Gladys Nelly Kimani started as a high school teacher at only 23.
She saw a gap in improving school management systems and saw that technology is the answer. She developed an app called Class Teacher Network which won her a prestigious global award recently. She narrates her story.
Gladys scooped the Best Education Digital and Tech Innovation Award 2019 in the Women in Africa (WIA) Initiative.
She beat 2,000 other women applicants from across Africa to walk home with the prize in the ceremony held in Morocco.
What is remarkable though is that Gladys is a high school teacher. What was a teacher doing at a continental entrepreneurs’ summit?
Gladys is not the ordinary secondary school teacher you meet on the streets. She is a techpreneur and founder of Class Teacher Network, a business software that is to be found on google play store as an app.
The app is used as a school management system and a teacher-parent communication tool.
Being awarded for her venture at the continental summit in June was the crowning of a technological venture that she began in March 2018.
“I see myself as a trendsetter. I believe in burning the midnight oil searching for ways to break new grounds,” says the 32-year-old. She began teaching at the age of 23.
The app, she says, was an idea borne out of the challenges she had faced as a class teacher of 55 students in a public secondary school.
“I wanted to offer a lasting, easier, and efficient solution to the teacher, student, and parent interactions,” she says.
Apart from being a teacher, she is also a parent. She has one child. “This helped me to have a tight grasp on my idea and how it needed to be executed,” she says.
She needed money to develop her product and rent some office space. “I started with an initial capital of Sh1.7 million. I got this amount from a bank loan and my savings in a sacco. Some relatives also chipped in,” she says. Her business is based in Nairobi’s Arboretum Drive.
She was confident that her product would do well in the market. “The idea was to create a unique solution that my target users would feel the need to acquire,” says Gladys.
Two years after launching her software business, Gladys has no regrets. “I should have started much earlier,” she says.
It’s not been all smooth sailing. “It was hard to get credible software developers. You can only be as good as the team you build around yourself. Get the right workers behind you and you’ll succeed. Get the wrong staff, and you are done,” she says.
Honesty is also a key value that she considers important and which has been hard to come by.
By the end of this year, she will have signed up over 200 schools to her programme. “I am making some profits and I am reinvesting it back into the business," she says.
She makes her money from schools that have enrolled in the programme and the parents who have subscribed to her services.
Being a teacher, Gladys has also paid keen attention to her academic development. Currently, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education and a Master’s degree in Sociology of Education and Policy Studies from Kenyatta University.
Gladys likes politics and innovation. “I am an extrovert. A choleric melancholy to be specific,” she describes herself. One of her hobbies is cooking, and perhaps not surprisingly, reading!
“I want to be a leading consultant and policy influencer in the education sector,” she says.
Her tech start-up, she says, will be the leading software provider for schools in East Africa. Her target customers are 10 million parents and teachers in about 40,000 schools.
Gladys says that her son is her greatest motivator. “My work is so that children like him can be exposed to an efficient learning environment.”