SheaMoisture founder Richelieu Dennis is set to turn hair icon Madam C.J. Walker’s historic home into an incubator for women of color.
After weeks of rumors, Dennis has confirmed that he wants to turn the 100-year old home he purchased last year into an entrepreneurship hub. Lo Hud reported Dennis shared his vision for the 20,000-square-foot Villa Lewaro estate in Irvington, New York at a village board meeting Dec. 17, 2018.
His plans include restoring the 34-room mansion which was designed by New York’s first registered Black architect, Vertner Tandy. Afterward, he looks forward to launching a think tank, hosting on-site retreats and other activities to boost entrepreneurship.
“When people think of women’s empowerment and economic inclusion, they should think of Irvington,” said Dennis. “The idea is we would create a think tank where we would have some of the some of the best minds in the country thinking about entrepreneurs and the challenges of entrepreneurship for women and women of color.”
This is not his first go-round at recognizing Walker’s legacy. In 2016, he launched the Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture hair collection via his Sundial Brands, which is also home to SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage. He has also been steady in his commitment to supporting Black women entrepreneurs and other women of color through his New Voices Fund, which he launched in 2017 to provide $100 million for businesses owned or managed by women of color. After selling his Sundial Brands to Unilever in 2017, he remained on CEO and went on to purchase ESSENCE Magazine making it 100% Black-owned for the first time in nearly 200 years.
“The Dennis family wants to make sure that Madam Walker’s legacy continues not only through the hair care products but also through this beautiful home that was intended by Madam Walker as a place that would inspire others,” Walker’s great-great-granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles who serves as a brand historian for the Madam C.J. Walker line at Sundial Brands. “They embody it themselves and they understand why it is important for other people to be able to share the vibrations that come from that house.”