Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Rockstar Nairobi Social Entrepreneur

Carol Wanjiku is the CEO of Daproim. She’s an incredible social entrepreneur I just visited with in Nairobi, Kenya. She runs a for-profit social enterprise named Daproim that provides data entry services using disadvantaged students as their primary workforce.

We go way back with her firm. In 2008, we were the first customer of Samasource as they were getting started. Samasource connected us with Daproim in Nairobi to proofread books for our Bookshare project. Bookshare is our large digital library for students with disabilities such as blindness or dyslexia. We use digital ebooks at Bookshare’s core, which can easily be turned into braille, large print or digital audio (using synthetic speech technology). We had just won a large contract to deliver high-quality accessible textbooks to students with disabilities in the U.S., and we needed more help. Samasource connected us with a winning team, and we’ve been using Daproim ever since.

I visited Daproim four years ago, and wrote about my experiences in a blog post about its founder, Steve Muthee. While I was there, I also met Carol. She was Steve’s operational head, and they had just become engaged. They made a great team: Steve was an enthusiastic salesman/CEO, passionate about building up Kenya through good IT jobs, and Carol ran the team. They recruited their staff from Nairobi slums as well as students from poor rural backgrounds who had made it to Nairobi universities.
Portrait photo of Carol Wanjiku, seated and smiling, wearing a red jacket
Carol Wanjiku

Daproim went on to great success. Carol shared that they had received an Impact Sourcing grant from the Rockefeller Foundation and scaled up their capacity. They focused even more on students, and built online resources that allowed them to recruit from across Kenya, including economic and social screening for the neediest students. Daproim worked with TechnoServe and developed soft skills training modules for students who stuck with the work after an initial period. Carol explained that these smart students lacked the connections and people skills to get jobs after graduation, and that Daproim wanted to give them a leg up in going on to tech careers once they graduated from school and from working for Daproim.

Unfortunately, early last year, Steve got sick. The doctors in Kenya struggled with a diagnosis. Meanwhile, Carol became pregnant with their first child. Steve went to India for more tests. They diagnosed him with a rare, serious disease called dermatomyositis. Only a month after the birth of their daughter, Amara, last October, Steve passed away.

My team and I were quite worried about Carol, as a new mom suddenly in charge of a social enterprise. We sent our condolences and best wishes for Carol and her new baby. Incredibly, the high-quality work continued to flow from Daproim uninterrupted.

Last week I was able to visit Nairobi, and I sat down with Carol to find out how we could help her. Her answer was simple: she simply needs more business. As she put it, “Steve’s dream was to see Daproim grow!” They have 250 part-time staff right now, and they want to grow to 800 staff by the end of 2016. I was surprised to find out that we’re her largest customer right now, with more than 100 students working on proofreading educational books for Bookshare. I also learned that our collection development team keeps track of exam schedules in Kenya, and arranges our book flows to Daproim accordingly, so that students can focus on their school work during that period.

Her limitation is not lack of human capital. Daproim has more than 7600 applications from Kenyan students who want to work there. With the investment in systems thanks to Rockefeller’s support, expansion is relatively easy.

Carol also asked me if we would serve as a reference for Daproim. No problem! Carol, consider this blog post a down payment on that reference.

I asked Bookshare’s head of Collection Development, our very own Carol James, about Daproim’s work, and she had this to say:
She has done an amazing job of keeping Daproim going after Steve’s death – they continue to be one of our best vendor partners, in terms of value, quality, and timeliness, and Carol is so positive and proactive about keeping the relationship with us healthy. 

So, if you’re searching for great data entry services for outsourcing, make your money work twice as hard like we do. We get great services from Daproim, and we know that our money is also supporting the development of the new Africa through its smart yet disadvantaged students!


The nairobian said...

Very inspiring and encouraging

Nungari Kihuha said...

Great job Carol. It's been a pleasure watching the good job your doing in empowering the Kenyan youth. Your company is also quite timely in delivering proposed outputs. Kudos for a job well done!!!

Angie Nas said...

So happy & proud of you Carol. Your resilience & work ethic are admirable. :) Best wishes!

Edith Mukigi said...

A woman who influences lives and impacts on the youth is a woman worth global recognition. To say well done would be mincing my words. You rock. Happy that Daproim is empowering the youths in my country.

steve ngunyi said...

Great work Carol.

steve ngunyi said...

Well done. Africa awaits. Great Job

Unknown said...

Great job Carol. You should see me wracking my brain to see who I know that could use your services. Guaranteed, I can bet my money on you, and then some.

Martin Njihia. M said...

We need more of your kind in Africa.. keep at it!