Edward G. Gardner, the founder of Soft Sheen Products Inc., passed away on Monday, March 20, 2023, at the age of 98.
His passing is a great loss to the business world, the beauty industry, and the community he served. Born in Chicago in 1925, Gardner grew up in a time when racial segregation was a reality in the United States. Despite the obstacles he faced, he was determined to make a difference and create opportunities for himself and others. He served in World War II as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces. After the war, he earned a degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois and went on to work in the hair care industry.
In 1954, Gardner founded Soft Sheen Products Inc. with his wife, Betty. The company started with just $500 and a dream to create a hair care product line specifically for people of color. Gardner’s knowledge of chemistry and his understanding of the unique needs of African American hair helped him to create products that were effective and affordable. Soft Sheen Products quickly became a household name and a symbol of pride for the African American community.
Under Gardner’s leadership, Soft Sheen Products Inc. grew to become one of the largest African American-owned companies in the United States. Gardner was a trailblazer in the beauty industry, and his success inspired countless entrepreneurs and business owners. Gardner was also a philanthropist and a champion of education. He believed that education was the key to unlocking opportunities and breaking down barriers. He established the Soft Sheen Products Scholarship Fund, which has helped countless students pursue their dreams of higher education.
Gardner’s legacy will live on through his family, his company, and the countless lives he touched throughout his life. His contributions to the business world, the beauty industry, and the community at large will not be forgotten.
Edward G. Gardner will be remembered as a visionary leader, an innovator, and a pioneer in his field. His passing is a great loss, but his impact will continue to be felt for generations to come.