Meet the Founder: Jenny Nuccio of Imani Collective

Jenny Nuccio of Imani Collective is combining social enterprise with a nonprofit organization to break the cycle of generational poverty in Kenya.

Meet Jenny Nuccio, the Founder and CEO of Imani Collective, which combines the dual power of a social enterprise with a nonprofit organization to break the cycle of generational poverty in Kenya. Today, Imani Collective exists to empower hundreds of artisans through dignified work, opportunity, and community.

Jenny is passionate about empowering other female entrepreneurs to make a meaningful difference in the world. Her mission is to help other women not only find their purpose but maximize their potential for impact. Her story of perseverance, innovation, and social change, especially at a time when female leadership is transforming lives and communities around the world, is an inspiration we can’t wait to share with you today.

Can you share your story? We’d love to learn more about Imani Collective and how you got to where you are today.

I’m originally from Texas and grew up in a Christian home where church was an integral part of our culture and community life. By the time I was eighteen, ready to graduate from high school, I found myself yearning for the sense of community I had experienced growing up in the church. I went through a phase of ‘church hopping’, searching for a connection that resonated with my evolving identity. My life took a dramatic turn when, sitting in the upper deck of a new church I decided to check out, I read a small notice in the back of a bulletin. It simply said: “If you want to go to Mombasa, Kenya, call Chris.” That call led me on an unexpected journey to Mombasa in 2009, and it was there, under Chris’ guidance, that I began to develop my foundational belief: we are not just better together—we are our best. This philosophy has since become the tagline of Imani Collective. Fast forward to the present, and Kenya has been my home for the last 10 years. I initially founded Imani Collective as a small sewing training program to empower women in the region. However, I felt a deeper calling to expand our impact and pursue a more comprehensive approach to economic independence. Today, Imani Collective is a thriving community that empowers hundreds of artisans through dignified work, opportunity, and a sense of belonging. Under the umbrella of our nonprofit arm, and our Turkana and Tumaini initiatives in particular, we aim to provide a holistic growth development center and a 3-year sewing and tailoring program on a larger scale. Our mission is to empower, to nurture community, and to create sustainable change—not just for the women we work with, but for their families and the wider community. It’s a story of finding my purpose in unexpected places and growing a small idea into a movement that changes lives every day.

Have you always been an entrepreneur?

Looking back, yes, I believe my entrepreneurial journey started much earlier than I initially realized. It was rooted in a desire to make a tangible impact, a seed that was planted when I was just ten years old. It was during a business fair in fifth grade that I first dipped my toes into the world of entrepreneurship. Our school encouraged us to understand the basics of running a business, from calculating the cost of goods to identifying necessary supplies. This experience was challenging, invigorating, and utterly fascinating for my young mind. I thrived on the challenge and the creativity it demanded, and I now see that as the awakening of my entrepreneurial spirit.

Then, during my graduate school days, I found myself working for a sustainable bike company that treated me exceptionally well, offering benefits that any student would be lucky to have. I had stability, a community that supported me, and a side passion as a CrossFit coach. Despite the outwardly perfect scenario, the inner entrepreneur in me was restless for something more something that was mine and that would have a real, positive impact on the world.

Looking back, every step of my journey, every job, and every community I’ve been a part of has contributed to the entrepreneur I am today. It’s a path I embarked on long before I realized where it would take me.

Every entrepreneur has a goal and a problem that they’re trying to solve. What was the inspiration that started your journey?

The inspiration for my journey began when I visited Kenya for the first time in 2009. I didn’t know it then, but that mission trip the summer after high school was actually the start of putting down roots in the place I would soon call my home. The whole trip was full of meaningful times and life-changing lessons, but one memory in particular sticks out to me as the moment I knew was about to change the trajectory of my life. Our group had just come in from visiting another village, sharing tears and laughter on dirt floors, walking along unmarked paths with these people I now called friends. And as we walked into our five-star hotel after just a one-hour bus ride, my heart broke. There was this overwhelming feeling of disconnection, shock, and a desire to do more than just walk in and out of their lives. I came to understand that what was needed was not a temporary fix, but a sustainable solution. My goal with Imani Collective was not just to offer a band-aid but to learn from and grow with the local community, creating opportunities that could transform their lives for the long term. This vision was only further solidified on my trip to Kenya in 2010. While working with a child sponsorship program, I saw that most struggling children were those from households led by single, often widowed or disabled women. I came to understand that to truly help these children, we needed to empower the women first. They needed more than just work; any efforts we made had to be anchored around supporting their transformation through education. Through this, I knew that self-efficacy would rise, leaders would flourish, and empowering women would not just change the DNA of the community—it would ultimately break the ripple of the generational cycle of poverty in Kenya. This is why I believe that sustainable change begins with being in community—understanding their culture, eliminating distractions, and radically listening. This level of understanding and connection is nearly impossible across oceans or continents. You need to be able to sit side by side with people, looking into the eyes of those you serve to truly understand and meet their needs.

What business advice would you give your younger self?

In the early days, I tried to shoulder every responsibility, mistakenly believing that to do so was a sign of strength and dedication. However, I’ve since learned that the true lesson lies in acknowledging that you don’t have to carry the weight alone. There are incredible people ready and willing to lend their strength, their expertise, and their support. So, to my younger self, I’d say: Let others in, let them help you, and together, you will build something far more beautiful than you could ever do alone.

If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting out, what would it be?

The most important thing you can do is to find your ‘why.’ When you know your purpose, you can ensure that every step you take, no matter how seemingly insignificant, creates ripples that extend far and wide, impacting the world in meaningful ways. My story is simply an example of someone who had the courage to trust her instincts, to follow her spirit wherever it led, and to embrace the wildness of it. It was this passion that propelled me to venture into the unknown and to take bold leaps. So, to those of you who are at the beginning of your journey, I say: listen to your heart, find what fuels you, and let it guide you to places you’ve never imagined.

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