Building a Financially Sustainable Social Enterprise in Emerging Markets
We still remember the moment vividly—the one that would define the direction of our start-up and change our lives forever. It was October 2012, and we sat in a dimly lit Java House café in Nairobi, Kenya. We had left behind promising careers in Washington, DC, and moved to Kenya—on the back of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a major university—to start a new organization aimed at developing a new generation of professionals to create social impact.
Our university partner had just dealt us a crushing blow: It canceled the agreement, citing internal politics. Our board of directors was discouraging us from launching without a university partner and was pressing us to find a different university when a fellow “edupreneur” told us: “Given how slowly universities move, staking everything on academic partners is not safe—in fact, it’s the riskiest strategy of all!”
This resonated. So, on that fateful day, in that dingy cafe, we decided to launch an independent, fee-based program on our own.