S5 E1: Strategizing sustainable growth for nonprofits and for-profits with Jenny Nuccio (Founder & CEO, Imani Collective)


Jenny has always been passionate about developing the communities she is a part of and focusing on giving back to them. After living in Kenya for many years, she and her pioneer team at Imani Collective began building their nonprofit to create opportunity through trainings and jobs.

She realized that they had to create a marketplace for their vision so that the trainings they were providing would lead to sustainable jobs, so Jenny and her team founded the for-profit side of their company, Imani Kids.

Tasked with running a nonprofit and a for-profit, Jenny learned the similarities and differences between being an executive director and a CEO. With those learnings, she decided to bring all their companies together under one umbrella and create their holding company, Imani Collective.

Constantly asking herself how to build a sustainable nonprofit and for-profit business, Jenny asked herself how their company would run without her and how their ethical impact could continue its legacy in the best way possible.

Jenny also walks through how she developed Imani Kids, their ecommerce company, by using local Kenyan material and organically growing their social media profile over time. She’s learned to reduce her ad spending to focus on retention over acquisition and how to leverage organic content and word-of-mouth marketing with their brand ambassador program.

Episode Timestamps:

  • Founding and growth of Imani Collective, a social enterprise in Kenya. 1:26

  • Transitioning a nonprofit to a for-profit social enterprise. 7:03

  • Nonprofit vs for-profit business models. 14:41

  • Nonprofit sustainability and impact with industry insights. 19:19

  • Building a successful brand for kids with Imani kids co-founder. 24:42

  • Starting a social enterprise and brand development. 27:59

  • Marketing to parents through social media and PR. 33:02

  • Brand ambassador programs and their success. 38:49

  • Social entrepreneurship and brand development with Imani Collective. 44:13

Did you know that 20% of your website traffic hits the order tracking experience? Turn all of that customer engagement into customer loyalty. Malomo helps you get ahead of shipping issues, brand your order tracking experience, and reconvert shoppers while they wait for their package to arrive.

To see what your custom mockup of branded order tracking and transactional email/SMS would look like, fill out this form & we’ll send your custom design right to your inbox!

Be sure to subscribe to our pod to stay up-to-date and checkout Malomo, the leading order tracking platform for Shopify brands.

Subscribe to Retention Chronicles on Apple Podcasts


This transcript was completed by an automated system, please forgive any grammatical errors.


Imani, people, brand, kenya, started, work, kids, collective, moved, nonprofit, year, social enterprise, strategy, program, women, product, create, building, social, business


Mariah Parsons, Noah Rahimzadeh, Jenny Nuccio

Mariah Parsons 00:04

Greetings and welcome to retention Chronicles podcast with learnings from expert e commerce, brands and partners. I'm Ryan Parsons,

Noah Rahimzadeh 00:12

and I'm no Rahim today, if you're here, you're either on a quest for E commerce enlightenment, or you accidentally click the wrong link. Either way, we're thrilled you stumbled into our corner of the internet.

Mariah Parsons 00:22

And hey, even if you're not on the E commerce hype train, stick around. We promise it'll be worth your while. We've got pearls of wisdom for everyone, whether you're running a business or just trying to keep your house plans a lot. Exactly.

Noah Rahimzadeh 00:33

So before we unleash the brilliance of today's episode, let's give a shout out to our fantastic sponsor Malomo.

Mariah Parsons 00:40

They're the wizards behind the curtain, making the post purchase experience smoother than a jazz solo,

Noah Rahimzadeh 00:45

hit that subscribe button like it will increase LTV overnight, and check out our other episodes go malomo.com That's GOMALO mo.com yet

Mariah Parsons 00:55

ready for insights chuckles and possibly a profound realization or two. Here's our newest episode of retention Chronicles. Hello, everyone, and welcome to retention Chronicles. Jenny, thank you so much for joining us here today. I'm so excited to get to chat to you. It's gonna be a great episode. I already know it. I would love if you could start us off with an intro of you and your brand that you have founded

Jenny Nuccio 01:26

salutely You kind of set the bar high like it's going to be a great episode. I hope it's a great episode

Mariah Parsons 01:31

manifestation. You know, I have I can't believe it. I haven't had a bad episode yet. And we're like 93 or something in so that's good not not to add the pressure. But I know it'll be great.

Jenny Nuccio 01:42

I'll go with the flow. I will meet your standards. Yes, my name is Jenny Nuccio. And I'm the founder and CEO of Imani collective, a little bit, I guess, background of our story, because money Collective is now a holding company of multiple brands. So if you go to Omani collective, you'll see a lot there. And but we started 10 years ago, well, really 3414 years ago is when I stepped foot into Kenya, and kind of started my journey and building Imani collective and my I've been in Kenya now for 12 years. And this is where my family is. I love it so much. I do travel a lot. But we are in the process. We were talking about dual citizenship, we're in the process. So hopefully sometime next year, I can say I have dual citizenship. And I am also just a really proud Kenyan. So I am more Kenyan now than I am American in many, many ways. My family tells me that. But yeah, so I came to Kenya actually really to start I was really involved within missions and kind of the nonprofit world. I worked within a school and that is really where the origin story of Imani starts and how I met the first I call them the pioneers of Imani, the first women that were part of our group and I was building a child sponsorship program for this nonprofit. And really, I was doing all of these home visits and walking miles with these kids to visit their homes. And what I noticed the kind of the theme of the kids struggling the most or coming from single, widowed or disadvantaged women homes. And so I brought that back in that observation and back to the organization and was just like, Well, what about these women? And what are you doing about like them because at the end of the day, they can't pay the fees that the kids need to be in the school and and that's what kept happening, right? These kids are being sent home because they just couldn't fit pay the dollar a month or whatever for their for their kid. And the response to me was like, well, that's that's just not what we focus on. And I truly like honored that like that response. And at the same time I could not shake it. And so over those years, I had gone back and forth to Kenya and I eventually moved my whole life here and 2013 and I moved into the village and we started a mani collective with the first 16 women and everything that I sold was the beginning of Ahmadi that like from my like everything I left a box in my mom's house my dad is still a little bit not so happy about me selling my truck but hey, my truck being a strong Texas girl is what bought the first singer machine. So there you go or organization. Yes, and it's so much part of our story. So we started as a training program started as a nonprofit. It my whole hope for these women were that we could create opportunity together. It was never Jenny coming in and doing X, Y and Z it was us building it together. So everything was you see today and Imani was built in a collective in a collective manner. And we naturally and organically grew into a global social enterprise, which is really, really cool. It's also a very different strategy. Should go by, I had no strategy in the beginning, it was just like we're gonna teach a skill. And then we're gonna place these women in some sort of job. I was really naive in the beginning, because obviously teaching women from a marginalized situation in the middle of nowhere, once they have a skill, it's really hard to find a job at a market because they're in the middle of nowhere. And so we're like, oh, shoot, we kind of have to create this marketplace too. And so we naturally created that marketplace over time. And then grew, grew into our business are the beginning stages of a money Collective, we very much looked Kenya and we had a lot of content, a fabrics, a lot of brights, and not so designed friendly aesthetics, like we were just making what we could make, I call it our very much crafty, pity purchase stage of our bar, beginning and our story. But then when we went to New York now in our kind of our first show, that's when we really saw Oh, my gosh, this is like we can do all this, we we've already been doing this, we just really need to hone into the market, our ICA where we want to head towards. And so then in 2016, at the end of 2016, we rebranded into shop Imani kids. So our largest brand is our kids brand, which most people know us for that. And now we have multiple brands that we've built throughout the years, but really proud of where we are today. But it started really, really small and as no strategy. And no, just just wanted to help and wanting to be but not just help wanted to create a sustainable solution. I think at the end of the day, that's what got us to our business, because it was like we can continue to ask for donations. But that's not sustainable at any moment. If I have to leave Kenya, then these women are still going to be back to square one. So what are we creating, that's going to have a generational ripple that has nothing to do with me being in place that at any moment, I don't need to be the linchpin of that success or that transformation, that these women have created the transformation for themselves. And so that's kind of the root of who we are as a money. Yeah,

Mariah Parsons 07:03

I love that. I love that. Although you're kind of saying like, there's no strategy, I know, there's like definitely so much that goes into just starting something like that, let alone where it's due. So I'm sure maybe weren't pen to paper writing out like strategy, XYZ steps, there's just so much involved in terms of taking something and growing it to be its own marketplace and to be transformed from something that is teaching people and becomes sustainable as like a Full Reciprocity or like a full flywheel effect, I guess. And I want to talk about like the transition to having it was like a social enterprise global social enterprise. I think that's the phrase. Yeah, correct. Changing it or like becoming a holding company for all these different businesses? What was like, because I know nothing about that process, right. So if you could detail about, like, was there anything that you saw, like, Oh, this is now when we used to make the switch? It makes sense now, to become a holding company? What what was, what are the details that perhaps someone wouldn't know if they did it go through that process themselves? Yeah,

Jenny Nuccio 08:19

for sure. So before we were a holding company, we were just a company. So like, we were just a brand, right? So I think the question that I always asked was, because I started as a nonprofit, it's like, when is the right switch to become a for profit? Are we ready to actually take on those expenses? And how does that model work? So we are a hybrid model. So we still have nonprofit activities, and we still raise money. And we still partner with foundations. So shout out to anybody who wants to reach out to us on that. We love everything that we do. On that side, we have a sustainable farming initiative and really cool training, but we needed to to ensure that like the nonprofit activity, status, nonprofit activities, I remember we had, so we originally again, just nonprofit, and then a non government organization here in Kenya, and the NGO board was like, you can't just keep training people, eventually the training ends like so then they should move into a business right? And that was kind of our big telltale, just in like, the structure, there's like, Okay, well, we need just legally for our women to move into a business because we can't say it's continuous training, because it's not. And and then we need to be able to bring new people up to train and then on the business side, we needed a great something that was sustainable, that it's like we're not just creating and making and wasting resources and not creating something that's competitive in the marketplace. So that kind of was like the question there. The biggest change for me as a leader is I literally had to take off my executive director hat and become a CEO. Because at the end of the day, when you have to wear both of those hats, which I do and I literally have to switch back and forth, but as an executive director you always then almost can have a, like, you can almost have someone just save you per se because you can be like, Oh, well, we need to bring in another $50,000 to make this work. And that's not creating sustainable solutions, because you're not creating strategy that is actually creating profitability. You're just like, oh, we have a gap again, right. And so I needed to be able to know that someone can't save us here that we need to actually create a strategy that works and without we needed to create a competitive brand. So that's when we stepped into that we re designed and redeveloped at the end of 2016 2017, we stepped into Imani kids now, if anyone is I'm sure a lot of entrepreneurs listen to this. We love bright and shiny things. And so what happened from 2017 to now, as there was like, I would chase after bright and shiny things like, oh, man, we have our artisan group, and they can make this but this product doesn't necessarily fit into this, like customer base. And so what happened over the years is we grew from textiles, to weaving, to screen printing to leather work to ceramics, like our workshop holds a lot of different talent, which most people don't know if they just know our kids brand. They're like, Oh, they're just an affirmation banner brand, you know, that makes all these different things with campus or screen printing. But the reality is we make a lot of other a lot of other products, students. So as Yeah, as an entrepreneur, we're always chasing the bright and shiny things. So I knew in our workshop we had like all these things that we do, from sewing, to weaving to leather work to ceramics to screen printing, like we'd really grown from just textiles. And so throughout the years, I was starting other companies actually. So in 2018, I started Sukkot saddle blankets, and it's like completely an equestrian brand, where we do like naturally woven saddle blankets, because I knew our weaving team could do that. And then I also started coaching. And I also started the school of ethical impact, where I do an online course about how to build like a social enterprise and create ethical impact, trademarked ethical impact, like we went to all these different things, we started a creative agency called quanta, like, there's a lot going on in the backend of a money collected, and they were all individual entities. And so at that point in the last year was when we were like, wow, that's a lot to take care of. So if you're on one business, you know, all the legal like structure that you just have, there's a lot of filing and things you have to take care of. And so one of our biggest things was how do we move all of our brands, it's all interlinked with the same team. Like we're all doing things from Kenya to the states, we all work, my stateside team works remote, completely remote. And then our Kenya team, our headquarters are here. So it's like, how do we bring that all into one or umbrella, because what we really wanted to tell in the message of this year was that we as a money collective, our mission is to create dignified work. And our mission is to see the generational cycle of poverty and, and if we're doing that we're doing that in all of these different brands by creating these products or services that provide jobs. And so that if that's what's driving us, then we That's how, like, we're all one, you know, we all now they all are very different brands. And if you go look at all of them, they all very much look different. But if you start to read through the website and read through, you know, social, you'll, you'll be able to see the interlinks of our voice that we are the same. And so that's when we became a holding company. So we kind of shut down all of our entities and became these sub brands under Imani collective as a whole. And so you'll see these brands say like Imani kids by money collective or sequela by money collective, so they now like live in a family. But when we if you would have gone to Imani collective.com, in the beginning of this year, you would have landed on our shop Imani kids page. And what I found is that that was confusing that was confusing for donors on the impact side that was confusing for other people who know us in Kenya, because if you walk in our workshop, you see all of these things and you're like, Wait, this is just your kids brand, how do I get access to all of these other things. And so we really needed to change our messaging and our branding, specifically this year to make sure everybody knew like we're, we're one. But we have a lot of different voices in kind of multiple brands underneath. And it's been able to gain a lot of clarity because we are a money collective on the nonprofit side. That's still our name. And we were wondering collective in our business. So we were like, what's the difference, you know, and so really being able to educate our consumers as well, like, this is where your purchase goes to. This is where your donation goes to. These are all the things we get to do because at the end of the day, we support over 100 artisans here in Kenya and like we love what we do. And we just want to make sure that it makes sense to everybody else, and they understand all that we do so that they can be involved.

Mariah Parsons 14:40

Yeah, that's awesome. I love that you broke it down like that, because I was wondering, because obviously I went through and saw all the different brands. Yeah. And like I could see exactly what you just articulated in that. Like there's different products, different services, but they're all very, at least from an onlookers point of view. very connected and like, just the Yeah, the way the brands are presented, like the colors you're using the, the storyline that you're telling throughout, like different sites and all that. But I was on the I was like, Oh, this is so cool because I, I know a little bit a little bit about nonprofits was part of one that basically acts as a, like, kind of like an HR recruiting firm for tech places here in Indianapolis. And so I was part of that program for two years. And so I got to see like, the nonprofit side of things, how they work, get to chat with a lot of people in the nonprofit space and had some friends that worked at some nonprofits as well. But obviously, working myself as a as a for profit business. And so, it was so interesting to kind of see the differences of the two that all fall under Omani collective. Right? And see, like, Okay, now it makes, I can see like, the different the different companies that fall under the money collective, but can see like, Okay, this is obviously for profit business was like, the money kids. Yeah. And,

Jenny Nuccio 16:14

and that's the thing, like, you can be with a social saying, and using that terminology of social enterprise, or saying I'm a social entrepreneur, like, you're not just a business, like, in the sense of like, okay, I'm, yeah, just product based business, like you're a product based business with a very underlying mission that like, and then you're going to be you're going to be asking the harder questions, you're going to be pushing into that dialogue a little bit more, you're going to be making decisions differently than someone who is trying to streamline the profit, because you're not just looking at profit, you're looking across the board of your people, your partnerships, you have your supply chain, are we using for us, we're also looking at our material, regenerative materials, how are we using our offcuts to then upcycle into a new product, we're asking all of these questions. And statistically, like, it takes three to five years to become a profitable business in any business. And when you're starting a social enterprise, it takes eight to 12 years. And I always tell people, like that's, it's the long game. So like, if you're really wanting to be in a social impact business, like just know, it's gonna take, it's gonna take have that reality. Reality that because of these statistically fit that I mean, we hit profitability. It's our 10th year, and we hit profitability around this this year. Now, I will stay on that though. Like, we did not become a business until, like, we did not start acting like a business until 2017. And so we're still in the stages of like, I feel like I mean, we have a lot of accomplishments, and at the same time, I'm like, Oh, we're so baby in the sense of like, there's, you know, I still feel toddler, in a sense, but there yeah, there's a lot that we're looking at as a social enterprise. And at the same time, I think, uh, you know, nonprofit and for profit, or just tax statuses, so if there are people listening here, and they do have a nonprofit, like, you should be running your nonprofit, what I learned when I finally put on that CEO hat, and I saw the whole picture of what we were trying to do, and we moved into this hype, this very unique hybrid model. So I was like, man, we need to be running our nonprofit just as we do our for profit, because you should always have a strategy around that. And you should always be thinking of that, I mean, as well. So it's, it's the same, in a sense of like, we shouldn't, you know, just be most I feel like nonprofit leaders are in crisis management, all these things. And we really need to have strategy and be proactive, so that we can see impacts there. But I will always ask people, how's your impact going to be sustainable without you a part of it? And that was the really, you know, the main reason why we moved into a mani shop, Imani kids as first grew that brand, and then grew multiple little brands around it, and then became a money collective as a whole fold to like, hold these companies together.

Mariah Parsons 18:53

I love that you said that. Because I that same program. It's called the or fellowship here in India, if anyone wants to look it up. But our executive director had said the same thing where he had said it should run as a for profit, like still have the same strategy. It's not all that different. In which a world that I hadn't worked out a nonprofit, I would probably think they're astronomically different. Yeah.

Jenny Nuccio 19:20

People do think and what's sad is they don't as a nonprofit, you don't set the right budgets to have the right people. And so people are getting underpaid. Resources are not being utilized. Overhead is a scary word to talk about. Because people don't want to spend money on overhead. They just want to spend money on programmatic activities. But the reality is you need overhead to run the programs. And it's just like a weird it's, if you're listening to this, and you've never been a nonprofit, you're probably like, what are they talking about you? Money, right? Because the for profit world is just like, da but like, I don't know what happens. You cross over and it becomes evil to talk about money and overhead and these things and it's like, we need the right people to do really good work, you know? So it's a really interesting, I don't know why we why we get cringy about that on that side. But it's really important to talk about profit and talk about money and talk about that in the impact side. But at the end of the day, I love our model and what we have, because if our nonprofit ever did go away, like we're building a company that by 2030, and onward, we'll be able to donate back into all of our programs that if we didn't have $1 raised, it would be okay, because our business is profitable enough to support the holistic programs that we have. And that is the sustainable and circular model I've always wanted to create. But again, it's the long game. And so we're getting there. We're chugging along. Yeah, so that's the legacy I hope to leave there is like it can't happen. We just have to be patient with the process, but you can do really good stuff and your business. And even if you don't have ours is a very in depth business, right. I'm like I'm on the ground and with artisans like whatnot, but it's not even like that you can in your business, you can have so many give back things, or you can partner with nonprofits that are already doing really good stuff, you know. So I just, I just challenge business owners to use their profit for good and to find things that they're passionate about, and align themselves to that, because I think that's really important.

Mariah Parsons 21:14

I love it. And you're obviously very knowledgeable about the differences and where for profit and nonprofit can come together and help each other out in like accelerating both of businesses. So I wanted to also ask, like, Where Where are you going to learn all of this? Right? Like, if someone's listening, where would you and wants to learn more? Beyond this episode, where would you direct them to like our, our CEO here at Malomo? Has been posing this question to us as a company of like, where are you going to look? Where are you going to get inspired in the industry? Who is kind of who who else in the space? Would you like give a shout out to for being very knowledgeable? Yeah.

Jenny Nuccio 21:57

Yeah. So my you have entered as well my doctorates in leadership development, but my research is focused on social enterprises and the resource gaps that social entrepreneurs face. So it's something I'm extremely passionate about. I built the school of ethical impact and so we have tons of course stuff there. And then of course, I do coaching but not to give a shout out to me. There's another organization that I absolutely love that has amazing resources and it's called acumen and they have a thing called acumen Academy. So Jacqueline Novogratz is like the queen bee. Queen Bee. She's now married to the guy, founder of TED Talks. So that's like a power. Oh, wow. Yeah, for sure. But Jacqueline Novogratz started one of the first women in a micro enterprises are micro micro loans in Rwanda, and really passionate about it in early 20. She wrote the blue sweater she wrote a manifesto is it? Oh my gosh, I can't Oh, it's a it's a purple book. I can see it in my head. Yeah, look up Jack, it will come to me when I when it comes, I will share it. But Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of acumen Academy, tons of free resources. So I would encourage that. And then if you're ever just wanting someone like one on one, if you're looking at building something, or you need strategy, like I do one on one coaching, as well as do group coaching as well in that to truly understand social impact, but also understand other people doing it, because everyone has different models. Like, we like to share a model and we like to be a brand that's edgy, like an edge. Like education, I say, we're an open book, and I want us to be an educative brand. But our model was not a good model for everybody. So there are other people doing really cool stuff. So one of my loves and joys is connection. I don't believe we live in a small world, we actually just live in a big world. That's a connected world. And so all of us are super Connect, you know, we're one degree away from a connection that we need and and then all we need to do is go out and ask for that. And so I love to connect people to the right to right people. So if you just need a connection or referral, like reach out to me on Instagram or email me and I love connecting people, it's like, it's so fun to see people, Spark goodness, one another. But again, acumen has a lot of great stuff. And a lot of what I have built Imani collective on is knowledge that I've learned out of that Academy and being associated to what they offer and so she has, yeah, really cool. manifestos and things that she's put out. And of course, she's been on a million TED talks, because you know, she's she's married to the man, but yeah, I'm sure it was before they were married. I don't know. I don't know their love story. So I'm not going to talk for her. But those are that's maybe

Mariah Parsons 24:42

we'll have her on and then I'll ask her all about it. Yes, exactly. I love that you mentioned to like connections and the power in that because look at us, like McKenzie, shout her out. Yeah, that wallet switch. She's been on this podcast, but Mackenzie Bauer, and I'm the same way in that. Yeah, wanting to come People, especially through this podcast, it's been so amazing, like I know, just connecting from you and happy to connect you with anyone else, obviously, but the power in especially this industry of like E commerce and specifically Shopify, super, super willing to learn from other people to, to connect with other people. And like give praise where it's due type thing. I mentioned this before we started recording, but being from the East Coast, and then coming to the Midwest, seeing the, like, cultural differences of just how people interact. And then also seeing that in this industry where, you know, most of the times you reach out to someone and say, like, Hey, I would love to be connected with awesome people, you know, or saw that you have this mutual connection I've been looking to try and you know, reach out to them, would you mind assisting your connection? I'm thought I've found more often than not, people are more than happy to do so. And it creates a lot of fun, because it's like your friends becoming friends, you know?

Jenny Nuccio 26:07

Yeah, yeah. And I think we just are afraid like, we think that's invasive. Or maybe we assume I'm not sure. But I mean, the worst case scenario is you don't get an email answered. Or you just get a no like, I think once you get a couple of noes, like you're pretty strong. You can keep pushing through. Keep asking exactly, yeah, so we Yeah, yeah. gotten a lot of noes. And then when you get to those yeses, it feels really good. So yes,

Mariah Parsons 26:31

I love it. Okay, so I want to I feel like we could keep chatting about this for the entire episode. If

Jenny Nuccio 26:36

not, I know I was like, we went on a little tangent, but I mean, we're here

Mariah Parsons 26:41

exactly. I think the most fun part about having this podcast is being able to go on tangents and that like every every guest is different, right has your own you have your own expertise that we can learn from so I even put it in the intro of like we love going on tangents. So it's part of the norm here. But I do I will bring us back to some more like hardcore strategy plays for our entrepreneurial listeners to take it away have

Jenny Nuccio 27:06

strategy now I do have strategy guys, I can I can talk to strategy. Now. I'm not so naive. Love

Mariah Parsons 27:12

it, love it. Um, so I think it's easiest to focus on Imani kids probably, would you say the same? Okay, so let's dive in. Um, can you tell us about now that we have the background of like, the money collective and then transitioning to Imani kids tell us about like the branding and the marketing side of the business? Like how were you trying to like what messages are you trying to convey to parents across different cultures across different, like ICPs across different stages of life? What are you trying to share? Through Imani kids to hopefully, you know, gain a consumers trust?

Jenny Nuccio 27:58

Yeah. So how many kids got developed was when we first started, my first hire in the States was my friend Haley, we had gone to college together. And we've actually had not talked to one another in a bit. But you know, it's one of those people you can always pick up with. And I knew she had started like a little design business. And she had actually wanted to she had worked in India before and wanted to kind of like work within social enterprise. So I knew there was like a lineman that and it was right in front of my face for a really long time. And I just like, it's when it made sense. It all clicked in my head, right? And so I called her up. And I said, I have no idea if I can pay you or when but will you like help redesign everything for money collective and like where we can go. And so I have to give like, true true, like, shout outs to Haley of just like being like, okay, we can move into this space, but we need to Nishan we need to figure out what we want to be known for. And that's where it was really cool, because we got to hone in. And then now we're getting to spread our wings back out because we had to build a credible brand first that people could trust and know like, well, they know what they're doing. They can build a brand from ground zero all the way up, right and then continue to do it over and over again. So really proud of us in that and so from we had just gone to New York in August of 2016. It was an epic fail, financial fail. I was like I'm done with this. I'm so tired, like did not have any really like sound direction and then called Haley up and was like, what if we go back to New York in February but with a whole new look, and what can we pull off and so we decided that we wanted to be Imani kids and focus in the Kids Spaces because when we looked across like handmade artisan made ethically made, there were a lot of people doing jewelry, and there were a lot of people doing apparel. There wasn't a lot of people doing home decor and there for sure wasn't a lot of people doing home decor and Kids Spaces. And for us we both were young moms at that time we both had she had a one and a half year old I had a four month old and we were continuing to have babies I think by by the five year mark of Imani kids we had like 14 kids between all of our leaders or I don't know Oh, it was just like we were young, you know, young moms building a brand. And one thing that Haley is a designer, she was just like, you know, when you gotta you get toys, there's just all of this like clunky, bright stuff, primary colors, like I want something that's going to look good in my space that's going to be aesthetically pleasing. And that still is teaching my kids something is really fun for my kid, but also looks good if it's just laying out on the floor in my living room, right. And it's like, looks like it matches the space. So that's what I did that put the vision came from. And then we also had to come internally to Kenya, because one of our things that we focus on as a social impact brand is to not import anything like any of our materials. So everything that comes to you is supplied in Kenya only. We don't import from other countries, we want to support local supply chain. And so that can be difficult because you only have a certain bubble of creativity that you can then but we knew that we wanted to stand true to that. And we knew we wanted to locally source. So we knew at the beginning, we could get canvas, and we could screen print. And that's literally how it developed from there. Because we were like we have a sewing team. This is a consistent fabric. And we're gonna go find a like an amazing screen printer we did we we like stole him from a print place. And He's our lead of our screen printing department today. He's amazing. So that's kind of how it started. So it's just wanting to create really beautiful spaces for for the modern mom, at the same time, wanted our brand to represent something that you're at no matter what age could learn. We could bridge that gap, right, we can bridge that conversation, that your money can do good, we can bridge that conversation of like your thing that you're playing with is like something that was made by this woman. And so every product is handmade, you and your kid could send thank you notes to the you know, to the mom, like, we just wanted them to understand that story as well. So I think that goes back to wanting to be an educative brand wanting to chain consumer trends. And so that's where we started. As a brand. We it was really hard for me, when we jumped into social because Imani collect, it was kind of my personal social page of like my knee and my testimony. And the first thing that Haley said is we have to delete everything. And I was like, Well, tell me we have to like make three. Yeah, because it's like, blank, right? But it was exactly. I mean, she knew exactly what we need to do, you needed to start from the ground up. And I was really proud of us. Because in the first three years, we grew from a little under, I think 800 followers to over 20,000 organically. And so it really showed that connection that we knew, like, we could build a very true brand. And we could do that. Now organically. I mean, it took time right to to get to that. And then we've grown in different ways now but to just show to really show our True Colors in our story and to build it for the mom that wanted to bridge that gap for their for their kid. Yeah,

Mariah Parsons 33:02

yeah. Wow, that's such a good synopsis. Thank you. Um, I love that you also brought up social in that because I think branding, like brain marketing, it's very difficult to tie down, like quantifiable numbers a lot of times, so it's for sure one of those things where you're like, Okay, is it really working, but then you see that organic growth that you mentioned, you're like, okay, it is resonating. Right, like, we have something rare, we just have to dial in and figure out all the stuff that on the strategy side that, you know, any business any founder has to go through. So I wanted to one of the things that I was super excited to chat to you about, or chat with you about was like, the conversation around ICP, around social around how you're connecting with your customers, because obviously, I would assume that your ICP is new parents, right? Or maybe not even new parents, but parents who have a new child, and how is the dynamic of you're trying to market to the parents, right? And social media, where if parents are like, do you find a lot of the parents you're marketing to are on social media? Is that the right place that you are finding, you know, organic growth, which from the numbers it looks, it seems like you are what was that? Like? How was the discovery process of finding out where to get in touch with your ICP?

Jenny Nuccio 34:33

Yeah, I think to be honest, that's currently changing. So social was a space that really launched us into where we are now. We still see social is really important, especially like with my personal brand that sits under Imani collective. So Jenny Nuccio and school of ethical impact like I think I continue to see a lot of organic growth in that side because we have a very strong or I have a very strong voice in my values and what I represent I think that's so true to a brand. It's like, if you're just selling the product, your growth is going to be a lot slower. If you're selling a community and a voice and a values like and, like that's a different conversation, and I think I've been really proud of us of like, we're not Yeah, I love our product. And it's cute, and it's affirming, and we've moved into more interactive play, which is also something we want that we're launching a lot into 2020 for more of where it's more for, it's geared to more smaller kids, then our affirmation banders, that it's just this beautiful play that can evoke creativity. And so we've always wanted to be a space that's more communal, and like the girl next door type, feel and voice. And so I think as we've moved into that, and really made social, social, and conversational, that's what's helped our organic growth now. I think if you're using social to just sell, you're gonna, you're gonna hit a blockage somewhere. And we saw, like, we saw a, like a growth font like, like, we didn't grow as quickly. But I think as you get in numbers, that tends to happen, right? And it takes a little bit more time. But I would say you need that you need to be core to who you are your internal compass, your self assurance of what is your company stand for, and you need to have those values interwoven. And it not to just be product, right? If we're just constant products, it's pure, it's just noise that people are going to scroll through. So how are we continuing to be part of that dialogue? I think as we move into 2024, something that our team is looking at is, is reducing ad spend, you know, so ad spend is an important part of what we do. And that's, you know, as we look across the board, I think ad spend is killing. Now, this is not on statistics, this is completely personal opinion. So take it as it is. But I think it's killing small brands, because we think, Oh, we're gonna throw this amount of money, even if it's a couple $1,000. And I just don't think it's moving the needle anymore. You know, meta has a has a hold on that. And maybe if you can drop half a million that's going to it's going to change, but again, complete, complete opinion. But we're just seeing, it's just not, it's just not the same in our stats as in our turnover and our conversion as it used to be. So something that we've moved into is more of our PR and our article kind of strategy of how are we getting more educated articles out there, when we're talking about gifting with meaning when we're talking about teaching our kids and partnering with like, parent magazines or things like that. And so we are focusing our efforts, more on a public relations side of again, not just being a product, but being an educator in the space. And so hit me up in a year. And I'll let you know how that goes. But that's what we've been pushing into as we move into the end of the year. And I feel really good about it. Because we've, as a thought leader myself, I've always wanted our brands to represent thought leadership too. And so I feel really good about those conversations that we get to be a part of versus just a metric on an ad spend. And so they can be both and but I think we'll be maneuvering that a little different. And on a social side, we'll be stepping into more of like our brand ambassadors and our program, we used to run a really cool brand ambassador program in 2019, and 2020. And we kind of took a break on that. And we really have seen the difference. Because the reality is people buy from people who they have trust with and they have rapport with. And so we want to get back to the ground level of that of who people trust and who aligns with our values. And so, yeah, so we're looking for more, we're gonna open that up soon for applications and, and I think that's going to probably be change our statistics too. So hit me up in a year. And I can tell you, I love my case study works.

Mariah Parsons 38:49

But yes, I actually, it's one of the things that when you're talking about like adspend, which I'm glad that you wrote that into this conversation, because that's exactly where I want to go. Because I do think it's something that we have to pay attention to, of the I think the stat is in 2013 it was like $9 to acquire a new customer and in 2022 it was $29 to acquire new customer. So that's very believable. Yeah, like crazy, just crazy difference, right? In nine, nine years, it might have been 2023. So maybe 10 years. But anyways, the message of adspend might not be as efficient as it once was. I think is ringing true. I hear it a lot on this podcast and other podcasts as well. And just talking to the brands that Malomo serves. And so I think also I think people are maybe growing tired of ads like because consumers are growing tired of ads right like you, the ambassador the influencer space now like are celebrities or influencers Right? Like it isn't just actresses and actresses. Or like sports right? It isn't just people in the entertainment business, but it's like everyday people who are making content and then becoming influencers. So I think it's always fascinating to see like brand ambassador programs or to see maybe ads that aren't your typical ads that you would run, like on television back in the day. So I, I, with that brand ambassador program. Do you have any inkling of like, the direction of what was successful, what wasn't? Like any way, I guess someone could tailor a brand ambassador program to like their needs. Because I know you said you had it in like 2019 2020, and then take a break, took a break, but then are coming back to

Jenny Nuccio 40:48

it in 2021, as well, but I mean, reach out to us. And we're, again, like I said, we're an open book brand. But I think, you know, for us, for one, we were very like, at first, it was like, let's see who signs up for this. Right? Like, right, you weren't interested. And then of course, it became an application process. And we would pick about 10 at a time because we wanted to make sure we didn't have like 50. And then we couldn't make sure that their experience with us one, it takes a budget to have a brand ambassador program, right. So it's like, we can't get free product of all these people as well. But we also wanted to make sure that the people that were part of our ambassador program, they literally felt like gems and part of our family. And so with that, like our program, they're not getting paid like so it's not like an influencer. It's not like I'm paying like an influencer to put on stories, a brand ambassador program is a trade for product for pictures. So if you look at a lot of our lifestyle photos in the years from 2019, you know, in that span, we have a lot of variety that match our look, but complete variety of different settings. And that's because it's coming from our ambassadors who are sending that out. So they're getting products anywhere between, you know, five to eight products that is free, they get to keep as long as you know, they're submitting so many, I think I forgot how many stories or static shots or whatever like that. So it was a pretty clear trade. We, you know, I've had some people that were have talked about running brand ambassador programs and like Wow, I like sent free product and then got duped basically, and didn't get any, you know, photos and stuff. I think that's maybe the treutel have like your pre like your pre stage of like, assessing people out because like we never really struggled with that or having a pool from people like we had pretty loyal ambassadors. But it does take time, like we as we're looking to next year, we're like, we're gonna need one person literally dedicated to like, Ambassador and we're also looking into like, what, what budget can we put around influencer as well, because that is important, I think and just again, the trustor report, but one person has to you know, assess all of those applications, make sure we're aligning correctly, make sure they're being love seen and heard, you know, and part of the family. And so I think if you can really care for your ambassadors, it's going to be a successful trade, but you need to have, you know, the people that can do that and be able to follow up and make sure they get their things and you know, all of that. And we really like to run a pretty balanced ship at Imani collective, especially as we moved into this year and make sure not everyone's wearing so many different hats. So as a small, you know, when you start as a small business, you can easily, you know, move into burnout. And it's like, how can you add a program, but it doesn't burn you out in the process. So thinking through your health as well as important for me to like, people, I'm like, Can you handle it at this time? It is a great thing to add. But can you handle it? And can you do it well with quality because trust me, if you don't start a quality ambassador program, you're not going to get quality like ambassadors are partners. And that is going to go through the ego like the the sphere of other people like talking about maybe what your program looks like. So just making sure you can handle all those responsibilities. But yeah, I think just being true and honest, and having a good team really will set people up for success in that program.

Mariah Parsons 44:13

Yeah, I love that. I love that call out. And I think it's very, like you said at the top of the call, or maybe it was in the minute in the middle. But entrepreneurs love shiny things. And so it can be really easy to try want to try everything. But having the wherewithal to step back and say like, Can we do it? Well right now. Like maybe this is something in half a half a year or a year we can do it better than like hold off and then see what the program can do for you. I think it's great advice that anyone who's looking to start a rollout similar program to have the the pause in should we pursue this right now. We're not Yeah, I want to keep asking you more strategy questions, but we are coming up a time so One of the things that I've started doing on this podcast more recently has been asking, like, is there anything that you're super excited to? That's gonna roll out in the new year this episode will be airing mid January 2024, which is kind of crazy to say, but is there anything that you know, Imani kids or Imani collective that you'd love to advertise or share? Or, you know, get our audience excited for? If not, it's totally okay,

Jenny Nuccio 45:27

man. I mean, Imani kids is always rolling out great thing. So by the time this comes out, like you got Valentine's coming out, and oh, yeah, I mean, I've already seen all of that in our workshops. So I'm really excited. So be checking out all the collections that come out with the money kids, because Paloma is our lead designer in our team. And she is one heck of a designer and has been with us for a while. And so just Yeah, it's good stuff. So easier that yes, yes, be looking for that. And then we always something that is a little bit it's not ecommerce totally. But we also you know, we run in the wholesale and customization world. So if you are someone that's wanting to step into, like the ethical space, or you have a your brand, and you want to do corporate gifting, or private labeling or anything, we are an ethical manufacturing site as well, Imani collective here in Kenya, so we love to partner with brands. And we'd love to help them out on that where we can, you know, you can share our ethical impact story and sustainability practices. And we'd love to have that conversation with corporate gifting is some of our favorite things to do. So we're doing more of that in 2024, or this year, and doing more b2b as well. And so yeah, we have a lot of things going on. But go check out for sure. Money kids, because we there's a lot, there's a lot of stuff that's already launched in January and into quarter one and two, so

Mariah Parsons 46:45

I love it a little bit. That's perfect. I'm not I'm no hype. This also is just for fun for me when I get to release these episodes and listen back and I'm like, oh my god, I can't wait to check out Imani kids and all the things that you all will be launching. But I will wrap this up for the sake of time. So Jenny, thank you so much for joining. It's been a pleasure getting to learn just about social entrepreneurship and also the development of the many brands that fall under Imani collective. So thank you for making the time. I'm so happy shout out again to McKenzie, for making the connection. And I can't wait to continue to learn more.

Jenny Nuccio 47:19

Yeah, thank you so much for your time.