SEATTLE — Kenya already holds a reputation for producing world-class runners, but soon it could also be known for running shoes. Co-founders Navalayo Osembo-Ombati and Weldon Kennedy had the idea to create a social enterprise, Enda Iten, which would produce Kenyan shoes and share knowledge of Kenyan culture with runners worldwide.
Enda, which means “Go” in Swahili, has the vision of producing a world-class shoe for runners. The company worked with shoe designers, developers and professional runners to design includes several symbols of Kenyan culture.
The Enda Iten comes in green, red or black, which are the colors of the Kenyan flag. In addition, the word Harambee can be found under the sole. Harambee means “all put together” in Swahili, a term used in reference to communities coming together to accomplish something that cannot be done by a single individual. The Kickstarter page mentioned that the word was also symbolic of the coming together necessary for Enda to take off.
The Kickstarter campaign launched in May and has already raised $128,187, surpassing its $75,000 goal to help the company begin producing shoes. Initially, Kenyan manufacturers will assemble the shoe components produced by quality Chinese manufacturers.
The goal is to eventually have the shoes produced 100 percent in Kenya. Enda estimates that it will create several hundred, even up to 1,000 jobs locally, which according to Enda has a youth unemployment rate of 17 percent.
In addition to job creation, Enda aims to support local communities. They will work with experts to determine the most effective community development projects in Kenya and set aside a portion of their profits for these projects. The company will also focus on providing sanitation, clean water, healthcare access and quality education. Customers will have the chance to vote on which projects they would like Enda to donate to when they purchase the shoes.
The company also plans to connect Enda runners around the world with Kenyan communities and vice versa to increase cross-cultural empathy and support innovative and creative thinking.
Enda’s logo, a spear tip, is rooted in its cultural significance to Kenya. In addition to being on the flag, Osembo wrote in a blog post that it represents freedom and strength. “It is a direction pointer, telling us to go, to run, to find, to discover, to explore, to be. Enda is all about finding the freedom to being a better version of you, on track and off track,” wrote Osembo.
The shoes can be purchased for about $100 via Kickstarter or IndieGoGo donations and are set to begin shipping in November around the same time as their racing debut. Enda is targeting consumers in the United States as well as 40 African countries. Justin Lagat and Joan Cherop, two of Kenya’s professional marathon runners will be sporting the running shoes at the New York City marathon this coming November.
Enda Iten knows that as a new company they may experience challenges. They have outlined a list of foreseen and potential obstacles along with potential solutions. They want Enda runners to feel a connection to the shoes and where they come from. Kennedy also told The Post Game, “it’s a significant opportunity for us to say, ‘Don’t just give something to Kenya, buy something because that is what’s sustainably changing communities.”
– Laura Isaza