We had the good fortune of connecting with Iffie Jennings and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Iffie, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Hi, my name is Iffie Jennings-I am the wife of a 17-year army veteran, mom of 3 beautiful boys, a sister, daughter, friend, and a kindness enthusiast. After the tragic loss of a parent, I learned the importance and the healing power of kindness through words and everyday actions. It was my aunt and uncle’s (who I lovingly call mom and dad) words of encouragement, meeting my basic needs through providing clothes, meals, and a safe home, that started the healing process after such a tragic loss. As I reflect on this time, those simple everyday actions helped me through that difficult time.
After college, I found a role in healthcare that afforded me an opportunity to help others live healthy lifestyles. After almost a decade with this organization, my position, along with 200 others, was eliminated. Like many during this time of transition, I started to re-evaluate what was important to me. I learned during this time how exhausting it could be to watch the news or swipe through social media only to see another display of what I like to call kindness withdrawals or, in other words, someone taking an opportunity to promote hate, create strife or division. I thought that I couldn’t be the only person that was exhausted by all of this. And then I had my aha moment! I decided to create a space where kindness, love and compassion was valued. That is how what is now known today as The Kindness Network came to be.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’ve worked over the last decade in healthcare as a consultant in strategy and public health. After a couple of layoffs, I decided to make a career change and went back to school for a certificate in Corporate Social Responsibility. I recently made a career change into the utilities industry as a Community Relations, Area Manager. In this role, I represent the company brand and build relationships in the community. While it has challenges, it highlights my strengths in building relationships and creating community. What sets me apart from others is my ability to hear and see people who others may not usually see. I am able to develop relationships quickly and pick up on verbal and nonverbal communication cues. I am willing to lead from the front or back of the room. I am a servant leader that creates space for everyone to be their authentic selves.
I am most proud of my work with building The Kindness Network. We focus on three values:
Kindness is Beauty: We transcend perceptions of beauty associated with physical attributes, societal norms, and standards. The most beautiful part of anyone is how they treat themselves and others.
Safe to Love: As humans, we are authentic, we can show emotion, be vulnerable, and my team and I endeavor to embrace that. Here, we focus on showing empathy and feeling the pain of others. Our goal is to move in that kindness mantra every day.
No Act is Too Small: Fulfillment lies in service. We model humble leadership. Kindness is required at all levels, in all roles; no act is too small.
It can be challenging to work full-time, be present for my family and own a small business while remaining kind to myself, but creating a movement and community for women like myself that wear many hats where love, kindness, and compassion are celebrated and expected, I believe, is my highest calling and purpose.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Great question-we would start the day having brunch at Mimosas with a group of friends. Next would be a trip to the spa for facials. We would end the day by making a stop at Sweetz Treats to pick up dessert (peach cobbler) for our southern style Friendsgiving dinner we would cook together that evening at my home. The evening would be spent laughing, talking and eating. It’s good company and the food for me…nothing like being surrounded by love, friendship and kindness. 😉
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to shoutout my sister Tangerine Mori and best friends Sara and LaShanna. They listen to all of my ideas, check me when imposter syndrome sets in and they let me know when I need to have a seat. 😉
When I had the idea of starting The Kindness Network, one of the first people I spoke with was Makisha Boothe, Founder and Head Business Coach of Sistahbiz Global Network, a business accelerator for Black women entrepreneurs. I went to her because I knew she would tell me if this could be a viable business. If I am being honest, the idea of starting a business scared me, and I wanted her to tell me it was a bad idea so I could check the box on trying. As you probably know, at this point, she thought it was a great idea and thought the world needed my message and brand. I have to shout her out for pouring into me, my vision, my business, and for creating a community of black women entrepreneurs that support and pour into each other.
My final shoutout is for Kadija Taylor, Founder of Home & Sanctuary. Kadija helped create the visual brand for my business and will always be a part of The Kindness Network story. She is a creative spirit that embodies kindness, love, and support.
I am forever grateful to my family, friends, and business coach for supporting and encouraging me along the way. Every kind word and time spent pouring into me is what I tap into to carry The Kindness Network brand forward.