A. Jay Nwachu
President and CEO
Innovation Works and Ignite Capital
When A. Jay Nwachu founded Innovation Works in 2018, his mission was to reduce the racial wealth divide in Baltimore by supporting members of economically distressed communities to build and own successful social enterprises. Innovation Works supports social entrepreneurs through the full life cycle of the entrepreneurship journey, helps create business ventures that address unmet economic needs for residents throughout the city and creates livable-wage employment for city residents through business ventures.
When COVID-19 hit, Nwachu worked even harder to provide support for disinvested communities. In addition to supporting entrepreneurs through Innovation Works, Nwachu launched Ignite Capital to help fund its entrepreneurs.
“During the pandemic, much of our attention was centered in two directions. Through Innovation Works, our network worked to ensure that the social entrepreneurs in our system had the support they needed to weather the storm. We also launched Ignite Capital with a $4 Million social impact fund to close the access to capital gap,” Nwachu said.
Innovation Works was also instrumental in partnering with small manufacturing organizations to produce and sell 100,000 units of personal protective equipment, which generated $500,000 in income. A large majority of these funds went to payroll to keep Baltimore residents employed while also addressing supply chain gaps, Nwachu said.
While the pandemic slowed many things for the rest of the world, Nwachu and his team took on more responsibility to help and fulfill their mission as much as they could. Nwachu, however, learned to lead with empathy and was reinvigorated by the critical importance of the work he and his organization do.