I am making Maths and science fun for children through gaming
Lilian Nyaranga is an educator and the founder of Elimu Shop, a social enterprise that deals with the creation of interactive game-based mathematics and science learning resources for children aged 6 to 18 years
I resigned from my employment in 2016 and enrolled for a 4-month entrepreneurial training at Sinapis. This was the year that almost half of all KCSE candidates got the E grade in mathematics. In early 2017, I founded Elimu Shop. As a mathematician, I wanted to make a change in how students interact with sciences. I started by creating an eCommerce marketplace for teachers to create, buy and sell resources in STEM subjects amongst themselves.
I started big before doing thorough market research, and the business model did not work. The uptake by teachers was slow as many were not tech-savvy or comfortable in using the platform. I ended up exhausting all my capital. My company went down, I was broke and depressed but I learnt lessons.
After my business failure, I had to pivot in 2018. Using my learning design experience, I researched, networked and took relevant online courses. In April 2018, I started work on the disruptive tabletop MathFlash board game and piloted it in two schools in 2019. I sold out the first units of the game to parents and schools. This game targets children aged nine years and above. It is a collaborative game played at school or home with family and friends.
In business, it is critical to find and partner with like-minded individuals. I met my current co-founder in January 2020. She is a technology and project management expert, which has been beneficial in our growth. In September 2021, we partnered with Naivas, supermarket, to have our six published puzzles and journal books on their shelves. They are now available in ten of their outlets across the country. Our math puzzle resources are also available online and have been downloaded over 300 times at the Teachers Pay Teachers platform, which is the USA's leading teachers' marketplace.
I was a top 5 finalist of the 2017 Sinapis business plan pitch competition. This competition later selected me for the Sinapis Fast Track accelerator program. I am also a pioneer Metis alumnus, a fellowship program for education leaders in Kenya to reimagine education. I was also among the 15,000 African entrepreneurs selected out of 400,000 to pitch for the 2021 Tony Elumelu Foundation. I have 15 years working experience as a mathematics and chemistry teacher in various high schools. I have also worked as an instructional coach and mathematics learning designer for Dignitas Kenya. I am also a CBC mathematics author and education consultant in learning designs.
I was scared when I quit my job to go into business. The thought of no money coming in at the end of the month was tough. There were many times I felt like quitting and going back to employment. I even applied for jobs at some point. But I have no regrets, and given another opportunity, I would still choose entrepreneurship. Still, I am applying my job experience in my business.
We often think that our businesses are not growing because we have no money. We spend a lot of our time chasing grants and investors and giving excuses instead of building our products or services. I did a lot of this in 2017. I have learnt that as an entrepreneur, I need to do the best with what I have first.
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