Individuals who start their own businesses are motivated by many different things. Some people want the freedom of being their own boss or want to pursue their true passion. Others have dreams of making a lot of money and building an empire.
Lately, there has been a growing consciousness around business. If you are like me, you have been noticing the significant uptake and interest in companies that have a basic alignment in social responsibility, meaning the mission is not just to grow and make money, but to do good in the universe. Enter, social entrepreneurship. Or, enter the art of being a socialpreneur.
Anything that is worth doing can be heralded as an art. For Jennifer Kaberi, her art is leveraging the power of technology to improve a child’s well-being.
Jennifer is the co-founder of Mtoto News, a digital media company that does not believe in the ‘children are only to be seen, never heard,’ philosophy. She intends to make them visible and give them a voice. Jennifer states that “My most important job, is that I am a mother,” with a hint of joy in her eyes.
This joy is the clear passion that dictates how Jennifer has found the silver lining in her entrepreneurial passion and creating an impact. This is why social entrepreneurship is more than an economic activity –it gives society positive world-changing solutions at a time when the world needs them.
Jennifer did not have it easy growing up. She was born prematurely, and during her six-week stay in hospital, there was a power outage. This power outage took with it 20 of her baby peers, and in a stoke of fate – luck? – serendipity? left only her. “That shows me that I have a calling. I have a purpose. There is a reason why I am on earth and I need to fulfill that reason.” Making money has never been enough for Jennifer. She has always wanted to add a little colour to life. A little more meaning. Just like a colouring book.
When younger, she told herself when she finished high school, she would give one year of her life to the service of humanity. Her teenage self at way back when had the energy to contribute to creating solutions in society.
From this, she was picked as a leader in her school. Her teachers began noticing that she had a clear-cut passion for her community. “I was the environmental prefect. I was in charge of ensuring trees are planted, the compound of clean. Even the toilets.”
Against this backdrop, Jennifer was in the process of learning the formula for success, combining capitalism with a do-gooder mentality. Now, with today’s technological global outreach, Jennifer has found it easier to break free of conventional practices and beliefs to achieve economic and social freedom. Her desire to create and flourish was not hindered at all, despite her wanting to become a lawyer initially, and not becoming one.
“Four years ago in 2017, I woke up on the night of 16 February, I knew what I wanted to do. I did not yet know the how, but I knew the what. I needed to start a company that was going to be focusing on communicating matters on and to children. And it was going to be digital.”
“I started with what I knew best. My default was Twitter. I went on it and opened an account, Mtoto News. I then started remembering all the things my communication lecturers would tell me, the what, how, when, where, why” she said, brushing off a smile with the thought of the memory. From this, Jennifer would pick news items within the country and see how they would affect children. This would begin to change the narrative on how parents consume news regarding children, and how children themselves consumed news. Through this rational approach to nurturing children, the economic developments and advancements within the country were packaged in a way that they provided a service for the greater good without any sort of malice or manipulation.
Mtoto News’ vision is a world where children are seen as players and not as spectators. This is done through curating, creating, and circulating content on children in different ways, including audio, video, written materials, and infographics. They also train journalists on ethical reporting of children’s stories, considering the child’s best interest, and safeguarding the little ones. Plus, training children to speak for themselves. This is done through five days of in-person training followed by a three-month mentorship programme.
During this time, children learn how to write, make videos, and conduct interviews while staying safe online. Mtoto News also gives them a platform where they can publish their content. Lastly, there is a considerable gap between data and action-oriented results emanating from the collected data to improve children’s lives. Therefore, Mtoto News works with data science platforms to analyse, visualise, and create models to enhance children’s lives using the data available.
“Look for a problem that you can be able to solve. If you get the solution, money will follow. Entrepreneurship is not about getting money. It is about solving problems.” This shows me that social entrepreneurs are the visionary change agents, the thinkers and disrupters who are working for the betterment of society and for the problem which is faced by that society. For example, just how well of a job Jennifer is doing in convincing society as a whole to think about children-related content in different dimensions and directions. She is a fine example of a social entrepreneur who develops simple, comprehensible ideas that people can understand to improve not just their lives, but those of others.
“The problem we are solving with Mtoto News is making children visible. There was a huge gap in children-related content. But over the last two years, we have seen several mainstream media putting children onto their platforms.” Like a domino effect, Mtoto News is driving societal transformation and is dispelling the notion that large amounts of money is needed. This is not the case. What is needed in plenty is passion. a better place. “If you want to be rich fast, don’t go for entrepreneurship,” pointed out Jennifer.
To many, this will be paradoxical. The reality is that social value and social change are at the heart of any enterprise operation. Monetary profit becomes just a tool for entrepreneurs to accomplish people-centred goals.
“Don’t wait for the stars to align, just start!” she declares. Starting, she observes will fulfill this pressing desire to work with purpose and align people’s efforts with their values. “Just do it. This is not just a Nike thing. It is a life thing,” she affirms. “Don’t wait for validation from other people, believe in yourself and go for it. Take risks, and don’t run away from problems,” are words of wisdom from Jennifer.
Children who are on the cusp of becoming teenagers are often looking for role models. Or, in other words, a superhero. While each of the Avengers is a superhero in their own right, the real superhero in our case is Jennifer Kaberi. Why? For the passion and the drive; and for the desire to make the world a better place.