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Emma Caddy: Providing Children Access to Learning Through Play

Emma Caddy: Providing Children Access to Learning Through Play

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Emma Caddy, the CEO and founder of Tiny Totos.

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Emma! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Tiny Totos?

Emma: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! With no state systems to support childcare below four in Kenya, the institutional vacuum is filled by the unregulated, substandard informal market.  The absence of formal institutions, coupled with the fragmented, informal market, means that learning through play solutions lack a channel of access to the children who most need them. Tiny Totos, a Kenyan social enterprise, has built a social franchise solution to give children everywhere, access to learning through play. Our programme, helps informal babysitters become motivated childcare entrepreneurs, providing quality care.  We create a network of community caregivers, who promote adoption of best childcare practices, thus creating a ripple effect of behaviour change across the community.

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Emma: As a mother and a working professional, I am only too well aware of the challenges of juggling both responsibilities. Having lived in Africa for the past 13 years, I can see upfront and personal how difficult maintaining this balance is when living on, or below, the poverty line.

Spiffy: What is the impact of your work?

Emma: Over 400 daycares across two countries in East Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia) have given 20,000 children and 17,500 women access to quality learning and care in our partner daycares. 90% of our daycares were profitable in 2024. 87% sell additional services, primarily meals. 86% children meet age-appropriate development milestones. 70% children show no signs of malnutrition.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your community?

Emma: 50% of our daycares now report their business and childcare attendance data digitally, using our custom built mtoto app.  This means that we can grow, while maintaining impact, improving and increasing services, and incentives. Examples such as access to financial credit and loyalty points for earning from, or paying for, care.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Emma: Tiny Totos helps daycares like By Grace, run by Sicily. With two years of her business records, on record repay a smartphone loan. The phone helped her digitize her records, understand her business performance and profits at the touch of a button, and benefit from Tiny Totos' loyalty points scheme. She has attracted 30% more customers thanks to the loyalty points they can earn. Her thriving childcare business encouraged Sicily to rent additional space to expand her facility. Sicily’s By Grace phone loan story provides a compelling example of how a little capital invested in the care economy goes a long way in improving outcomes for parents and children alike.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Emma—it’s been an honor!

Emma Caddy, Tiny Totos founder with 20 years of experience operating at the nexus between sustainable investment, financial innovation, and social impact development. Ten years in Latin America, and 12 in Africa have given her a wealth of direct, community-based experience to draw on.  Emma began her entrepreneurial journey after running a global impact fund for five years and advising impact investment funds for another five years again. Emma has an MBA with Distinction from Oxford’s Said Business School where she was a Skoll Scholar in social entrepreneurship. (First published on the Ladderworks website on March 21, 2024.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Shikha Tandon. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.