Navalayo Osembo-Ombati, a Kenyan entrepreneur, and her American business partner Weldon Kennedy, have embarked on a crowd-funding campaign to launch a range of running shoes made in Kenya

Weldon Kennedy (left) and Navalayo Osembo-Ombati (right)

Kenya has, for decades, produced some of the best long-distance runners in the world, and if Osembo-Ombati and Kennedy get their way, they’ll soon start manufacturing a range of homegrown professional running shoes. It’s a business intended to create a far-reaching social and economic impact on Kenyan communities.

Named Enda Athletics, enda being the Swahili word for “go”, the pair has taken to crowd-funding platform Kickstarter in a bid to raise the $75 000 capital required to start producing the first batch of shoes.

The pair has been working with running shoe designers and professional runners to develop the technical features of the lightweight shoe for the past 18 months. These features include a 4mm heel-to-toe drop, a wider toe box to give the small toes more room, as well as a midsole that cups the heel.

“It wasn’t until I left Kenya that it struck me just how much the rest of the world thinks of Kenya as a land of great runners, and the pace of the campaign is showing just how much people respect Kenya’s running expertise,” Osembo-Ombati says.

“Our goal is to help runners connect with the style and culture of Kenyan running, while using the income generated to help local community causes.”

Enda’s first model, the Iten, will be manufactured in red, green and black to symbolise the Kenyan flag, and will have 12 lines to represent 12 December – Kenya’s independence day. The heel is designed to resemble the Great Rift Valley to pay tribute to the place most of the country’s greatest runners hail from. The word Harambee (“all put together” in Swahili) is printed on the sole – an official motto in Kenya used to describe the pulling together of communities to achieve something.

While most components required for assembly of the shoe will initially be sourced from China, the idea is that ultimately the entire process will begin and end in Kenya.

Enda shoes
Enda shoes

The best part about the business venture is the fact that local Kenyan communities will benefit, not only in terms of the production line jobs created, but the pair says they will allocate a portion of the profits to assist communities with basic sanitation, clean water, adequate healthcare and quality education.

“Working with experts, we’ll identify a handful of 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,” the pair says in their Kickstarter bio.

“Through this, we will link Enda runners across the globe to local communities in Kenya and vice versa, and encourage sympathy, creativity and innovation.”

In its first week the pair’s Kickstarter campaign attracted 520 backers who have already pledged $62 272, and there are 31 days to go.