Jay Nwachu is Fostering Innovation and Empowerment in Baltimore


Innovation Works (IW), Miller Center’s strongest domestic accelerator partner, recently received funding as part of the JPMorgan Chase $8.45 million philanthropic investment in Baltimore! This initiative aims to tackle the city’s vacant homes crisis — stabilizing housing supply, promoting affordable homeownership, and driving small business growth and commercial corridor revitalization. With this achievement, we celebrate the journey and impact of Innovation Works’ President and CEO, A. Jay Nwachu, whose vision and actions have catalyzed a movement toward creating sustainable economies in the city’s disinvested Black neighborhoods. 

Innovation Works, under Jay’s stewardship, has achieved significant milestones. With a focus on creating sustainable neighborhood economies, IW has engaged over 400 social enterprises — actively supporting more than 160 and ensuring that 100% of supported enterprises serve or are based in majority Black neighborhoods. Through direct investment, mentorship, and a commitment to fostering dignity and inclusion, IW is making tangible strides toward reducing Baltimore’s neighborhood and racial wealth divide.

Frank Knott founded Innovation Works on Ignatian principles and with ties to the Jesuit community. Jay says, ” I grew up Catholic. When I heard about the faith-based aspect, it made the role more attractive to me because I felt that I could bring my whole self to the table. My faith also adds a greater level of accountability in my work.”

Jay has cultivated an environment where local entrepreneurs are supported to realize their visions for economic growth and sustainability. Through his guidance, Innovation Works promotes sustainable change, addressing systemic issues in underserved areas through entrepreneurship. Jay keeps his focus on the big picture by continually asking, “How do we leverage the resources inherent in the community to support each other and bring wealth to the community?” 

The relationship between Miller Center and Innovation Works highlights a collaborative spirit aimed at fostering social entrepreneurship on a wider scale. Miller Center’s support in sharing training content, methodology, and access to Miller Center executive mentors has been instrumental in IW’s growth. 

Jay Nwachu’s life of service shines brightly through his dedication to moving from the private sector into community development work, creating opportunities, and advocating for equitable economic growth. His leadership exemplifies a model of social entrepreneurship that prioritizes impact over recognition — leading without seeking the limelight but instead focusing on the tangible differences made in the lives of Baltimore’s residents.

Innovation Works’ vision for the future is bold and inclusive, aiming to support the launch and growth of 250 social enterprises, create 5,000 new local jobs, and attract $100 million to Baltimore’s neighborhood economies. This vision, supported by a team of staff and a robust network of volunteers, underscores a commitment to excellence, integrity, and results-driven leadership.

In conclusion, Jay Nwachu’s work with Innovation Works Baltimore embodies a profound commitment to leveraging social entrepreneurship for community upliftment and economic development. His leadership not only inspires but also enacts sustainable change, making a lasting impact on Baltimore’s disinvested neighborhoods. As IW continues to grow and expand its reach, the foundation laid by Nwachu’s vision and dedication ensures that the organization remains a vital force for good in the community, fostering an ecosystem where innovation and social justice go hand in hand.


Photo Credits:

  1. Jay Nwachu, President and CEO of Innovation Works, joins other awardees of JPMorgan Chase‘s $8.45 million philanthropic investment in Baltimore. (Left to right: Shelonda Stokes, president of Downtown Partnership of Baltimore; Scott Canuel, Chase’s Baltimore private bank team lead; Mayor Brandon Scott; Jay Nwachu, CEO of Innovation Works; Bree Jones, founder and CEO of Parity Homes; Tim Berry, Chase’s global head of corporate responsibility and chairman of the Mid-Atlantic region and; Alicia Wilson, Chase’s head of regional philanthropy for North America)
  2. With investment and support from Ignite Capital, a subsidiary of Innovation Works, Black Acres Coffee founder Travis Bell is taking his enterprise to new heights, entering major markets like Trader Joe’s and Lexington Market.
  3. Trevor Pryce, a retired NFL player and founder of Outlook Enterprises, spoke with Jay at the mainstage event of IW’s Baltimore Neighborhood Economics Lab.
  4. Jay talked with attendees at the Innovation Works and Ignite Capital investor showcase.