SheaMoisture Naturally, It’s a Family Affair
by Anthony Whyte
“It’s a Family Affair,” has always been the mantra at SheaMoisture. It started with the family matriarch, Sofi Tucker, a widowed mother of four who began selling her shea butter creations throughout the countryside of Sierra Leone, Africa, to support her family. Over the years, she passed her homemade skin care recipes on to her family, including her grandson, Richelieu Dennis, one of SheaMoisture’s founders. Liberian refugees, Richelieu, his mother Mary Dennis, and his childhood friend, Nyema Tubman turned to the wisdom of his grandmother. The trio recreated her tried-and-true recipes to support the family in the USA. Shea butter, a natural super-food, is the foundation for all the brand’s formulas. Rich in vitamins and essential fatty acids, it helps maintain natural moisture balance and provides extraordinary care, repair and protection for dry, aging or troubled hair and skin. This is done in traditional formulas that are both effective and respectful of the environment.
Richelieu and Nyema began making and selling shea butter soaps on the streets of New York City. Daily one-on-one interaction, and listening intently to valuable customer feedback convinced the pair that they were on the right track. It was clear that they were building a strong community that was not being properly served by traditional retailers. They found that when the needs of customers were addressed first, the products sold themselves. Selling products came secondary to building relationships. These strong ties allowed them to build a product line for many customers and their families. The three formed Sundial Brands and SheaMoisture in Amityville, NY as the demand for products grew. Retailers took notice of the luxurious, unique formulations and natural fragrances. Target, Walgreens, CVS and other retail outlets picked up the collections.
The first U.S. shea butter-based company has pioneered a number of products stateside, including its best-selling African Black Soap. It aids in reducing blemishes and dark spots, soothing symptoms of eczema and psoriasis, and firming and brightening skin by making use of a centuries-old tradition of cooking raw black soap, plantains, ash and shea butter into a natural cleanser. Even as SheaMoisture grows, the company has remained steadfastly committed to its roots, and not contented with making products that just smell and feel good. The company has also made its mission to incorporate natural, certified organic and fair trade ingredients into the product formulations for their reparative, healing and aroma-therapeutic benefits. Shea, mango and cocoa butters, African black soap, sea kelp, baobab, argan and avocado oils, also hibiscus and orchid extracts have been used by the family in recipes for generations. The products are known for as much for what is in them as what is not. Products are free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and other synthetic ingredients.
Richelieu firmly believes that products with natural ingredients should be available to everyone, and strives to keep products affordable. The message that everyone is beautiful is a strong foundation for the brand and SheaMoisture’s success. “These therapeutic products should be accessible to the community regardless of where they live or their budget. We’ve developed products to meet the needs of the entire family — from babies to seniors. It’s my hope that the experiences in my family are re-created daily with SheaMoisture. It’s gratifying to know that mothers have braided their daughter’s hair for the first time with our products. I have four daughters. I know what that means. There are products for the guys in the family, too. I insisted on that,” he said.
The three SheaMoisture partners, Richelieu, Nyema and Emmet Dennis also spoke up about the need for natural shave products in the mass marketplace and taking the drudgery out of daily shaving, so the company created its award-winning Men’s Shave and Groom Collection. Formulated to soften and lubricate thick, coarse facial hair of men of color, the products also reduce razor burn and blemishes with ingredients such as African black soap, certified organic shea butter, tea tree oil and willow bark extract. Barbers soon championed the line for its comprehensive shaving care. Barber to celebrities, Jove Edmonds of Studio 2356 in Los Angeles said, “It’s my go-to shave line. My clients include rappers and athletes who travel frequently without much time for regular shaving care, and the products make a significant difference in the condition of their skin.”
Richelieu also became an accomplished perfumer, creating one-of-kind, and natural fragrances with essential oils and fruit extracts, such as the brand’s Coconut & Hibiscus scent range. Two years ago, the company launched its Hair Care Collection, including the Curl & Shine and Repair & Transition lines, which became an overnight sensation — especially in the curly, textured hair world. As the natural hair movement boomed, Curl Enhancing Smoothie, Curl & Style Milk and other products became textured hair staples. Natural hair pioneer and celebrity stylist Diane Bailey, who’s styled Beyoncé and Lauryn Hill, said, “What draws me to SheaMoisture Hair Care is that there’s something for each stop on a woman’s hair journey. Whether she’s relaxing her hair, transitioning, doing the big chop, wearing weaves or changing her style each week, there’s a healthy product for every woman to help her embrace her hair’s natural beauty.”
SheaMoisture Hair Care has garnered a massive following of natural hair advocates and beauty bloggers, in addition to a devoted fanbase, which interacts daily with the brand through the company’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Natural hair bloggers continue to eagerly spread the gospel. “SheaMoisture is the first and last product line that textured hair women need, because it provides an all-inclusive hair care system, with natural and organic ingredients. Gentle and nourishing ingredients are so important when going natural to avoid breakage and damage, while supporting healthy growth,” said Jenell Stewart of KinkyCurlyCoilyMe.com. Another vote of confidence is given by Imani Dawson of TribeCalledCurl.com, she said said, “Dollar-for-dollar, SheaMoisture offers some of the best hair care products on the market. I count a number of them among my staples and consistently recommend them to my clientele.”
Being a family-run company with many babies and children, the founders, under the guidance of resident grandma Mary Dennis, set out to create a baby line with natural and certified organic ingredients based on birthing traditions from Africa. SheaMoisture Raw Shea, Chamomile & Argan Oil Baby Care was born. Shea Butter has been traditionally applied to babies at birth to protect delicate skin from the elements. Argan oil is used in a massage ritual to welcome baby to the world. The collection has proven to not just be for the little ones. The company receives emails from parents who use the products on the whole family. Recently a mom sent a note from a mom who said that she hides a set of the baby care in her linen closet just for her. Definitely Mommy and me!
SheaMoisture remains true to its roots, by staying in touch with customers through events, meet-up sponsorships, shows, sampling and tours. “We always stay connected on the ground. It’s where we started and where we’ll stay. And if customers have any questions about how to use the products, customer service is in place. “I never want to lose that connection to those who use our products,” Richelieu said. “Our customers are our best product development team, and they help us get it right every time.”
“I consider myself lucky to be surrounded by my family at SheaMoisture — my mother, my sister, my wife, my cousin and several close childhood friends — each makes a vital contribution to our continued success. We share a family history of perseverance, strength and pride in our heritage and upbringing, which I know shinesBottom to top: Nyema Tubman, Mary Dennis and Richelieu Dennis
through in our products and the way in which we do business each day,”