Madam C.J. Walker is one of the most influential Black business owners in history and now a home that she once lived in will possibly be transformed into a hub for entrepreneurship. According to Lo Hud, billionaire Richelieu Dennis, who owns Sundial Brands and Essence, plans on turning her Irvington, New York Villa Lewaro mansion into an incubator space for women of color.
Dennis wants to use the historic residence—which is 20,000-square-feet and has over 30 rooms—for the creation of an entrepreneurship program that will help women further their businesses through collaboration. “When people think of women’s empowerment and economic inclusion, they should think of Irvington,” said Dennis, during a meeting of the Irvington Village Board of Trustees. “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.” Dennis plans on restoring the mansion and then implementing the program.
As a Liberian immigrant who came from humble beginnings, he sees a lot of parallels between he and Walker’s story and believes that the incubator will be a way to pay homage to the woman who was our country’s first Black woman self-made millionaire. “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 told the news outlet. “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.”
The home was constructed 100 years ago by Black architect Vertner Tandy.