“Innovation is happening every single day in communities across Baltimore because folks survive on innovation. I think we have a responsibility to shine a light on those types of innovations and also give them the resources to allow them to thrive even further.”
President and CEO, Innovation Works
Country of Origin: Nigeria
Innovative ideas are the building blocks that create resilient communities. As the president and CEO of Innovation Works, Jay Nwachu helps New Americans and other entrepreneurs turn their ideas into successful, scalable businesses.
His journey to the United States:
Nwachu was born in Nigeria and says that the main reason his parents decided to come to the United States was to pursue educational opportunities for their children.
His passion for helping entrepreneurs:
Nwachu’s passion is connecting people to meaningful careers, which in turn helps sustain their families and communities. At Innovation Works, Nwachu connects entrepreneurs, many of whom are people of color and immigrants, to resources and mentorship opportunities. The organization has worked with more than 100 social enterprises, which are “mission-driven organizations that are addressing challenges in Baltimore City,” he explains.
How he supports immigrants at work:
At Innovation Works, Nwachu leads a team that helps turn ideas into successful, scalable businesses. In doing so, the company helps create more resilient communities and reduce Baltimore’s racial wealth divide. “We believe communities can be transformed by investing in people and their ideas for businesses that address unmet economic needs throughout the city,” Nwachu wrote in a commentary for The Daily Record. By 2030, Innovation Works plans to support the launch and growth of 250 sustainable social enterprises that create 5,000 local jobs.
On the importance of community:
Nwachu maintains that “there’s a hero in every corner,” and while anyone can have a great idea, if they don’t have community support, it will be difficult to succeed. To him, community starts with family. “If I don’t have family support, if I don’t have community support, if I don’t have people around me who care about me, it’s going to be very hard,” he says.
His advice for new immigrants:
“We’re all born with self agency. No matter the situation we are born into, we have the ability every single day to wake up and make a decision that will shape our own individual futures,” he says, noting that this does not neglect the fact that there are societal challenges that we can’t control.
What innovation means to him:
“We often try to think of innovation in a sense of things that are highly profitable. But when I think of innovation, I think about even just my growing up, watching the little creative things we did to survive every single day,” he says. “Innovation is happening every single day in communities across Baltimore because folks survive on innovation. I think we have a responsibility to shine a light on those types of innovations and also give them the resources to allow them to thrive even further.”