Richelieu Dennis Jr., a ’91 graduate from Liberia, came to Babson College with high hopes. He planned to start a stand-alone business selling oranges, pineapples, and grapefruit. He observed, “When I went to university, 4,500 kilometres from my home, an unexpected thing happened. I located a home “. By the time he graduated, his goals had shifted in part as a result of the information he learned and the connections he made while attending Babson. But his future was also impacted by the circumstance. A civil war in Liberia started when he was a Babson student. Dennis’ mother applied for refuge in the US soon after graduation, having lost her home and everything she owned.
What was the inspiration for his commencement speech?
His own graduation took place in a quite different setting than this one. But to compare the chaos and unpredictability of today with Dennis’s own instability and unpredictability of thirty years ago wouldn’t be too far-fetched. As soon as Dennis had his diploma, he began to define his place in the world. Instead of returning to Liberia to start a citrus farming enterprise, Dennis founded Sundial Brands in Harlem, New York, to offer high-quality items for Black women and to solve the disparity in the cosmetics aisle. The revolutionary $100 million New Voices Fund was formed in 2017 with the goal of assisting and funding female entrepreneurs of colour. The following year, Dennis reclaimed Essence’s sole Black ownership when he purchased it. As the events in Dennis’ home country motivated him to make a difference, the pandemic and social injustice are the main motivators for a new breed of innovators, entrepreneurial leaders trained to solve difficult societal problems.