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Talking Top Tens: Jess Teutonico

Founder, Under the Acacia; Executive Director, We Are Family Foundation


Jess Teutonico has been working in Kenya since 2006, building sustainable programs in remote areas with the indigenous tribes that address basic human needs through her organization, Under the Acacia. She is also the Executive Director for legendary music producer and Grammy winner Nile Rodgers’ organization, We Are Family Foundation, where she leads the most sought after international youth initiatives including Three Dot Dash and TEDxTeen. Previously, she was a consultant at TED Conferences and a Special Events Director at Vogue Magazine and spent a decade producing fashion shows and events for top luxury brands such as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Tom Ford. 

And more with Jess Teutonico…

Your greatest achievement:

My son, Luca. I built a human.

Favorite Instagram account to follow:

I love Athena Calderone’s @eyeswoon (stunning food, design and living), The Glow’s @theglowdotcom (a must for moms) and my boss Nile Rodgers @nilerodgers (because every day should feel like Studio 54).

What do you love most about your work?

I work with remote tribes in Kenya. I work with a rockstar. I work with the most influential brands and hundreds of “Malala’s”. I travel the world and see everything through an incredible lens. When you are collaborating with people who are shaping this world, what’s not to love? Making impact on a daily basis is addictive. If work feels like work, you are doing the wrong thing. 

Your last great read:

In the Heart of Life” by my dear friend Kathy Eldon. Her son Dan Eldon’s story and legacy everyone needs to know about – and his mom Kathy’s book is part African adventure, part love story, part family dynamics, part transforming pain into something positive – but mainly, incredibly disruptive and impossible to put down.

A charity you support:

My organization Under the Acacia which provides a sustainability model for remote communities in Kenya, and We Are Family Foundation where I am executive director, where we work to amplify game changing youth around the world.

Your (real life) hero:

My Aunt Jane. She’s been working across Africa as a nurse with MSF for over 25 years. She’s on her 2nd tour in Sierra Leone now on the front lines of Ebola. She and I are the Africa crazies in the family. She inspires me and understands everything about my life there.

Where does your credit card get the most use? is in business because of me. Same day delivery = game changing time management for working moms!

The beauty product found in your bag at all times:

Perfume samples from Bond Street.

Your most recent culinary discovery and obsession:

My husband’s brussel sprouts. I dream about them. Warning: you will too.

Your motto in life:

“The journey is the destination” - Dan Eldon, and “Only busy people have time” - me (I think).