Imani Collective in Kenya – A Growing BAM Company Is there a Metric? Does it Matter? Discovering what really matters

There is plenty of talk these days about metrics.  One learns watching the Winter Olympics that score cards and timing are everything.  My high school senior granddaughter works hard in her anatomy and physiology class since college admission people care about her grades.  And of course, business metrics include such things as YOY sales growth, gross profit margin, liquidity ratios, and lead-to-client conversion rates.

Most simply put, a metric is a quantitative standard of measurement.

It has now been established that Peter Drucker did not coin the famous line, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”  In fact, V.F. Ridgway pointed out in 1956 that, “Not everything that matters can be measured. Not everything that we can measure matters.”  So now what?  Perhaps there is a little truth in all such statements.  Imani Collective is a BAM business that understands what really matters and endeavors to measure where it matters.

This week, I was privileged to spend some time with Jenny Nuccio, the founder and CEO of Imani Collective, a growing Business as Mission (BAM) social enterprise in east Africa.  We wrote about the company in an October 2019 blog, but so much had changed and I was curious what God has been doing.

Jenny arrived in Mombasa, Kenya in 2009, and began learning the language and loving the people. By 2013, she had come to understand that the roots of poverty lay with the lack of opportunities. In addition, she seeks to empower the whole person, by providing dignified jobs. This allows her friends to not only survive but to thrive.  In May of 2013, she promised sixteen women that were learning to sew that “we are going to build something beautiful.”

This new and growing company rebranded in 2017 and began to think of how the company could be sustainable, with a mindset that focused on product revenue.  It demanded a learning spirit and help from lots of coaches and consultants, one of which was IBEC Ventures.  By 2021, they had decided to transition to a hybrid model which separated the business side from the Not-for-Profit.  The economics of the business included a For-Profit Kenyan PLC for production and training; and a USA For-Profit LLC to produce revenue through retail sales.  The nonprofit and NGO provide for the training initiative and other outreach programs offered to the community.

I always look for a concise mission and vision statement.  I was not disappointed. They are …”rooted in their mission to outpour the love of Christ in our community…through holistic empowerment.”  Their BHAG (vision) is to break the generational cycle of poverty through the transformation of their collective.

Metrics and Matters

For Jenny and the team. “…in anything and everything we do – we look through these 5 P’s”

PEOPLE

Imani Collective looks to people as the root of their impact.  Their people are employees, vendors, beneficiaries, and the community. The number of employees in year 2021 has increased from 101 to 121. The company pays 2.6 times the minimum wage, and a recent survey, determined that 91% of all employees are satisfied with their wages.

Quantitative measurements like this are complemented with what really matters; transformed lives.  Listen to Mercy Mwamumbam, who works as a spinner, “Before starting at Imani Collective, it was hard for me to remember to pray. But now, I have the accountability of my collective family, and we pray every morning before starting work.”

It is an important value that they have an effective business model that “…measures success first by spiritual fruit…and to care deeply for our woman holistically and spiritually.  That includes radiating Christ’s love, leading with servant’s hearts and operating with integrity and transparency in all things. These are things that have a quantitative measurement, but they at the things that matter.

PURPOSE

“Here at Imani Collective– we are passionately pursuing a holistic approach to empowerment. Holistic empowerment includes a rich spiritual life. As our artisans discover God’s love for them, Imani’s desire is to see each artisan thrive in each area of life, starting with their own faith. Imani’s leadership is committed to cultivating their artisan’s faith through their organizational core values based on Kingdom principles and best practices.”

Femida says, “I get to see transformation of our women first-hand and I absolutely love witnessing beautiful change almost daily in our workshops.”

The business seeks to consistently pursue their employees’ whole person well-being in all facets of life:

Merciline says, “I have accrued new skills and as a result of a decent wage, I can enroll my kids in a better school to receive a good education. Working for Imani Collective has given me space to dream bigger, and next year I will be able to start building my own home.”

PROFIT

Jenny affirms that “…if we do not pay attention to our profit then our impact will dissolve.”  But she also understands what Kenneth Mason, CEO of Quaker Oats understood “Making a profit is no more the purpose of a corporation than getting enough to eat is the purpose of life. Getting enough to eat is a requirement of life; life’s purpose, one would hope, is somewhat broader and more challenging.

In 2021, YOY sales increased 116%, and revenue soared to $663,000 up from $346,000 in 2020. They were able to secure their first round of impact investment funding in 2021.

In two years, Instagram followers went from 24,000 to approximately 40,000.  Jenny says,

“As every year comes to an end, I am always in awe of how far we have come and the beautiful vision we have ahead.  We know that together, in partnership with God, we will create a beautiful community.”

PARTNERHSIPS

It is important to the leadership team that they embrace proactive and strategic partners for mutual gain.  In 2020, a new partnership was launched, a third site in addition to Mtepeni Village and Old Town Mombasa.  At Turkana, they currently support 16 artisans and staff in that location, and the transformation that has already happened through monthly dignified salaried work is incredible. They are honored that God chose Imani Collective to be a vessel in this area, and we cannot wait to see Turkana continue to flourish.  Mariam says she is now able to easefully put food on the table and pay her children’s school fees.

Tibeb Leather Works is in Ethiopia. Imani Collective partners with Tibeb Leather Works, who provide employment + training opportunities for marginalized women in their community. In addition to the incredible quality of their products, their strong belief in women empowerment, fair wages, and positive social impact are some of the many reasons Imani chose to collaborate with Tibeb Leather Works.

Such partners matter since more and more people are employed, and have the opportunity to learn the ethos of a God-honoring company such as Imani.

PLANET

This means that Imani Collective realizes the importance of care for the earth, the creation of God. The website says:

“We strive to be ethically-responsible and environmentally-friendly when sourcing our local, raw + organic materials. By sourcing from local markets + vendors, we are investing in the local economy which is essential to overall economic development in the area. We support the integrity of ethically sourced, artisan made goods and create opportunities for men and women to make them – wool organic dye, cotton, leather, felt, stuffing and clay.”

More specifically they work: “To reduce our carbon footprint through a circular economy model that focuses on reducing product waste and increasing the reusability of material. We strive to be restorative and regenerative by design, proactively exploring innovative ideas that bring less harm to our world.”

Near the end of our conversation Jenny said something which is rich food for thought: 

Passion + Strategy = Impact

It is evident that there is plenty of God-given passion, and she has sought out and developed strategic initiatives along with measurable metrics that matter.  The inevitable result has been impact where it  matters most – the lives of individuals made in the image of God.

Larry W. Sharp, BAM Support Specialist, IBEC Ventures
Larry.Sharp@ibecventures.com

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