the situation also had an impact on his future. When he was a Babson student, a civil war in Liberia began. Soon after Commencement, Dennis’ mother, who had lost her house and everything she owned, asked for asylum in the US.
What served as the source of his commencement address?
His own graduation was held in a quite different environment from this one. But it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to draw a comparison between the disorder and unpredictability of today and Dennis’s own instability and unpredictability from thirty years ago. Dennis started to define his place in the world as soon as he had his diploma. Dennis established Sundial Brands in Harlem, New York, to provide high-quality products for Black women in order to address the imbalance in the cosmetics aisle rather than moving back to Liberia to start a citrus farming business. In order to support and fund female entrepreneurs of colour, the groundbreaking $100 million New Voices Fund was established in 2017. Dennis bought Essence the year after, restoring its sole Black ownership. The pandemic and social injustice are top motivators for a new generation of innovators, entrepreneurial leaders who are trained to solve challenging societal problems, much as the events in Dennis’ native nation inspired him to make a difference.