EA Recipients

Entrepreneurial Achievement Award - 2019

The Entrepreneurial Achievement Award is given to outstanding individuals who combine innovative business achievement with service to humanity. The award was established to provide appropriate recognition to those individuals and firms who contribute significantly to the vitality and strength of the economy, combining innovative business achievement with service to humanity.


Richelieu Dennis

Co-Founder and CEO, Sundial Brands
Nominated by Rutgers State University of New Jersey-New Brunswick


Sundial Brands Co-Founder Richelieu Dennis was born in Liberia and came to the United States to attend business school at Babson College. Upon graduating, Liberia was in the midst of a civil war, and it wasn’t safe for Dennis to return home.

Driven by his passion for entrepreneurship, Dennis partnered with his mother, Mary, along with his best friend and college roommate Nyema Tubman to create a line of natural bath and body care products that address skin and hair care issues traditionally ignored by mass-market companies, including hyperpigmentation and the special needs of textured hair. The products, which are designed for are based off generations-old recipes handed down from his grandmother, who sold handmade shea butter-based soaps and salves to support her family in West Africa.

Sundial Brands—maker of SheaMoisture, Nubian Heritage and other inclusive product lines—was acquired by Unilever in 2017; Dennis still serves as CEO. As part of his deal with Unilever, Dennis founded New Voices Fund, a $100 million fund to support and empower women of color entrepreneurs. He also owns Essence Magazine.

Dennis has been named to OWN’s SuperSoul 100 list and Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business list, and has earned Babson College’s Lewis Institute Changemaker Award and Alumni Entrepreneur Award, and in 2017 was knighted by the president of Liberia.

Adele Oliva

Founding Partner, 1315 Capital; Partner, Quaker Partners
Nominated by Saint Joseph’s University

Adele Oliva is a partner and co-founder of 1315 Capital, an investment firm that provides growth capital to commercial-stage medical technology, healthcare service
and specialty pharmaceutical companies (with more than $500 million under management). Since 2007, she’s also been a partner at the healthcare investment firm Quaker Partners.

Oliva has been featured on Forbes’ Midas List of top 100 technology investors worldwide, top 10 life science investors, and top women in venture capital. In 2016, she was recognized by the Philadelphia Business Journal as part of the Power 76 list of the region’s most influential people.

Before joining Quaker Partners, Oliva was a partner and co-head of the U.S. healthcare group at Apax Partners, where she started in 1997. She also held roles at Baxter Healthcare and CoreStates Financial Corporation, which became part of First Union Corporation, Wachovia Bank, and later Wells Fargo.

Oliva earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Saint Joseph’s University; she went on to serve as the director of the eastern European development program at Cornell University, where she completed her MBA and the Albert Fried Fellowship. After that, she completed the Kauffman Fellowship, a leadership development program for venture capitalists.

Oliva is the founding president of Private Equity Women’s Investment Network, an advisory board member of Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management, and a trustee of Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital.

Rodney Williams

CEO and Co-Founder, LISNR
Nominated by West Virginia University


Rodney Williams is CEO and co-founder of LISNR, an ultrasonic smart tone technology that uses inaudible high frequencies to send data.

In just a few years, Williams has grown LISNR from a single idea to a promising global standard. It’s led to more than 40 industry awards and honors, including a Cannes Gold Lion for mobile software innovation in 2015 and a Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Innovation Award for software and mobile apps in 2017 and 2018. The company has also been honored internationally on lists like CNBC’s Upstart 100 and Disruptor 50.

Williams has also been featured on Ad Age's 40 under 40 and was Black Enterprise's Tech Entrepreneur of the Year in 2016. He earned four degrees in finance and economics, including an MBA from Howard University. Prior to launching LISNR, he worked in brand management for Procter & Gamble; in government new business development for Lockheed Martin; and in consumer acquisitions and CRM management for a collegiate digital agency.

Williams is a celebrated speaker, mentor, and advisor. He currently sits on the board of 2 VC-funded startups (Wyzerr & Solofunds) and is the youngest member of the board of advisors for the Howard University School of Business. He also spends his time teaching and writing, and was recently chosen to be a contributing author for Forbes, covering innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership and disruptive technologies.