Kenyan Shoe Brand Runs Toward Social and Economic Progress

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NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyans are known worldwide for running, but this reputation has brought minimal income to the country. Enda is a Kenyan running shoe brand that hopes to solve this. Enda shoes have the potential to increase the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), grow social progress and sustainability.

In 2015, Weldon Kennedy and Nava Osembo-Ombati launched a Kickstarter campaign to jumpstart social change within Kenya’s economy, through empowerment and ownership.

The local government, development experts and the Enda team believe the untapped market of buying from Kenya, rather than giving, could impact rising poverty rates.

On the running shoe’s sole, Kenya’s national motto “Hamrambee” is printed, which  means “we all pull together.” The brand name , Enda, is the Swahili word for  “go.”

“It’s a value we want to embody as a company, helping runners pull together to achieve their goals on the road, trail or track, as well as pulling together as a global running community to accelerate social progress,” Weldon Kennedy, co-creator of Enda shoes, said.

Enda shoes will create jobs, social progress and sustainability because export oriented manufacturing has successfully proven to reduce extreme poverty. A Kenyan brand will increase the country’s production rate and provide security of manufacturing jobs.

“We will give a portion of our profits to social initiatives here in Kenya and engage our runners around the world in voting on where the funding goes. This will allow us to share positive stories of Kenya, and, hopefully, mobilize further action from our customers to support these important causes.”

Kennedy and Osembo-Ombati met at a pitching contest in Kenya. Osembo-Ombati presented her idea on a social enterprise school for males and females, where sports are combined with education. After witnessing the presentation, Kennedy wondered how the sport of running could be advantageous to the country.

He began dissecting the most influential items in the sport. As Kennedy brainstormed, he pinned running shoes as the highest profiting, and most central necessity. That’s the moment he decided to step back from change.org, and partner with Osembo-Ombati in creating a local movement.

A portion of their profits is set aside for Enda Community Giving, where they fund social initiatives in Kenya. Supportive runners of Enda worldwide will vote to determine who will receive their funding assists. The mission of the company is to mobilize action in Kenya, and create a positive outlet for open conversation.

Enda Iten is a light-weight training style shoe that weighs 224 grams. Beyond the natural design, aspects of Kenyan culture are incorporated into its aesthetics. On the outsole, repetitive triangle motifs align the mesh on the sides and heel strap.

This design is reflective of Maasai bead patterns found in Kenyan villages and markets. The midsole outlines the Great Rift Valley on the heel with 12 lines to commemorate Jamhuri, Kenya’s day of independence, marked on the 12th of December.

During its first week as a Kickstarter venture, the Enda project raised $75,000. They’ve received worldwide support, which reveals a marketable interest for the Kenyan brand. Enda shoes will be ready for shipment in late November and early December.

On top of transforming Kenya’s economy through social progress and sustainability, Enda will create gender equality in the workplace by providing men and women with the same job titles and pay rates. Within the facility, they plan on providing a childcare facility, so single parents have equal opportunities in earning income, co-creator Nava Osembo-Ombati told One.

The poverty line in Kenya straddles $1.46 per day in urban areas, while people in rural areas make $.68. Around 2008, 57 percent of the population lived in poverty and 40 percent were unemployed.

There are several foreign and local startups springing up to socially impact Kenyan residents. Many of which are selling products and services to customers that were inaccessible to people before. For example, M-Kopa is providing consumers with electricity for the first time. However, Enda found there are very few businesses capitalizing on what Kenya can offer the world.

“Kenya is world famous for running, and yet brings relatively little income in as a result. By creating a Kenyan brand and making our product here, we can hopefully build on Kenya’s running reputation to increase the amount the country is earning from running and also help people become more familiar with the country,” Kennedy said.

Rachel Williams

Photo: Flickr

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Rachel Williams

Rachel lives in San Diego, CA. She has a Master’s degree in multimedia journalism lives in a camper van near the beach.

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