Wharton Stories

How a Wharton Family is Disrupting the Beauty Industry

Image: Issa Rae, Malick's sister and co-founder of Sienna Naturals. (Sienna Naturals)
“Keep sacred space for family connection… that’s really important for anyone who’s going to pursue business with their family,” Hannah Diop, WG’09.

The year was 2012, and Hannah Diop, WG’09, was determined to launch a hair-care company from her Harlem kitchen. The apartment she shared with her husband, Malick Diop also WG’09, was full of beakers, pH meters and samples of textured hair tresses, as she worked alongside a chemist to mix shampoos, conditioners and other hair products formulated for textured hair. Malick, then a managing director at Morgan Stanley, would offer encouragement, but there was an ingredient missing. “I felt pretty isolated sitting at home working on this business that existed in my head and not in the real world,” says Hannah.

That’s where Malick’s sister — actress, producer, and entrepreneur Issa Rae — came in. As Hannah was developing Sienna Naturals, Issa was often traveling to New York City for interviews and talk show appearances, and the newlywed couple’s home was the perfect place in which to crash. She became Hannah’s co-founder and contributed to formulas herself, with the Dream Curl Cream as her brainchild. Throughout Issa’s success in Hollywood — as the co-creator and star of HBO’s Insecure and, most recently, a cast member in the Oscar-nominated movie Barbie — Sienna Naturals remained the only beauty brand she endorsed. In turn, when Issa needed a CFO for her growing media company,  Hoorae, Malick stepped into the role, drawing from his Wharton MBA, his background in M&A transactions and financial forecasting, and his familiarity with Issa’s voice and vision. The result was two businesses focused on the Black experience and fueled by family.

The couple’s American and African familial ties to the Black community are reflected in their work. While their businesses couldn’t be more different — media versus beauty products — they’re united by the goals of fostering inclusion and paying forward the pride Hannah and Malick felt in their culture at HBCUs and at Wharton.

This story is by Joanna Blaz. Read more at Wharton Magazine.

Posted: February 15, 2024

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