Did you know Kenyans hold world records in virtually every category of mid- and long-distance running? Kenya takes 17 of the top 25 male record holders for the 3000-meter steeplechase, and eight of the top 10 fastest male marathoners and four of 10 female marathoners are Kenyan too.
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. Since launching a crowdfunding campaign less than a month ago, Osembo-Ombati and Kennedy raised $100,000, which will help Enda kickstart production later this year.
To break into the $17 billion athletic shoe market, 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.
The company’s debut shoe, the Enda Iten, is a lightweight, neutral training shoe named after a small, nondescript town that is increasingly gaining a reputation as the world’s foremost producer of elite running talent.
To develop the Iten, the Enda team partnered with Birdhaus, a design studio that has worked with Under Armour, Reebok, and Keen. For Osembo-Ombati, comfort comes first.
“People have different running styles and gaits, so we developed a shoe that would be universally appealing. It has a wider toe-box, so the feet aren’t squeezed together and features just the right amount of cushion for trail running.”
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