SheaMoisture CEO Cara Sabin is investing in Black consumers

The sweetness business is altering. It’s nonetheless a breeding floor for creativity and artistry, however it’s additionally extra socially conscious than ever earlier than, because of consumers who’re demanding extra from the manufacturers they know and love.

Consumers at this time reply to manufacturers which can be socially engaged—and whose management understands their considerations, says Cara Sabin, CEO of Sundial Manufacturers, a number one maker of skincare merchandise for Black consumers with a portfolio that features SheaMoisture, Nubian Heritage, and Nyakio. “For companies to essentially future-proof themselves,” she says, “it’s going to be a requirement: [They] should mirror their shopper base.”

Throughout a panel on the Fast Company Innovation Festival on Tuesday, Sabin spoke with Quick Firm senior editor Amy Farley about being a Black government in the wonder business and her present position main an organization that engages with Black consumers.


Earlier than changing into CEO of Sundial, Sabin held positions at Clinique, Nars, Neutrogena, and L’Oreal haircare. “From code-switching to imposter syndrome, I got here up in an age the place it was normalized for folks of coloration to nearly compartmentalize their variations in a strategy to assimilate,” she mentioned, reflecting on her profession. “What is totally different [today] is that I lead with my distinction.” 

Sabin’s tenure at Sundial got here throughout a troublesome time. She joined the corporate in December 2019, only a few months earlier than the world went into quarantine and earlier than the protests over the homicide of George Floyd put racial justice in the highlight. 

She responded by leaning into SheaMoisture’s long-standing “neighborhood commerce” mannequin, which goals to convey financial independence to native communities by investing in them. Since its cofounding in 1991 by Liberian refugee Richelieu Dennis, SheaMoisture has labored carefully with women-led cooperatives in Ghana, the place its elements are grown. (SheaMoisture grew into Sundial Manufacturers earlier than being acquired by Unilever in 2017.) It additionally invests in Black communities right here in the USA—a precedence for Sabin amid the pandemic.

Whereas COVID-19 impacted small companies throughout the board, Black-owned companies had been hit the toughest, and plenty of needed to shut their doorways completely. To assist, Sundial launched a million-dollar COVID-19 reduction fund to assist Black-owned companies and entrepreneurs. 

“We noticed the impression of COVID on communities, companies, and the well being [of] our neighborhood,” Sabin mentioned in the course of the competition. “We pivoted a few of our packages in order that we might assist entrepreneurs throughout this time, and there are over 100 new companies that now we have introduced into the fold via [the New Voices] Fund.” As well as, SheaMoisture is offering funding for Shots at the Shop, a partnership with the White Home in which barbers and stylists are educated to deal with vaccine hesitancy amongst their clients. 

Sabin mentioned what it’s like to steer a previously Black-owned enterprise that’s now a part of Unilever. When Sundial was acquired in 2017, some folks believed that the 30-year-old, family-owned model was promoting out. The acquisition got here on the heels of a misguided SheaMoisture advert marketing campaign that featured principally white girls—and led to accusations of whitewashing. Final summer time, the dialog emerged once more, when folks seeking to assist Black-owned manufacturers found that SheaMoisture, technically, wasn’t one. 

“I welcome that dialog,” Sabin mentioned. “I believe it’s essential for us as a neighborhood to essentially set up” the place generational wealth can come from. “It may well come from entrepreneurship. It may well come from the maturation of that enterprise [and] it being acquired, after which reinvesting these funds in different areas that may make an impression.” She famous that Dennis has used the proceeds from his sale to Unilever to accumulate Essence and launch ventures just like the New Voices Foundation, which invests in girls of coloration entrepreneurs.


Sundial Manufacturers is additional placing its a refund into the neighborhood that it serves. Final fall, SheaMoisture launched a brand new advert marketing campaign, It Comes Naturally, to reintroduce the model—and reiterate its deal with Black consumers by highlighting the work of Black girls creatives. 

“We had been growing and producing this [campaign] in the center of COVID, so we couldn’t do reside motion. As an alternative, we commissioned six unbelievable artists and illustrators,” Sabin mentioned. “Via their work, we had been capable of inform the story of the impression that Black girls have made on the world.”

The marketing campaign was cocreated by BBDO and Joy Collective, a Washington, D.C.-based company with a Black feminine founder, and options Black girls behind the scenes, “from the copywriter and voice-over [artists] to the music composer,” Sabin mentioned.

Whereas many mainstream manufacturers performed catchup in the course of the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 and tried to display their dedication to racial fairness, SheaMoisture has had a decades-long head begin.

“If I take my enterprise hat off and I’m only a shopper, there was quite a lot of performative allyship that was occurring, and quite a lot of guarantees that had been made,” Sabin mentioned. “I believe many individuals wish to know, are you holding true to these commitments?” She’s on a mission to point out consumers that Sundial has.