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Enda: Kenya's First Home-Made Running Shoe

Part 1: Meet the CEO and Co-Founder Navalayo Osembo

BY Agnes Amondi

Aug 17, 2022, 08:41 AM

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Navalayo Osembo

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Kenya is an athletics powerhouse. Despite all its glory on the track and the roads, most of its runners rely on foreign-made shoes throughout their careers. However, Enda, Kenya's and Africa's first performance running footwear and apparel brand is reversing that. 

Enda is the Swahili word for go. At the core of its pursuit is the endeavour to package and sell running shoes made in Kenya to the world to further diversify its economic stream in the sport. Along with that, share Kenya’s rich heritage and running culture.

Where did the idea to start Enda come from?

The inspiration behind Enda lies first in the realisation that many countries globally take advantage of their reputation to give them economic benefits. For example, if someone talks of German cars, there is an assumption of quality. If it's Italian bags or suits, we assume it’s of the highest calibre.

So Kenya has the best runners but not the best running shoes. This business opportunity was obvious and Enda wants to capitalize on that.

These were the opening statements of the Co-Founder and CEO of Enda, Navalayo Osembo. She calmly eased into the conversation around her office table that’s punctuated with a neat rack of Enda shoes, just at the end of the brief corridor which leads into the room.     

Navalayo has always been interested in sports and development. She grew up close to Eldoret - a town that's famous for producing some of the country's top athletes - where she always saw people run. The one thing she had to figure out was how to combine sports and development and make something out of it.

Things fell into place when she met her Co-Founder Weldon Kennedy at an incubator program and the idea of Enda was born.
Navalayo and Weldon. @endasportswear

“My commercial interest in sports came about after seeing how Wimbledon is organised. Africa wasn’t represented and that didn't sit well with me,

It gave me the push of wanting to do something that would create a social impact. Running was an evident choice and the idea of having an apparel or shoe line was there for the taking. So why not?”

What influenced you to take this path?

Nava is a woman on a mission and part of that is to change the perception that Africa is just a consumer and a dumping ground. She admits that the continent is lagging behind in international development but having the right opportunities can be a game changer.

“My master's degree in international development was a huge influence. We studied Africa but despite all the positives we have here, lots of focus was on problems so I wanted to do something to help fix that. Everyone's dream is to save Africa but what we really need is opportunities because that's how we can level up with the rest of the world.”   

“Additionally, Africa's economic perception needs to change. We have to start looking at ourselves as the source and not just a dumping ground as well as have the thought that we can refine materials here instead of selling cheap unrefined materials. This made me want to come back and do something positive and show our true spirit.”

To that effect, Enda is already producing shoes locally with the help of a Kenyan footwear manufacturer Umoja Rubber Products Limited in partnership with an Asian company to assist in making their products as they look to progressively move the entire process to Kenya.

How does she get the right people on board to build the team? 

This comes with two things, expertise and motivation. With expertise, you want to have someone who has the experience and has done what you are looking to do. Once you have these people, find out if their motivations and expectations are as close to yours as possible. This is the only way you'll be able to execute your objectives.  

But why has it taken this long to produce a homemade shoe? We answer that question in part two of our series.

Read More: Why It Took Long To Make A Kenyan Running Shoe