About You and Your Work

Your bio:

Emma has over 20 years’ experience in sustainable investment, financial innovation and social and environmentally friendly development.  After a decade running community enterprise programmes in Central America, she ran an impact investment fund for ERM the global environmental consultancy.  Moving to Nairobi in 2012, she set up Impact Capital Advisors, an impact investment consulting firm that has advised clients including OPES Calvert Foundation, the Kenya Bankers’ Association, Aga Khan Trust for Culture, UNDP, DOEN and Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor.

In 2014, Emma founded Tiny Totos transformational social enterprise that is building a market based network of upgraded informal daycare in lower income settlements providing improved standards of childcare service.

Emma has a first class BA and MBA with Distinction from Oxford University where she was a Skoll Scholar in Social Entrepreneurship, as well as a Masters in Resource Management from the University of British Columbia

Project name:

Solving ChildcareSolving Childcare

One-line project summary:

Poor quality childcare undermines child development and mothers' ability to work. Our market-based solution solves this crisis in Africa.

Present your project.

Poor childcare undermines child development and mothers' ability to work.  Our solution solves this crisis in Africa.

1a Child neglect during critical development years (0-5) results in a lifetime of unrealised potential.

b Gender inequity, in which women's ability to earn is directly correlated to social standing and influence.

c Women's entrepreneurship - daycare managers are 99% women.  Like all SMES they need capital, training and network to succeed and unlock their clients' earning potential.

2. We are building a community and market-based solution to the childcare crisis that keeps underprivileged children, mothers and families locked in the poverty trap; a crisis that is worsening during COVID-19.  Without resilient childcare solutions, a generation of children and their mothers will be left behind, dragging fragile economies with them

3.Childcare is central to human and social capital. Improved childcare unlocks child development, gender equity, livelihood benefits, and economic development, elevating humanity.

Submit a video.

What specific problem are you solving?

The problem we are solving is the childcare crisis which undermines social capital; high quality childcare can unleash it.  9/10 children in poverty are found in Africa.  Studies show an additional $1 invested in quality ECD returns between $6 and $17.  Access to early stimulation interventions for infants can increase future earnings by 25%.  Yet most countries in Africa - like the rest of the world - fail to invest in universal preschool care, quality or not.  Into this vacuum of provision step informal market suppliers, where mothers in lower income settlements in cities like Nairobi must leave their children if they are to work.  These ad hoc, unregulated, substandard, home based childcare centres - 4,000 operate daily in Nairobi - provide poor standards of care. Market demand and supply is nevertheless widespread, giving sold foundations of community enterprise to build on.  The market for fragmented, unregulated daycare is $400k per month; $4.8M per year.  Were this market elevated, networked and diversified (including sales of meals, pampers, nutritious foods, clean cookstoves, and other products which with economies of scale could be sold at cheaper prices and higher quality) it could triple in value, solving childcare and livelihood crises combined.

What is your project?

Our project unleashes the entrepreneurial potential of informal caregivers to provide standardized, safe and affordable daycare services to working mothers who depend on this service in order to be able to focus on their jobs and go to work with peace of mind.  By helping upgrade and diversify standards of care in the informal daycare economy, we create multiplier livelihood benefits, with owner-entrepreneurs, lower-income working mothers (and families), and disadvantaged children all enjoying improvements in standards of living and prospects because of imprved standards in daycares.  We do this through a combination of training, investment and network support that 1. enables each daycare to elevate services, stabilize and become profitable 2. create a quasi-franchise, standardised and peer-to-peer learning support and 3. introduce value-add diversification of products and services that further improve livelihoods, resilience of daycares and network overall.  Key to our expansion strategy is investment in technological platforms and data tracking to facilitate scale and monitoring of impact.  Our intervention works because we build on community markets and trust rather than parachute in ideas from elswhere.  We tap into an existing if fragmented market of childcare service providers already trusted by mothers, and help them do what they do better.  

Who does your project serve, and in what ways is the project impacting their lives?

Our key beneficiaries - preschool children and poor, underskilled women in urban slums - are the most vulnerable and marginalised people in Africa..  Daycare is used by women in the vulnerable years after becoming a mother, when their ability to hold down a job is deeply impacted by the demands of being their child's primary caregiver. These mothers typically earn anywhere from $50-250 USD a month, spend no more than $25 on childcare per month and cannot afford the $30 minimum spend required for a 'house girl' to stay at home with their children. Their children have the worst health indicators in the country, with 12% higher mortality rates than children in affluent urban / rural areas. Stunting, the result of chronic undernourishment is high, up to 47% vs 20% national average.  Daycare owners are typically jobless and under skilled; daycare is a default livelihood pursuit not a vocation, for which they earn little, and receive no support.  Our intervention taps into their self-created market to help them better improve their own self-identified problems. We run multiple beneficiary feedback mechanisms to support  feedback mechanisms, including monthly surveys, an SMS survey and communication system enabled by Africa's Talking, and peer meetings.

Which dimension of The Elevate Prize does your project most closely address?

Elevating opportunities for all people, especially those who are traditionally left behind

Explain how your project relates to The Elevate Prize and your selected dimension.

Elevate aims to elevate opportunities for people traditionally left behind.  Women our intervention helps are let behind in s many ways - economically with weak earning power  (Kenyan woman are paid Sh55 for every Sh100 paid to a man for a similar job) socially, in a traditionally patriarchal society (though women head 1/3 of households, they only own 1% of land and assets) even from a technology perspective (women own 10% less phones).  We elevate opportunity for women by improving their capacity to earn more, own more, be more by elevating the indigenous childcare market and unleashing women's latent potential.

How did you come up with your project?

Tiny Totos came about by accident, if truth be told.  Emma Caddy, the founder, had a background in impact investment with a specialisation in environmentally-focused SME ventures.  Having resigned her impact investment director job in London to move to Nairobi with her Kenyan husband and family in January 2012, she was consulting in the space with more time on her hands.  Asked by a friend to help her write a business plan for a mum and baby centre targeting higher income clients, her suggestion was that this business should twin with a lower income childcare centre in the slums to generate social return.  In looking for a centre to twin with, she became aware of the vast, fragmented, ignored, substandard and self-reliant childcare market of lower income women helping other lower income women get to work.  With her social enterprise lens, she realized the enormous potential for social transformation if these businesses were a) helped to improve with the core inputs all MSMES need - capital, training, peers b) networked and standardized through a franchise system c) treated as community hubs where additional pro child /family health products and services could be offered at fair prices. And TTK was born

Why are you passionate about your project?

My personal motivation in setting up Tiny Totos relates to my experience of being a mother in Africa.  I moved to the continent 6 weeks after the birth of my first born 11 years ago and have been based here ever since, primarily in Kenya for the past almost 9 years.  10 years ago I had a life changing experience from which the genesis of Tiny Totos was born.  As Director of an impact investment fund, i travelled to rural Burkina Faso to conduct due diligence on a rural solar kiosk franchise business.  I was into the early stages of my third trimester with my second child.  During the trip i contracted an infection which led to premature labour a few days after my return to then home in Johannesburg, and the birth and death a few hours later of my second daughter.  This experience drove home how fragile the cycle of life is in the continent, and how being the mother of a healthy child was never guaranteed.  My impact investment background and personal experience of the challenges of motherhood and loss in Africa motivated the birth of Tiny Totos, and the desire to give back in her memory.

Why are you well-positioned to deliver this project?

I have dedicated my career to social impact and change  With my two first class degrees from Oxford University (where I was a Skoll Scholar for Social Entrepreneurship) and my graduate degree in resource management I was a good fit for a position with an international private sector firm or development agency.  Instead I have always been attracted to impact not money, dedicating my energies and skills to promote equitable livelihood and rights for the less fortunate.

My work experiences include many firsts.  I was the first Central American field coordinator for ILRC, a human rights law firm for whom I coordinated research and community outreach, helping win a seminal case defending indigenous rights for customary tenure at the Inter American Human Rights Court. I was the first Americas Livelihoods Manager for FFI, a conservation NGO, leading integration of livelihood benefits for communities in their conservation work.  I was the first Director of an impact investment fund for ERM the global environmental consultancy, investing in pro poor low carbon ventures.  Moving to Nairobi in 2012 I set up Impact Capital Advisors, an impact consulting firm, developing groundbreaking sustainable finance training for Kenya's bank employees for the Kenya Bankers’ Association, or UNDP-UNEP’s SEED programme and the UK-based Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor in investing in pro poor SME ventures. I then launched Tiny Totos. Throughout these diverse experiences my values and objectives have been consistent; to innovate and disrupt set norms and practices to bring about lasting social change 

Provide an example of your ability to overcome adversity.

 Tiny Totos has been challenging from the get-go. Our idea has been to test whether a market based theory of change unleashng women entrepreneurs' ability to run improved businesses and mother's ability to work might be more impactful in providing sustainable, elevated childcare services than the traditional approach of focusing on childcare services first and foremost.  Our assumption has been that if you tap into local market and social networks and potential you can build more sustainable foundations for long-term care than subsidised, supplanted models ever could.  It took a long time and many setbacks to convince even our team that we could grow without a charitable approach; results have changed their minds.  Fundraising has also been challenging; we don't fit.  Philanthropists suspect we want to make money from our model and don't prioritize the children enough; impact or commercial investors think we are overly concerned about mission drift and are passing up opportunities to generate revenue from our BoP network.  We've grown by boostrapping; I pay myself 25% of what I earned 6 years ago.  But the payback from creating a strong organization sustainable model able to generate enormous impact and returns without compromising principles is worth financial impacts.

Describe a past experience that demonstrates your leadership ability.

I am not a leader who hobs the spotlight; I prefer to leads by example and with empathy.  My team will tell you I have a strong work ethic that I expect them to emulate.  I also expect them to create, soar and shine and believe in themselves as much as I believe in them.  For example our Partnerships Coordinator has a knack for public speaking and wants more of these experiences; when it came to presenting our work and collecting an award from MIT last year as the Regional Winners of the Income Growth and Job Creation category, I nominated her to go in my stead.  She and my team will often speak of the opportunities I give them to grow and take on tasks they never have imagined doing before.  This is also as I am weary of the white saviour complex many social enterprises in the region are tainted by, and have made sure to proactively hire Kenyan and primarily women to our team over white candidates or men.  As a mother, who has also lost a child, I am also deeply empathetic, and regularly counsel others who have lost their way by losing children like me.

How long have you been working on your project?

Pre pilot 2 years; market implementation 6 years.

Where are you headquartered?

Nairobi, Kenya

What type of organization is your project?

Hybrid of for-profit and nonprofit
More About Your Work

Describe what makes your project innovative.

Unlike traditional players in the childcare space, we see informal daycare entrepreneurs.  We don't overlook them, we respect them.  We dignify them as businesswomen, not beneficiaries.  We don't waltz into their neighbourhoods, with fancy solutions to problems that they have been trying to solve without our help for so many years.  We sit down and listen.  To managers and the mothers who trust them with the care of their children.  We work with both to understand what makes a daycare work in the lower-income settlements, and what makes it fall apart.  We value the critical element of trust that binds the transaction between provider and client together.  We don't parachute in new ideas that will only last the timeframe of the grant that began them, and from which we reaped the lion's share of benefits.  We don't play with aid, we don't 'empower', we don't 'develop' we don't disrupt markets by our presence, making them worse than how they were when we 'found' them.  It isn't our model that needs to scale - the informal dayare market is already scaled and plenty - our approach is to tap into the incredible resilience of neglected, ill educated women and recognize, respect and support the social compact and difference they are already trying to make in each other's lives and those of their children.  We give these vital childcare SMES catalytic support so that women can help other women and their children to better futures, and by doing so help themselves.

What is your theory of change?


Select the key characteristics of the community you are impacting.

  • Women & Girls
  • Pregnant Women
  • Infants
  • Children & Adolescents
  • Urban
  • Poor
  • Low-Income

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your project address?

  • 1. No Poverty
  • 2. Zero Hunger
  • 3. Good Health and Well-Being
  • 4. Quality Education
  • 5. Gender Equality
  • 6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  • 7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 10. Reduced Inequalities
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 13. Climate Action

In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Kenya

How many people does your project currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?

Currently we directly support 10,000 people per year.

By next year we expect to be supporting 20,000 

In terms of our model's potential.  Our mapping work has identified approximately 4,000 daycares in Nairobi, mostly run by one woman, catering to 10 children, whose mothers go to work.  At baseline they create 4,000 direct jobs and support 40,000 more or 200,000 families - and 200,000 children.  This in Nairobi alone - the replication and impact growth numbers if we take our model beyond Nairobi to Kenya and beyond are enormous - to not even mention the broader social and human capital benefits generated.

By next year we hope to be replicating our model and technology app with Huawei and Safaricom in Isiolo County, to track 12,000 children attending 160 ECD centres in 2020-21.

In 5 years' time we hope our business training and tech platform will be devolved to many countries through many partners, and supporting up to 1m women and children per year. 

What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?

Our network has served over 7,800 children to date, sold over 150,000 nutritious meals, 1,700 clean cookstoves, trained over 2,000 women in digital entrepreneurship, onboarded 60 daycare businesses into our network, given out loans for the same businesses to acquire smartphones, onboarded them to our app.  Particularly during COVID, when we our digital pivot has accelerated exponentially particularly in terms of generating online training content, we have found that receptivity and behaviour change amongst managers and parents alike to run businesses via the app and acquire learning via whatsapp, text and online has increased in tandem, whereas before the incentives for change were much less.  The time to reverse the historical disenfranchisement of lower income women from the technological revolution that has swept East Africa - to benefit them and their preschool children - is now.  If we build  on the behaviour change towards technology enabled learning and entrepreneurship support, we can accelerate the scaling of our model and hit our goals of supporting 200,000 by the end of next year, go national in 2021 and regional by 2022 and global by 2024.

What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?

Barriers include technology, incentives, oversight, partners and COVID.  Also cultural - there is a risk that getting involved in the informal economy could actually make things worse, if we distort markets through subsidy, make owners dependant on our support, give clients excuses not to pay.  Our investment in technology, in alternative business opportunities that we will layer through the daycares and our user-centric approach will help avoid this by:

1.         Allowing daycare owners to understand their businesses better with access to business analytics at their fingertips.

2.         Add value and incentives to the network that extend wellbeing of children to the homes and save money and time, and manage these at scale.

3. Increase transparency of care and layers of oversight when previously, care was entirely unsupervised. 

By working with Huawei and Safaricom as we are, as well as low tech low cost internet providers like Poa Internet, we hope to reduce the barriers to tech adoption of our users that will dramatically increase our ability to grow the number of daycares we support in our network - and thus our social impact and ultimate sustainability.

By working with the Nairobi City Council (as a member of the Ministry of Health's Community COVID Taskforce, in rolling out Vitamin A and deworming boosters; with the Ministry of Education to advise on their Daycare policy) we also ensure that government support is integral in the work that we do.

How do you plan to overcome these barriers?

As mentioned above, we plan to overcome these barriers with a user-centred design approach, through investment in mobile technology support systems, with partners in government and the tech community, and by introducing additional livelihood benefits to members of the TTK community to add stickiness to the network.  We really could benefit from technology use advisors and funders to help us transform our learning content into digital, transform our app's capacity and  create a parent's portal, and further develop and integrate our data platforms.  We need to hire a strong internal team to develop these  opportunities our self (our next key hire is indeed a CTO; if and when we secure funds to be able to do this - a key ask would be a funder willing to underwrite both the costs of the CTO and tech expansion work we plan to invest in).  Currently Huawei has helped secure a free developer in Latin America who is currently adding health and nutrition tracking functionality to our app; we are building visual design training content at very low cost ($600 USD per month x 6 months shoe string budget) which you can see on our own youtube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5iBll_XZudg0fj32VssVsA

but we really need to design more and invest more, yet lack the funds (and in house expertise) to invest in these.  If Elevate could help us with tech experts, that would be incredibly helpful!

What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?

Our overall work depend on partnerships many of which revolve around tech and sales innovation. Specifically we have:

-        Designed a phone-based app with a local software provider for daycare managers, and trained them up to use it.  During COVID, our digital reporting tool has been transformational in allowing us to track data on attendance, payments. 

-        We have just completed and are testing an additional messaging feature to function as a receipt for parents and confirmation of when children are dropped off and checked out of daycare.  Our model is of enormous interest to Huawei and Safaricom, who have committed to help Isiolo County solve the problem of children being lost en route to free preschools; our messaging feature is a key hook facilitating this partnership which also involves the Kenyan Institute for Curriculum Development.

-        Digitizing our ECD content as led to new partners. COVID-19 has been an innovation catalyst in this regard, forcing us to accelerate content usually delivered in person online.  Post COVID, this new product offering – a complimentary mobile based ECD management and child learning content platform - is of great interest to IFC with whom we are talking about partnering with to replicate in Kakuma Refugee camp), along with UNICEF

- We partner with the Nairobi City Council's Departments of Health and Education

- We partner with Koko stoves to sell cleancookstoves and Haco to sell sanitizers at fair prices to our network.

Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?


Our business model is to build a network that exists to provide daycare, support our member entrepreneurs' ability to make money from daycare, and enable our network to make money from related products and services.  Our goal is to break even so that social capital growth can be self-sustaining, and the network essentially grows in self-reliance and resilience the more members it enjoys as unit costs of onboarding members grows with each incremental member.

What is your path to financial sustainability?

Our business model is above - we are ultimately a market aggregator and connector providing low cost service to our members and access to new markets.

If you have raised funds for your project or are generating revenue, please provide details.

We have raised funds from DRK, EEP, CRI, Grand Challenges and others over the years.  We have a current operating budget of about $450k.  We will be meeting 15% of our costs this year from earned revenue - so around $60k+ this year.

If you seek to raise funds for your project, please provide details.

We are currently seeking to raise $500k in grant and $500k in convertible grant or quasi equity.

What are your estimated expenses for 2020?


The Prize

Why are you applying for The Elevate Prize?

I am applying to the Elevate grant because:

a) my work and that of Tiny Totos are making a great difference in humanity and could do so much more with the support of tech advisors that Elevate could leverage

b) we know the platform will help bring us resources and therefore support - the recognition is always welcome but the main objective is funding and advisory support to unleash our potential 

c) the childcare crisis that was critical before COVID is even more pressing during it.  Women are shouldering an even greater burden of work at home, which is threatening to push them and their children even further into the poverty trap.  We must help.  Our solution can provide equitable care for lower income families during and after COVID.  We would be grateful for your recognition if it served to leverage technology and resources needed by the most vulnerable in Africa's already vulnerable society.

d) Our focus is on Africa but our work has relevance to the world, and ability to implement the SDGS even during our COVID crisis.

In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Funding and revenue model
  • Talent recruitment
  • Board members or advisors

What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?

MIT itself, but tech developers from Silicon Valley or Bangalore or wherever they are best found - we need help to identify those best suited to low cost user environments such as ours. 

Please explain in more detail here.

As mentioned before we are intent on improving our in-house tech expertise - both at the Board level, perhaps as an external expert advisor, but also in hiring a CTO.  We have to date built our phone based app, youtube platform, use of field tools like mobenzi and our integrated power BI dashboard with the help of external advisors and consultants.   We now need to load the majority of this expertise in house, as  it is critical to our business model in which tech platforms and online content - particularly during COVID- may now become a greatest revenue  earners.

Solution Team

  • Emma Caddy Founder, CEO, Tiny Totos
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