#BeBoldForChange – Isis Nyong’o on Developing an Online Village for Women and Parents
Isis Nyong’o, Founder and CEO of MumsVillage, is an international innovator and business woman working to support parents throughout Kenya. In her professional career she has taken on leadership roles in nascent markets throughout Africa to innovate and drive businesses to their potential, serving as Principal at Asphalt and Ink, Managing Director of InMobi, and senior management positions at Google and MTV. Recognized as one of Africa’s most Powerful Women by Forbes, a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and a Top 40 Woman Under 40 in Kenya, she has rightly joined the ranks of Africa’s respected entrepreneurs who continuously strive to positively impact the continent’s business landscape.
Nyong’o recently founded MumsVillage, Kenya’s fastest growing website for pregnant women and parents. It is a dynamic online platform that provides local resources, content, and expert counsel to mothers and fathers. Her team philosophy is centered on creating relevant, usable content, building online communities, and offering access to information, resources and products ranging from health, parenting, and lifestyle. Both Nyong’o and MumsVillage truly embody the values of International Women’s Day and its theme for 2017 – Be Bold for Change.
We caught up with her to learn more about her company, her journey, and what International Women’s Day means to her.
Creating Localized Content
Nyong’o saw that while there are many global online resources for pregnant women and new mothers, there weren’t any local websites catering to the specific needs of women in Kenya. She notes that the content on MumsVillage is “localized, speaking to a Kenyan and broader African experience. With more people seeking information online, there is a great demand for this service. I want to help people make more informed choices, and providing relevant information is the first step.”
“African women are a critically under served demographic across industries online and offline and we wanted to address that.”
In order to truly foster informed choices, MumsVillage does not offer one ethos or one solution but rather provides many perspectives and information. As an example, Nyong’o highlights breastfeeding as a practice that requires local understanding: “It is very important culturally in Kenya, so we have a lot of information to supp
ort breastfeeding. But we are also realistic about its challenges and understand that people might not be able or might not choose to breastfeed, so we provide a range of information rather than a dogmatic approach.”
To curate a diversity of perspectives and content, MumsVillage currently works with a growing, diverse mix of contributors ranging from doctors to mum bloggers. As her user base has grown rapidly in Kenya with potential for other markets, the range of interests and requests has increased as well. Nyong’o points out that “while unified in a national or African geography, there is such variation in contexts for parenting. We consider single mums and dads, different traditions, cross-cultural relationships and even blended families. Also, parenting can be heavily affected by urban or rural location, neighborhood, and socio-economic contexts. We try to stay attuned to these nuances and regularly engage with all of our users.”
For MumsVillage, content is queen: “We want to share trending and relevant stories with our users, and we want to engage them as the stories manifest.”
Engaging a Community
MumsVillage is building a community and facilitating a dialogue through the website and beyond. They leverage social media tools like twitter chats and Facebook live to talk in real time with their users about issues that matter to them. As a result, MumsVillage has seen a dedicated and flourishing community of users.
“In addition to our content offering, I am always looking into ways of using technology for the company’s and users’ benefit, based on my technology knowledge and background.”
This growing interest is not limited to users. Nyong’o observes that MumsVillage “has seen great interest from various partners on the business side. We work with a many small businesses to list their events and profiles on the site as well as with larger brands on content related campaigns. These relationships and developing partnerships really speak to the positive impact of MumsVillage.”
Being Bold for Change
International Women’s Day celebrates the widespread achievements of women and appeals to everyone to foster a better, more inclusive and equal working world. For 2017, the theme is “Be Bold for Change.”
“I love it and I live it!” Nyongo exclaims. “I am extremely driven and very passionate about the things that I do and this translates into the business. In the Kenyan context, 2016 was challenging for many people and businesses, so the theme resonates. We have a lot of enthusiasm for improvement in this new year. Also, with the impending elections, we need to encourage women to be agents of change and to be bold in their choices. It’s great to see civic engagement and very important for women to be involved.”
Nyong’o shares that some of the best advice she has received has been unsolicited. Her advice for other entrepreneurs? “You should have a long term view about what you are doing, especially building an online business in Kenya today. Given the fast-paced nature of digital business, it can be difficult and disorienting to have a long-term view, but I find it very important.”
“Because there are too many unknowns about the end factor, especially in the digital space, make sure that what you are doing every day and every week is rewarding. Don’t simply chase the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, enjoy the journey instead.”
Lastly, for working parents seeking balance and addressing the guilt, Nyong’o shares what a friend recently said to her: “Find self-fulfilling work, which improves things not only for you financially, but also improves society because ultimately you’re improving your child’s future.”
access.mobile is excited to develop a partnership with MumsVillage and entrepreneurs like Nyong’o who are working to improve the quality and access to health and information in Africa.