— Enda (@EndaSportswear) June 30, 2016
Kenyan entrepreneur Navalayo Osembo, together with American investor Weldon Kennedy, have created Kenya’s first running shoe company. Enda, which is the Swahili word for ‘go’ is inspired by the country’s global dominance in long-distance running. This proud legacy has, over the last four decades, earned Kenyan runners over 50 Olympic medals, piqued the interest of sport science and created a worldwide fan base for endurance sport.
“[We want] to create a way through which Kenya can economically benefit from the running industry, given its reputation on distance running,” Osembo said in an interview with Nigeria’s Signal newspaper. She grew up in Eldoret in the Rift Valley area, a highland region that also produced some of the country’s best long-distance athletes, including two-time Olympic gold medallist Kip Keino.
— Enda (@EndaSportswear) July 19, 2016
Enda raised over $75 000 (R1.1-million) in start-up capital with a kick-starter campaign ahead of its production launch in September 2015. Through its detailed designs and its use of Kenyan culture and sport, the world is starting to take notice of Enda.
The company’s first fully developed product – called Iten – is a lightweight trainer with a low heels-to-toe-drop, for use by both professional and amateur runners. It is currently available to purchase via the Enda’s website, with the company hoping to get the product in US and African stores in 2017.
According to 2015 market research by the National Purchase Diary group, Enda is targeting the highly competitive $17.2-billion (R246-billion) American sport shoe market with retail prices that are almost 50% less than major name brands. It is also aiming to capture African consumers, including South Africans, who have recently become interested in running competitively or as amateurs.
The company has worked with some of the world’s top designers and consulted with some of the best Kenyan and international runners to create a shoe that is both practical and eye-catching.
— Enda (@EndaSportswear) September 14, 2015
Enda’s logo is a minimalist Maasai spearhead that pays tribute to the company’s origins and fits comfortably among familiar global branding like the Nike swoosh and Adidas’ trefoil.
The US product design firm Birdhaus that has worked with Reebok, helped develop the first Enda designs. The shoe parts are manufactured by Jones & Vining, the world’s leading maker of outsoles, inserts, and other advanced components.
“We wanted [the shoe] to look contemporary and urbane anywhere in the world, but whisper a Kenyan feel,” Kennedy told Fast Company magazine in June 2016.
The parts are all assembled in Kenya, but the company is aiming to make the entire design, manufacturing and marketing processes a fully Kenyan operation.
The shoes are currently being tested in the Rift Valley region, at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF’s) High Altitude Training Centre, by up-and-coming Kenyan runners Justin Lagat and Joan Cherop.
Despite being the least popular shoe color, when it comes to T-shirts, black is the color of choice pic.twitter.com/Clx9y7A68a
— Enda (@EndaSportswear) July 18, 2016
While the more decorated runners have sponsorships from famous running shoe brands, Enda hopes to make an impact on the next generation of professional runners, particularly from Africa, as well as the casual consumer market.
Ultimately, the company wants to connect runners in the West to Kenya’s running culture, leveraging it to create domestic jobs and economic growth rather than benefit global corporations.
“We wanted to channel the energy around running into something that can have much more of an impact on the people of Kenya,” Osembo told Fast Company. “If you think about the magnitude of the industry worldwide, and if you think about how Kenya is used for marketing, this is low-lying fruit.”
Enda’s social enterprise efforts are small, but growing, with plans to invest part of the company’s profits in local and regional community initiatives that focus on sanitation, education and healthcare.
According to the company’s kick-starter page “working with experts, we’ll identify a handful of the most effective projects that could use some extra support every six months. Anyone who buys a pair of Enda shoes and registers their purchase will get one vote to help us determine which projects will receive money from the pool.”
“Through this, we will link Enda runners across the globe to local communities in Kenya and vice versa, and encourage sympathy, creativity and innovation.”
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