Nubian Heritage is one of the original Black beauty brands that cater to natural hair. Instead of focusing on relaxers or healthy straighteners, Nubian Heritage uses natural, African ingredients to make textured hair as healthy as possible.
However, is Nubian Heritage Black-owned or not? Here’s what we found out.
Is Nubian Heritage Black Owned?
The short answer is no, Nubian Heritage is not Black-owned. However, for the first 24 years, the brand was Black-owned and run. Its parent company got purchased by Unilever in 2017 and is now owned by them. However, there’s a long answer to the question as well.
It’s a complicated question. Nubian Heritage still has many of the same values and business practices from when it was Black-owned because of a deal the CEO made when he sold the business to Unilever.
Although Nubian Heritage is not Black-owned, it is still completely controlled by its original CEO, a Liberian immigrant named Richelieu Dennis, whose main requirement when making the Unilever deal was that he would still make all the business decisions.
Nubian Heritage and its parent company Sundial Brands have a history of catering to people of color who are not trying to straighten or relax their natural hair. From its humble beginnings in Dennis’ kitchen to the multi-million dollar company it is now, Nubian Heritage has been able to hold fast to this mission.
The History of Nubian Heritage
Nubian Heritage was founded in Richelieu Dennis’ Manhattan apartment in 1993 when he and his mother first moved to America. He attended school in the United States with the intent of going back to Africa to improve his hometown. However, the civil war in Liberia made it unsafe to stay, and he brought his mother to New York with him.
Once in New York, Dennis and his mother, Mary, noticed that many of the hair products for Black men and women focused on straightening, relaxing, or untangling the hair–essentially, making it seem more white. There were no products focused on natural hair care.
Richelieu Dennis’ grandmother made a living selling hair care products in Africa. Dennis and his mother followed in her footsteps, using the natural ingredients and family recipes to create hair gels, creams, and shampoos. They started small, but gradually made deals with retail stores like Target and Whole Foods.
The Dennis’ named their company Sundial Brands and grew more quickly than they imagined. The niche in the market was expanding as natural hairstyles were becoming more popular in America. Naturally-based products were also gaining popularity, as customers shied away from the carcinogens and chemicals in many hair and body lotions.
Dennis had a background in gardening and farming and knew that natural products work well to keep hair healthy. He began to create soaps and lotions based on the African ingredients of black soap, shea butter, and other indigenous ingredients. With these, he made the product lines of Nubian Heritage and SheaMoisture.
In 2015, Richelieu Dennis began to sell shares in Sundial Brands. There was some backlash to his selling shares to various companies, but he insisted that he never “sold out.” Instead, he used the capital from the stocks to increase the market value of his products.
Sundial Brands owns both SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage. These brands focus on Black skin and hair health. Using natural ingredients sourced from Africa, India, and the Middle East, Sundial Brands brings awareness to how the products are created and where the ingredients originated.
By celebrating both the source of the ingredients and the hair they condition, Nubian Heritage becomes a truly multicultural beauty brand. Thanks to its partnership with Unilever, it serves men and women worldwide.
Sundial Brands ensures that its ethically sourced ingredients are from farmers in Africa. Ghana is the primary source of the shea butter used in most products, and the farmers who provide this ingredient are partners in the company. The company helps grow the economy and keep the environment healthy through these business practices.
In 2017, Dennis had a huge decision to make. Unilever, a cosmetics giant run by a white man, had approached him before. However, he was again short on capital and needed another boost to continue distributing the products he made. After meeting with Unilever’s CEO, Dennis agreed to sell his company.
In an interview, Dennis revealed his conditions: he would remain in charge of the company and would continue to make all the business decisions. Also, Unilever and Sundial Brands set up the New Voices Fund for Black female entrepreneurs in the beauty business. Even though he no longer owns Sundial Brands, Dennis is still the CEO and has the same mission.
Unilever bought Sundial Brands as part of its agenda to reach out to communities and nationalities previously underrepresented in the beauty industry. Nubian Heritage and SheaMoisture both focused on people of color, from African to Indian heritage. In purchasing Sundial Brands, Unilever widened its scope of influence in America.
Sundial is owned by Unilever but is still an individual brand. It continues to function as a standalone business. Both Unilever and Dennis will make profits off any products sold by SheaMoisture or Nubian Heritage, even though Dennis makes all the business decisions.
The deal was also beneficial to Sundial and Dennis. Dennis, of course, became the CEO of a multi-million dollar company. Through Unilever, he can ship his products worldwide and reach a much wider array of customers.
Although Sundial Brands and Nubian Heritage are no longer Black-owned, they still serve Black Americans with the same mission that they did in 1993. Because Richelieu Dennis is still in charge, he can reach out to the customers who need products for natural hair and do it authentically.
Is Nubian Heritage Black Owned? Final Thoughts
Nubian Heritage is not technically a Black-owned business anymore. However, it is still Black-run and uses some unique and incredible production techniques to celebrate and ethically use natural resources. Although Unilever owns Nubian Heritage, Richelieu Dennis is still very much in charge.