Have you heard? At last month’s Essence Fest, Essence Ventures CEO Richelieu Dennis announced the official launch of the $100 million New Voices Foundation. Dennis, also Founder of the Shea Moisture Brand, had already invested more than $30 million in the 6 months prior to the announcement. “What many of you may not have known all these years is that when you were buying Shea Moisture products you weren’t just investing in that business,” said Dennis during the event’s opening press conference. “We need you to continue buying Shea Moisture so [that] we can continue putting that money back in[to] the community.” The New Voices Fund, dedicated to funding Black Women in business, was originally established in 2017.
As if that were not enough, the CEO also took the opportunity to announce the new Essence Creators and Makers Fund. Essence Ventures, the parent company of Essence Communications, has already invested $20 million into that fund under the guidance of Dennis. Focused on curating African-American content, production company ‘Flavor Unit Entertainment’ lead by Queen Latifah and Shakim Compere is the first partnership on the bill. Appropriately so, being that during the announcement Dennis gave credit to the duo for developing the idea in the first place. During a later panel discussion on Entrepreneurship, Queen Latifah spoke about the financial obstacles that new ventures often face. “One of the most difficult things is struggling to find the capital to continue your ideas. So by supporting us, you are going to keep this engine running in a way you [can’t] even imagine.” Flavor Unit Entertainment will both create and finance film, television, digital, and documentary-style content that reflects the lives and experiences of Women of Color. The Essence Platform — including print, digital, and live events — will be used to market and promote projects taken under the fund.
I truly respect Dennis for his direct actions against the disadvantages plaguing Black Economics. So far concerning the Makers and Creators who need to “own our content and not just be work for hire” and the Black Women Entrepreneurs that will receive funding for their businesses, I can’t wait to see what else is in store. “Essence and the vision… speaks to Black Women, but also that creates an economic engine through which… we can reinvest back into our community.” Dennis leads by the example that, with initiative, each of us can take part in the collective growth. I’m convinced that, in finding his purpose, Dennis has our backs for the long haul. That’s almost enough to make me grow back out my hair to support Shea Moisture again. Almost.
Stayed tuned for surfacing news about The Essence Creators and Makers Fund.
Applications for The New Voices Foundation are not yet open, however, you can initiate a profile on the site here.
The New Voices Fund is a 501( c)(3) Non-Profit Organization. Tax-deductible contributions can be made here.