The Gardners had their hands in Chicago politics as well, and their efforts in that arena led to the election of Harold Washington, Chicago’s first Black mayor. Soft Sheen dedicated its advertising budget to running spots on the radio focused on voter engagement. At the time, Edward Gardner told the Chicago Weekend, “My family has always been involved in trying to make life better for the African-American community.”
Gardner added, “We thought it was our responsibility as a successful Black company, where we gained most of (our) income right here in Chicago, to give back… to help the Black community realize its strength and power.”
Bettiann also was a founding member of the Chicago Sinfonietta orchestra. The Chicago Sinfonietta has become known over the years as a place where diversity, inclusion and equity is not only encouraged, but championed, according to their website.
In 1998, the pair sold their franchise to cosmetics conglomerate L’Oreal in a deal that benefited both sides. Soft Sheen got to keep their name attached to the product, and thus kept their legacy alive, and L’Oreal got access to the Black hair care market.
Terri told the Chicago Sun-Times that her mother’s desire for beauty and aesthetics as well as a high standard was reflected in the company culture.
“For my mom, it was always how we did things, and she very much appreciated the aesthetics of life, and that showed in the buildings, the ingredients, the products, the packaging. It was all part of her desire to be the best we could be,” Gardner said. “In many ways, the culture of the company was largely a reflection of her values and principles of excellence. She expected a lot and that helped everybody to raise their game.”
Bettiann Gardner is survived by her children, Terri Gardner, Guy Gardner, Gary Gardner, and Tracy Gardner as well as seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
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Source: Black Enterprise