Image: Maureen Nicol founder and director of Campstory

Growing up as a first-generation Sierra Leonean-American, Maureen Nicol wanted to pay homage to her mother country in a meaningful way to empower generations to come by creating an educational and creative experience for children. She incorporated her passion for teaching and community organizing to create Camp Story, a summer camp which aims to strengthen the wings of young storytellers socially, emotionally, and artistically specifically low income and marginalized youth.

Maureen is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas at Austin studying Early Childhood Education. After teaching for several years, she noticed the power that the arts has on young children especially when it comes to identity, critical thinking, inquiry and building community. With the belief that all children should have the opportunity to have meaningful artistic experiences and the resources to tell their stories in the way they believe best, Camp Story was born.

“I created this to pay homage because that’s where my family is from and I know these children wouldn’t have this opportunity any other way. I show up for the people whom I feel need it most because I feel like I’m extensions of them.” – Maureen Nicol, founder and director of Camp Story


Image: @campstory

Maureen’s number one goal is to create a space where she is allowing youth to express themselves, their learning, and stories in a safe and creative environment. One of her most significant challenges, like most businesses, has been accessing capital, but that hasn’t stopped her from taking risks and following her passion. “Money and fundraising was definitely a challenge. Let’s be honest, money is always an issue. You may have a great idea, but if you don’t have the access to capital it’s hard to make it sustainable. The first time we hosted Camp Story, we made it work on a $3,000 budget and served 45 kids from ages 5 – 15 years old. Not only was it an opportunity for children to express themselves, but it also served as an opportunity for professional development for the teachers to collaborate to help create this memorable experience.


Image: @williethewayfarer

Maureen is known as the risk taker in her family and believes that regardless if you fail or succeed, there’s always a lesson learned. “The reason I have the confidence to take risks is because I started off with one risk and it didn’t let me down. It showed me that if I listen to my intuition and act on it, even though other people may not believe in it or trust it, I have faith in myself. You have to take risks in order to progress. No one who is comfortable and complacent will grow, so I see it as, I take a risk and I fail, or I take a risk and I do well. Either way, I’m winning because I learned something new.”


Image: Jessica Nicol founder of Daffina

Growing up as a middle child with two other sisters she values sisterhood and credits her oldest sister, Jessica Nicol, as her mentor who instilled three key values in her since a young girl. “Family, service and education definitely come to mind when it comes to things we cherish in our family. I take my role as the big sister very seriously and early on encouraged Maureen to follow her passion of teaching and serving others. Our parents taught us that helping others in need is priority. It’s important to identify issues that impact communities and do what you can to develop solutions.”

Jessica is a government consultant and the founder of Daffina African Clothing, which is a family owned business inspired by the love of African fashion to capture the beauty and history of their motherland. Jessica says that she is beyond proud of the work Maureen is doing with Camp Story and was grateful she was able to witness her in action last Summer when the entire family visited Sierra Leone for the first time in 20 years. “To see her in her element interacting with the teachers and students, I was very proud. She did an exceptional job planning and providing instructions to the staff in developing creative programs for the children. Though it was hosted in Sierra Leone, she partnered with the International School and there were children from all over the world that were impacted.” 

How has your mentor supported you a long your journey? Let us know in the comments below.

About SheaMoisture Community Commerce

This post was created in partnership with SheaMoisture around its focus on Community Commerce, a purpose-driven business model that creates opportunities for sustainable social and economic empowerment throughout its supply chain and communities in the United States and Africa.

Community Commerce focuses on entrepreneurship, women’s empowerment, education and wellness. It’s bigger than beauty. It’s about investing in local and global communities, striving to eliminate generational poverty and empowering women. A portion of proceeds from select SheaMoisture Community Commerce collections are invested in its Shea butter, coconut and African Black Soap cooperatives in Ghana and others that supply their handcrafted natural ingredients.

In the United States, their women’s empowerment programs focus on entrepreneurship and education, including fellowships to attend the Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business Minority program and Babson College’s summer entrepreneurship program. Most recently, through the $100,000,000 New Voices Fund —   created to invest in women of color entrepreneurs to help them build sustainable businesses — SheaMoisture is working to transform the landscape of business and what it means to live a more beautiful life.

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