Nyamwange Foundation

Nyamwange Foundation: Improving Urban Cities One Child At a Time
6 mins read
Nyamwage Foundation

Joseph Nyamwange is an entrepreneur, investor, and financial literacy coach. As a Jersey City native born to Kenyan immigrants, he saw early what hard work was and what it’s like growing up as a young Black man in the inner city. He has made it his life goal to give back to the community he grew up in by way of scholarships, resources, and information. Check our conversation out below. Enjoy!

Your career has generally been in sales. How did your parents respond to your initial plan?

Specifically, there was an initial track they wanted me to go into. Anything outside of that wasn’t welcomed wholeheartedly. I knew early I didn’t want to be a doctor or anything like that. I thought we found a compromise with me becoming an economics professor. A PhD was an option but as I was taking the classes, I realized it was very theoretical and I didn’t want to always speak about a field that I’d never touched. What changed was that my older brother went into sales and told me it could work for me. When I spoke to my parents about sales, they were harping on scarcity in the field. They were telling me there wasn’t good money and I’d be stressed. While they shared their position, they always left a little window for me to debate out. Their philosophy was if you listen, and we convince you then you were never passionate about it. But if you’re going to do it, you better not fail.

As a young Black man going into a predominantly white field like sales, what are some hurdles you had to go through and how did you get around them.
I got into tech sales. The minority rate for tech sales is about 1-2% Black. So it’s really small. My first 2 years in college were in a predominantly white school so I was prepared for impact. Any Black person in this field or any other field is marginalized. When you walk in as the only Black person, there’s already mind games. When you go to the customer, a majority don’t look like you. Then there’s the subtle comments that you hear that hurt the most. Companies are starting to become more conscious about it. But things impacted me early. I remember my 3rd or 4th year I was invited to a high-profile event. Midlevel management were shocked about me getting invited. They were concerned and were asking me if I knew how to dress for it. Those little things and others, I’m still recovering from. In terms of fear to progress or fear to engage. The subtle feeling like I don’t deserve to be there.

You worked for a few years before starting a foundation. There’s a certain comfort that comes with having a job. Most people wouldn’t take the risk to start something new. What did you take into account before you created the foundation?

It’s a lot of things. God’s been working on it. The 1st thing is that it started at home. My parents started early bringing kids from Kenya and paying for them to go to school. At the time, as a kid, it was annoying, but it built an idea that this was the norm. You’re supposed to go back and do these things. Also, my spiritual journey contributed to it. As a Christian, the more I read the more I got into the service part. I was discouraged by the church institution. They were more about comfortability with self and less about the community. I was wasting 60-70% of my energy convincing them that we need to be in the community. The 3rd major thing is my expectation for the corporate shift. Before, I thought I had to be a different person at work and different in my community. I started getting a level of expectation that its company’s responsibility to make the world a better place. In 2016, I started demanding companies I work for to have a philanthropic arm. I hit a breaking point at the end of 2017. I pitched the idea to give scholarships and it was shut down. I didn’t like the lack of Black focus that corporations had. This was pre-George Floyd. Pre everything. I remember God telling me to stop talking about it. Stop talking about the issues and just do your job. In 2018 I decided I’d do it and I’d put a focus on improving urban cities. I’m not going to beg people for money I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. Even if it’s just one kid’s life I effect, it’s what I had to do.

A lot of people are complaining about the issues. Why do you think more people complain than actually do? What actionable items can you give people to go from the complaining mindset to the executing mindset?

The first thing is embracing the frustration. If you’re complaining that means you care. Lots of people get stuck at the complaining. They get lost in it. The purpose of complaining is to invoke action. Frustration is the beginning. Embrace the frustration. After that, start somewhere. It doesn’t have to be big. When you’re really passionate about something, you can’t just hashtag it. You burn inside when you don’t do something. When I look at students who are struggling, I know we have to fix this. Allow whatever you start to build and grow. You’d be surprised who you connect with. You may feel like there are enough people solving the problem you’re trying to solve. I’m telling you there are not enough people fighting for our cause. Service is about impact. This isn’t about likes or public display.

You’re now diving into the financial literacy area. And we know that even if someone has the education and a good job, if there isn’t financial literacy it doesn’t even matter. Did a frustration in the financial literacy area lead you to that area too?
80-90% of students had income that was below the poverty line. How can I expect a kid to go to school comfy if they don’t know where the next meal is coming from? If you want to see Black people liberated, we have to fix these economics. I’m reading a book called Black Fortunes, and it’s about how Black people would essentially hide wealth because of fear of being killed. It was the Black wealthy elite that funded the civil rights movement. If we’re going to make the push that we need, economic empowerment Is key. We have money. The Black consumer spend is a fast-growing segment. Our issue isn’t not having money it’s often how we appropriate it.

What skills would you say you took from sales and translated into all these things?
I’m indebted to the sales profession. Being able to communicate is everywhere. Being able to craft a message that’s inspiring, I owe that to sales. I learned tough skin, how to create a business, and how to t be quarterly driven. We’re in the green. We have a great war chest and we’re in a position to make an impact. That came because of the skills I acquired. I met high profile people and they are getting involved.

How important is networking?

I’m a believer in network being net worth. If we’re not operating in community, we will lose. Networking and community go hand in hand. You connecting with people who have the same purpose is how you become more impactful. You get better inspiration, accountability, better focus when you network the right way.

Did you have any mentors that were impactful early?

I used to compartmentalize my mentors. I had a work mentor, life mentor, real estate mentor, etc. People poured into me. One person was Mr. Michael Jackson who was a board member of William Patterson University. I’d call him when I first graduated stressed about being the only Black person. He coached me through navigating that. There were also family members who guide me. Everything I’ve done has been built on the backs of others. The best experience is someone else’s experience.

What’s some advice you would give to people?

Stop talking about it. Just start. You don’t know how many people walk up to me and say they wanted to do what I do. Even if it’s small, do something little. It will start building and your deals will start getting crazy. People will feel your energy. People will feel your passion. And if they don’t, God sees. He’s who I’m trying to please. Find what frustrates you. What keeps you up at night. Go start making an impact and difference there.

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