Unilever Acquires SheaMoisture’s Parent Company: Still Black-Owned?

by Yah Yah

Unilever announced that they would be acquiring Sundial Brands, the home of some of our beloved Black-owned brands, including SheaMoisture, Madam C.J. Walker, and Nubian Heritage. This follows a trend of Black-Owned brands traveling down a murky route to diversification. The amount Unilever paid to acquire Sundial is as yet, undisclosed. Without Unilever’s intervention, Sundial Brands is expected to generate approximately $240 million in revenue this year.

For some, the move may not come as too much of a shock, especially not from the beauty brand, SheaMoisture who recently came under fire for shattering the trust of Black Women, after a controversial “All Hair Matters” commercial dropped back in Spring. The ad was eventually pulled but left a bad taste in the mouths of their core consumers (Black Women) who decided to “cancel” the brand.

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SheaMoisture quickly apologized to their consumers via social media with a vow to learn from their mistakes, but how does this new move prove this to us?

Under Unilever, SheaMoisture will operate as a standalone unit within Unilever. Founder, Richelieu Dennis, will continue to act as CEO and executive chairman. But that leaves me with very little comfort. Surely this only means that the brand is not genuinely its own entity, rather, that it just operates as its own entity, which is a huge difference. However loose the reins may be on Sundial Brands, the fact remains that their parent company is not a Black-Owned or even a minority-owned corporation and though short-term advantages may well be clear, the long-term future of trusted brands are not and may well be compromised.

“I’ve always wanted Sundial Brands to be an inspiration to other minority-owned companies of how a business against all odds can achieve excellence, have significant social impact in our communities and be successful on a world stage,” said Richelieu Dennis in a statement. “I am excited Sundial and Unilever have created this partnership, rooted in a purpose-driven ethos, that represents an incredible opportunity to take our Community Commerce economic empowerment and impact model to another level.”

It’s not all bad news. The partnership between Unilever and Sundial will bring about a new wave of Black, female entrepreneurs by creating the New Voices Fund. This will kick off with an initial investment of $50 million to empower minority women entrepreneurs. But will this help to soften the blow?

My feelings surrounding the acquisition are mixed. While I do want every Black-owned brand to succeed, the need to “diversify” should not come at such a high cost. Ownership is important. For our community, ownership (and keeping it) is crucial if we are to thrive and achieve true, economic freedom.

We cannot get there if we are constantly selling our successful businesses/brands to non-minority owned corporations because eventually, they will control the narrative.

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