Enda Running sneakers
Navalayo Osembo-Ombati and Weldon Kennedy are two social entrepreneurs who want Kenya to benefit more from its famous running reputation. Their new start-up,Enda—meaning “go” in Kiswahili—aims to make the first high-performance made-in-Kenya running shoe.
But making the shoes in Kenya isn’t easy. “We want to champion national pride by proclaiming that Enda products are fully Kenyan-made. The material we’re using for our mid-sole is just not available locally,” Osembo-Ombati says.
“We’re hoping that through economies of scale and building a global market for our shoes, it’ll provide an incentive for factories in Kenya to increase local availability of materials,” Osembo-Ombati further added.
Left: Kennedy and Osembo-mbati
Enda plans to set aside a portion of profits to fund community development projects. In the future, anyone who buys a pair of Enda shoes will be able vote to determine which projects benefit from their purchase.
To break into the $17 billion athletic shoe market, Enda launched a crowdfunding campaign less than a month ago, Osembo-Ombati and Kennedy raised $100,000, which will help Enda kickstart production later this year.
The company’s debut shoe, the Enda Iten, is a lightweight, neutral training shoe.
Since Wilson Kiprugut won bronze in the 800m in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Kenya’s abundance of talent has translated into a gold mine—for a few. Earlier this year, a scandal rocked the country as Kenyan athletics officials pocketed money intended to train poor athletes. While a handful of Kenya’s most famous runners earn lucrative sponsorships and coveted prize money, the vast majority of Kenyan runners remain impoverished.
Enda hopes to take advantage of preferential tariff rates for importing footwear and apparel to the United States under the African Growth and Opportunities Act(better known as AGOA), a trade deal between the U.S. and 40 African countries renewed last year for a decade. Under AGOA, Enda’s shoes will be exempt from import taxes.
To develop the Iten, the Enda team partnered with Birdhaus, a design studio that has worked with Under Armour, Reebok, and Keen.
The shoe’s design features nod to Kenya’s heritage. The Iten’s three colors—green, red and black—and the spear logo nod to Kenya’s flag while its heel mimics the shape of the Rift Valley hills. Twelve lines appear on the lateral side of the Enda Iten to recognize Kenyan Independence Day, December 12. On the sole, the wordHarambee—Kiswahili for “all pull together”—celebrates the community-focused drive at the heart of Enda.
In the long term, Osembo-Ombati and Kennedy plan to source all components of Enda shoes in Kenya, but in the meantime, they plan to assemble and package shoes in Kenya, and increase local sourcing as they go along.
-adobserver: Jimmy Adesanya
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