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Stephen Wahome of KWG Softworks: “Busy and productive are not the same thing”

For me my strategy was to create a routine that I could follow and utilizing exercise. For a majority of the pandemic, I would get up early and the first thing I would do is go for a run (this is when the gyms were closed). I ran every day for about 3 months straight. […]

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For me my strategy was to create a routine that I could follow and utilizing exercise. For a majority of the pandemic, I would get up early and the first thing I would do is go for a run (this is when the gyms were closed). I ran every day for about 3 months straight. This was really helpful because one it created a routine, two because the gyms were closed, I ran outside and got fresh air, and three by running it released a lot of endorphins that would put me in a good mood.


The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.

As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephen Wahome.

Stephen Wahome is a Managing Director at KWG Softworks. KWG Softworks is a Black-owned technology services agency that builds custom software and mobile apps for entrepreneurs, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. The agency’s software engineers, and product designers are entirely based in Africa.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

The pleasure it all mine. I was born in Kenya, which is a country in East Africa. If you are familiar with the saying “Hakuna-matata” that is a Swahili phrase that comes from East Africa mainly the Kenyan region. I moved to the United States when I was 8 years old with my parents and my 4 brothers and 1 sister. Most of my family, my uncles, aunts, cousins, are all still in Kenya. When we moved to the states we moved to Lowell Massachusetts. Lowell has a great Kenya community and also a very well diverse community in general. Because of the great diversity that I grew up around in Lowell I believe it shaped my ability to always been thinking in a global and inclusive level.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Yes, I heard an interview with Naval Ravikant, a great investor and entrepreneur and he said something that resonated with me. He said,

“And it takes a lot of work to build even small things. I don’t think the corner grocery store owner is working any less hard than Elon Musk, or pouring any less sweat and toil into it. Maybe even more.”

So, for me when I think about starting new business, I try and think and do things as BIG as I can because starting a business big or small is going to be hard and takes a lot of energy. So why not go BIG!

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

When I was a senior in Hight School, I went to an event with my high school at a local community college that had several speakers. To be honest it was during school hours and the only reason I went was because it got me out of going to math class that day haha. However, I am glad I went because one of the speakers who was a local entrepreneur recommended a book called how to win friends and influence people. This was back in 2009, so I went to the library the next day to pick up the book.

It had so many great life lessons not only for business but for overall just being a genuine nice person. I loved the book so much that each year I reread it! Even more, if I ever go through a period where I just feel “off” either from a business standpoint or personal standpoint, I read that book to bring me back to balance.

So over all I am very glad I went to that event that day but any kids reading don’t just go to events to skip math class hahah.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?

Before the Pandemic I was a Financial Solution Advisor at Merrill Edge. I had been in the financial since I graduated college in 2013. The best thing I enjoyed about the job was all the great people I met. Everybody had their unique story, and I really enjoyed listening.

Back in 2016 when I was working at a company called Scottrade, I decided to enroll in their tuition reimbursement program. I decided to get my MBA while I was going to work full time. During my MBA I teamed up with a friend of mine, Nicholas Bedard, to start a music company called Jamfuze. Jamfuze is a music platform that empowers unsigned artists by connecting them with all the services they will need to build and accelerate their music careers in the most cost effective and time efficient manner.

This is where I first got my first taste on entrepreneurship. So, from 2016- end of 2019, I would work full time at job and would moonlight at night working on Jamfuze and other projects. Because of the pandemic, Jamfuze really took a toll because it was reliant of music artist going in person to venues, music studios, etc. So, I had to think of my next business.

What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?

During the pandemic I was able to transition, starting another company called KWG Softworks. KWG Softworks is a black-owned technology services agency that builds custom software and mobile apps for entrepreneurs, businesses, and non-profit organizations. The agency’s software engineers, and product designers are entirely based in Africa.

We currently have provided jobs for 20+ software engineers and product designers from Africa. For financials, our revenue for 2020 is projected to be in the 6 figures.

Our mission is to showcase the hidden tech talents in Africa by building 200+ African-made software products for entrepreneurs and organizations globally within the next 10 years.

Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?

There were 2 experiences that sparked the idea of creating a software design and development agency. Firstly, over the past 2 years, one of our co-founder Ibraheem Khadar spent a good chunk of time in West Africa visiting family and assisting in a non-profit work over there (https://stksportsacademy.org/); namely in Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea, and Sao Tome. One thing that was made abundantly clear to Ibraheem and I during his time in West Africa is that there was a WEALTH of tech talent in Africa. Dare we say, there’s more talent than there are opportunities. There is a growing tech startup sector in addition to innovation hubs being built throughout the continent. We have met so many competent software developers and designers, and they were all competing for the same jobs: either at a telecommunications company or an under-funded startup. We figured there must be some way to add value and also give back to the continent that I was born.

The second experience was when we befriended Carmichael Caldwell III, a fellow tech entrepreneur who is a partner at Ingenious Softworks, a software development firm based in Uruguay. He walked us through how his organization builds tech for companies in the US but leverages software developers based in Uruguay,

Based on both of these experiences, we decided that that we could use our expertise in working with tech startups, in addition to the knowledge we obtained from Mr. Caldwell, to add value to our home continent. We figured that we could use a small subset of the tech talent in Africa to help startups get their ideas off the ground.

How are things going with this new initiative?

It is going great.We currently have 25+ developers, 6+ UX/UI designers. We have contractors from 6+ countries in Africa.

We were recently got featured in the Boston Globe: https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/08/25/business/boston-startup-finds-us-gigs-african-software-developers/

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would have to say my farther. See it takes a lot of courage to move your family to a new country where your barley know anyone and start a new life. So, for me I very grateful towards my farther (and mother) for moving to America. It has provided me and my family with great opportunity.

I guess one story I would share is my father moved out of his parents’ house when he was 13. It was different times back then but that belief in himself to survive and thrive at a young age has always gave me confidence that I can it myself. My father was also an entrepreneur, he owned his own shop that would sell many things such leather, shoes, etc.

So, all in all, I am just picking up where his left off in the entrepreneur journey. Thus, I am very fortunate and glad that he paved the way for me and my family.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

One interesting that has happened since we started this new direction is, we have become unwearyingly one of the top though leader in all things Africa, especially when talking technology in Africa. We are very proud of that and hope to continue shining light on all the technical talent in Africa. There are a lot of technical advancements that are happening in Africa and we are excited to be at the forefront of the movement.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Prioritize your health
  2. Busy and productive are not the same thing
  3. You will have bad days
  4. Small wins matter a lot
  5. Its ok to take a break

So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?

For me my strategy was to create a routine that I could follow and utilizing exercise. For a majority of the pandemic, I would get up early and the first thing I would do is go for a run (this is when the gyms were closed). I ran every day for about 3 months straight. This was really helpful because one it created a routine, two because the gyms were closed, I ran outside and got fresh air, and three by running it released a lot of endorphins that would put me in a good mood.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

My influence would be to lead more people in entrepreneurship and becoming business owner. Here is Why; entrepreneurs and business owners mainly solve problems that exist or provide a better service to already existing solutions. So, if more and more people where to be entrepreneurs/starting their own business that would mean more and more problem in the world would be solved or we would find better and better ways to combat our problems.

That is why during the pandemic I also started a virtual Startup Bootcamp. The business startup bootcamp teaches students of color as young as 12 how to Ideate, build and launch a business.

Our goal is to impact 1,000 inner city kids in the Lowell and the surrounding communities by teaching them young how to become business owner and providers in order gain economic and financial inclusion. I recently partnered up with the Boys and Girls Club of Lowell to run a pilot program in January 2021.

We were recently featured in the Lowell sun, please see the link below:

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

I would say Mark Zuckerberg. The reason would be Facebook and other big tech companies are definitely laying the groundwork and proving more technical infrastructure for Africa. Of course, this is also in their best interest because the more people that are online, the more people that can use their service. But I believe this will be a net good for everybody in involved. Thus, I would love to sit down with Mark and talk about bringing more investments and technological infrastructure to Africa.

How can our readers follow you online?

Website: www.kwgsoftworks.com

Instagram/twitter: @steviewahome and @kwgsoftworks

Linkedin: @stephenwahome

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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