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Welcome To Venture Imports

About Us

Mission

Venture Imports supplies beautiful and unique gifts from around the world. Venture Imports is a company dedicated to providing employment to people in developing countries by giving them access to North American markets.

Philosophy

Our company is based on mutual respect and reciprocal benefits. We expect everyone to win when working with us.

Our company expects to earn a fair return on invested capital commensurate with the risks involved. By ensuring that our company endures, we can provide continuing service to our partners.

We have specifically chosen to work with producers in developing countries. We believe that markets work; we want to help them work for everyone.

Standards
  • Producers receive a fair wage in the local context.
  • Producers work in healthy and safe working conditions in the local context.
  • We strive to establish long-term relationships with our partners.
  • We respect the cultural identity of our partners.
  • We work to protect the environment.

 

Venture Imports

Esther, Jen and Zipporah in Kenya, July 2009

Venture Imports

Mashford Kanyemba and Jen in Zimbabwe, July 2009

Venture Imports

Jen with Taurai Mlambo in Zimbabwe, July 2009

Venture Imports is owned and operated by Jennie Nichols. She is a graduate of Calvin College, where she earned an undergraduate degree in Economics with a minor in Third World Development. Her studies nurtured her belief that where one is born oftentimes unfairly dictates their opportunities in life. This, in turn, fostered a desire to help balance the scales of that inequity. During a college trip to South Africa, she came to believe that a good way to help people in developing countries is to provide them a market to sell their goods, so, in 2001, she started Venture Imports with that goal in mind. 

After graduating, Jennie returned to Africa to look for products and meet local artists. This time, in addition to returning to South Africa, she expanded her visit to include Kenya and Zimbabwe. It was in Zimbabwe that she was introduced to the carvings of the Shona people. Painstakingly chiseled from stone, Shona sculptures are gorgeous works of art, and immediately Jennie fell in love with them. She knew she’d found a product around which she could build her business. 

Today Shona sculptures are Venture Imports’ flagship product, but the path along the way hasn’t been smooth. Shipping heavy, stone goods overseas requires a lot of delicate planning, intricate coordination, and, most especially, patience. In addition, Zimbabwe’s political unrest and economic woes have made it difficult to do business. Nonetheless, Jennie has persisted, always remaining committed to her Shona artists. In time, the business flourished, importing container-loads of Shona sculptures over the years.

As the business grew, Jennie went on to travel to Mexico, Panama, Bolivia, and Morocco and has been able to expand the product line to include various goods from those countries, as well as items from India. In 2009, Venture Imports expanded to include sculptures from Kenya, acquiring the Kisii soapstone product line fromBright Hope International. 2009 also saw the installation of an eight-foot-tall Shona sculpture called “Transformed”, which was specially commissioned by Wedgewood Christian Servicesin Grand Rapids, MI. 

Venture Imports


With success came opportunities to make real differences in the lives of the artists abroad, who have benefited in various ways. Most of the artists use the money for basic necessities like food for their families and school fees for their children. While the money is usually a survival tool, some of them, like Samuel, are able to use some of the money to provide for HIV orphans. Every dollar makes an impact: in a country like Zimbabwe, where unemployment is so high, it typically takes only one person with a job to provide for an entire extended family. 

Outside of work, Jennie enjoys listening to and playing music, working out, eating good food, and learning about wine. Of all her interests, though, her biggest is football, particularly Green Bay Packer football. In Wisconsin, where she grew up, Packer football is more than just sport, it’s a way of life, and, with Jennie, it’s no different. Her passion for football runs so deep that she even joined a women’s professional football team, the West Michigan Mayhem, and played wide receiver for two years. These days, however, she enjoys the games from the stands or the couch rather than on the field.
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