We believe in empowering the whole person and providing dignified jobs that allow for our artisans to not merely survive, but to thrive in the life they live.
Such an introductory statement may be of interest in Dallas, Seattle, Denver or Philadelphia and it should, but it is a super-loaded power statement in Mombasa, Kenya, the home of Imani Collective. This BAM business story is the story of a community of dreamers who were not afraid to ask, “why not?” in their passionate pursuit of holistic living. Once they realized who had made them and what they were made of, they realized they could own that truth and grow.
Jenny Nuccio first arrived in the coastal city of Mombasa in 2009. As she struggled to survive in circumstances radically different from her native Texas, she made friends with local women and through broken English and Swahili, they awkwardly laughed their way into deep friendship and mutual partnership. The women taught her how to cook over an open fire, how to wash her clothes, and of course, how to carry her water like a local. In return, Jenny taught them how to sew.
“We’re going to build something beautiful,” Jenny said…
And they did.
Four years later in May 2013 it started with sixteen women. Sixteen women looking for a better way to provide for their families. Sixteen women who believed they were worth more than the saturated fruit they were selling in street markets. Sixteen women intrigued enough by Jenny’s vision to stick by her side and grow together. The Imani Collective now employs over seventy-five Kenyan women (including a few men) in two locations: Mtepeni Village and Mombasa, along with half a dozen women stateside. The artisans produce textile products for an international market.
Sometimes the best way to tell a story is through the words of those involved with the project. Here are extracts from some of their stories:
Mary Chengo “I mainly work in the cutting department in Mtepeni, but I help around in all other departments like washing wool and assisting in stuffing animals, cacti, and doing final stitches on products.
I was drawn to Imani Collective by the love I experienced through Jenny. Jenny didn’t treat me with contempt regardless of our difference in culture and educational background, not to mention the language barrier. I was super excited when I learned that Imani Collective was a place that cared for women and that they trained people on sewing skills without charging them. I knew this was my chance to be taught something and make/do something for myself since I never had a chance to go to school at all. I now love God … and I love to work hard.”
Ashley Walcher is VP of Sales and Marketing and works from her home in the United States. “I get to work with our many wonderful wholesale partners, take care of internal operations such as reporting, inventory management, accounting, and basically making sure we can run the business here in the states; and packing up orders + shipping them out with my 1 year old sidekick!
When asked “What drew you to work for this company?” she responded, “Loved the mission. I love being a working mom and so the fact that Imani empowers mothers to invest in their careers/skills and in their kiddos really drew me in.”
Deborah Nsiza Deborah has faced a lot of pressure from society especially with being a disabled woman in Kenya. Many of her friends will seek out “sponsorship” by men who in return demand sexual rights. Deborah did not want a life like this and chose to find a way to be independent. This road was not easy, and she spent many nights wondering how she could provide for herself and create a better path for her future.
She soon found Imani Collective in August 2015 and has excelled in every project that has been given to her. Deborah was one of the first artisans to be employed in the “city” location of Old Town Mombasa and worked in Jenny’s home before our second location officially opened in March of 2016.
Every day, Deborah is able to walk through the doors of Imani Collective and know there is a beautiful family waiting for her. A family that loves, cares and encourages. Deborah is a perfect example of grace, love and perseverance. We are honored to have her a part of this global family.
Femida Otieno discovered that she loved to create when she was very young. She loved to hand craft, make customized journals and quickly found a passion for sewing.
“Imani Collective was a dream job. I met Jenny in 2013 after a night of karaoke with mutual friends. Then in early 2015, Jenny invited me for coffee and explained her vision for the growth of the Imani Collective. She wanted me to be a part of creating change in these women’s lives and offered me a position to be the country director. She gave me the opportunity to be involved with economic empowerment. It was an answer to many prayers and a dream come true for me.
I love the challenge of Imani Collective! Every day is a little bit different and every woman has her own story that I get to be a part of. I have grown in my sewing skills, people skills, and production/management skills. I also get to see transformation of our women first-hand and I absolutely love witnessing beautiful change almost daily in our workshops.”
Together, we unleash a woman’s greatness through empowerment, opportunity + community.
The IBEC coach for Imani Collective is Sonja Redmond, who as an attorney and owner of a textile business, is well qualified to serve this exciting business in Kenya Imani Collective is committed every day to making a profit, creating jobs and making disciples of Jesus. Check out the website for products and news here.
Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures