ESSENCE Ventures CEO, Richelieu Dennis, is keeping good on his promise to put his money where his mouth is in a major way to support women of color entrepreneurs.
Speaking during the opening press conference of the 2018 ESSENCE Festival in New Orleans on Thursday afternoon, Dennis was affirmative, optimistic and energetic as he announced the official launch of the $100 million New Voices Fund. He established the fund in 2017 following the highly-publicized sale of his Shea Moisture brand, and in alignment with announcing his purchase of ESSENCE Communications. The purchase returned the ESSENCE brand to 100% Black ownership and provided the all-Black, all-female leadership with an equity stake in the company.
"About six months ago, we announced that we were launching the new voices fund," Dennis said during the press conference. "I'm proud to say that we get to officially, launch, the $100 million New Voices Fund for women of color entrepreneurs here at ESSENCE Festival this weekend. Over the past six months, we have already either invested in, or committed to, over $30 million in Black women entrepreneurs."
Expanding on his goal of specifically creating the fund to provide monetary resources for existing and aspiring women of color entrepreneurs, Dennis emphasized the invaluable importance of investing in the community that has served as the foundation for his unprecedented success as a business owner himself.
"We are going to leverage the businesses that we've built—many of you know, Shea Moisture, Nubian Heritage, Madame CJ Walker—we have leveraged those businesses to generate capital to invest back in our communities and this is the first step in that journey. With the ESSENCE platform, we've now also formed a partnership between New Voices [Fund] and ESSENCE."