Jenny Nuccio : Imani Collective
I recently sat down for a digital interview (thank you FaceTime!) with Imani Collective founder, Jenny Nuccio. I first learned about Imani Collective when I saw them tagged on a Yellow Conference Instagram post. Sidenote: Yellow Collective & Yellow Conference is a place where creative women who are working toward the Greater Good go to meet, share ideas and insight, and encourage one another. I highly suggest checking them out if you aren’t familiar with them. Last year I was I wasn’t able to attend the conference so I had to catch up afterward with the photos, articles and video content. This is how I found out about Imani Collective.
You've probably seen some of their goods at Sister House. Their product line has fun, happy screen printed animals on natural canvas, clay wall ornaments, felted cacti, beautiful weavings for the wall and the floor. When I first found out about them, I started poking around their website to learn more about the mission and was SO intrigued that I had to reach out to them and soon after, place an order for Sister House. After a few pleasant emails back and forth, I asked if Jenny, their founder, would be interested in answering some questions for a brand story and she happily agreed. So here it is:
Jenny first traveled to Mtepeni Village, Kenya in 2009 for a short volunteer trip while she was going to college. She was used to traveling throughout South America and Africa but in Mtepeni Village that year, she had been working on a community project for children and found herself developing close relationships with many of the women and kids there. She felt drawn to return so in 2010, she went back to the village in Kenya to help build a school sponsorship program. By the following summer, she started a non-profit, leading volunteer teams to Burundi, Kenya and Uganda. In 2013, she was finishing up her Masters Degree in Leadership Education and Communication in College Station, Texas and made the bold move of selling everything, and leaving for Mtepeni Village to finish her degree there as she started Imani Collective (then, ImaniXchange). With the money she made from selling her possessions, she was able to buy 16 Singer sewing machines and Imani was born. Her vision of teaching women from the village- many single and widowed- how to sew to create economic opportunity came to fruition as she started with 16 women. She knew that by teaching a skill and creating a foundation for sustainability, she would be impacting the whole village in a worthwhile and lasting way. Not only would the women learn to sew, but they would learn business and literacy skills, have access to holistic care and be part of something bigger than themselves while providing for their families. The first project was a small, simple bucket bag.
It’s been five years since the Collective began, and what started with opportunity for 16 women, has now grown to employment and training/care for over 60 men and women- 50 in Mtepeni Village and Mombasa, Kenya and about a dozen in Dallas, Texas. From seamstress, to weaver, gift shop attendant, sales reps, directors of different operations- the whole brand and community surrounding IC continues to grow. Not to mention, over 140 children have access to education because of the well paying jobs that Imani Collective provides.
Jenny and her family of three (soon to be four!) now live in Mombasa as she works hands-on with the artisans throughout the week. Imani still employs women in Mtepeni Village about an hour away, but they have expanded the workspace and now also have a gift shop in the historic center of Mombasa.
We are honored to partner with Imani Collective by bringing their beautiful, high quality, ethical, handcrafted goods to the Sister House Collective Marketplace. You can find some of their items in our shop, like this hand painted ceramic mobile, here. Learn more about Imani Collective and find marketplace items not found at Sister House Collective, here.