When Caroline Mutoko speaks, people listen. And when they do, they either like it or hate it. From her early days at Capital FM and then Kišs 100 in 1999, Caroline’s voice has reverberated across the nation and beyond.
Decades later, the radio queen and icon has kept evolving and with it comes the ever-fresh persona and go-getter champion whose mantra is ‘to do it and do it well that people think it easy’. But before she became the ‘celebrity’ that she is today, Caroline started from the very bottom of the ladder. By the way, she hates being called a celebrity so dare not.
Would you believe that the lady with a 7-figure salary was once a messenger, a waitress and then a messenger again? Before hitting it big, Caroline says that she has worked all her life and what people see now is the product of the process that has taken years to make her whom she is today.
“I have made several transitions in my life. I don’t want you thinking that the brand you create cannot get better,” she says.
Caroline says that she finished her fourth form on the 20th of November and was working on the fourth of December. Just a little under two weeks later.
“ I have worked all my life so I always tell people one of the things about me is I don’t know what it is like not to work but I also don’t know what it is like to be broke because I’ve always worked,” she tells a gathering of Wings to Fly students sponsored by Equity Bank.
She says that her first job was a messenger when she was 17.
Growing up in South B, Caroline says that her mother Rose Mutoko could not imagine her hanging around with the guys in the hood.
“I have transitioned from a messenger. Yes. What job do you think I got after fourth home? My mother had this everlasting fear about the guys who hang in the hood. She knew they’d be the end of me so the first thing my mother did was find me a job.”
Caroline adds that she used to do stationery deliveries when she started out.
“I used to collect cheques and take them to the bank. I used to pick up invoices, deliver statements to clients and business cards because the place I worked with a printing press. They did office stationery and printing,” she adds.
On her career progression, Caroline says that her beginnings could not dampen her resolve to becoming financially independent.
“I have gone from a messenger to a waitress. My transitions have always been the same. I always got where I was going because I did more than was expected of me and I did it better than was expected. I’ve gone from messenger to a waitress from waitress to a messenger of a higher calibre,” she chugs.
She started in media way before she joined Capital FM when she started working as a messenger for Lady Magazine while still at the University of Nairobi when it was plagued by closures.
As she progressed, Caroline became a model and later a bank teller to an in-between shift person.
At a time when communication was not as instantaneous as it is today, Caroline had the job to give traffic updates on radio when she began at Capital.
She says, “When I got my first job in radio at Capital, my job was to go in twice an hour twice for about a minute and give the traffic update. That was my job. I didn’t get the big show. There was a show that used to run from two o’clock until 4 o’clock and between 3:00 and about 5:00. There were three constant traffic updates.”
Because there was no Twitter, Ma3 Route or SMS, Caroline says she had to be ingenious.
“Because all the messengers who worked for Capital FM had walkie-talkies, I would ask them where they were and what the traffic situation was. Then I’d go into the studio and it didn’t even take a minute. It’d take about 40 seconds. That was my on-air job,” she adds.
Caroline states that when not on air, she would be inputting music into the system. Likening it to data entry, she says that her break came from doing what would not have been appealing to many. It is a Sunday afternoon show that got her noticed. William Pike noticed her and her story at Kiss 100 began.
Speaking of racism when Capital FM was owned by Lynda Holt, the current RedSky Advertising CEO, Caroline says that it could only be an avenue for her to get better at what she did.
At the time, Capital FM’s policy of having ‘dark music’ fell on Caroline because she had the “right colour for the black music”.
I am reliable, dependable, methodical and I work hard.Caroline Mutoko
“I have to tell you what they said about me when I was getting the on-air job. There was a policy back in the day to ensure that the music was a lot more dark which meant it wasn’t only white musicians through including black musicians. Guess who the black girl to go with the black musicians was…,” she adds.
From the ‘humble’ beginnings, Caroline has risen through the ranks to becoming a radio presenter starting at Capital FM then Kiss 100 where she grew to be a radio host and programmes controller to radio host, programmes controller and Group Marketing Manager to the Chief Marketing Officer at Radio Africa.
The economics and maths degree holder says excelling in everything she does is hard work. She adds that it goes beyond talent by being hardworking.
Caroline who is juggling all her responsibilities in addition to raising her daughter, Theodora Nduku, says she is reliable, dependable, methodical and that she works hard.
She attended Loreto Convent Valley Road High school then Nairobi University as an undergraduate student before pursuing a course in Women Emerging Leaders at Strathmore University.
Another feather in her cap is that Caroline is a graduate of Harvard Business School and UCLA Anderson School of Management.