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Why Did It Take Long To Have A Kenyan Running Shoe?

Part 2: Navalayo answers

BY Agnes Amondi

Aug 25, 2022, 07:31 AM

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The idea to start Enda first came up in 2015 and operations to manufacture shoes began two years later. Previous attempts proved futile. Why is that and why has it taken this long to eventually make one? Navalayo Osembo explains.

“In the beginning, this is one of the questions I repeatedly asked myself. Basically, it's capital intensive. You need to have not just the vision but also the capacity to execute it.

Enda is still not yet there, that's why we mostly contract manufacturers, and suppliers and have a factory that helps in the production of shoes. Thus if you do not have this level of support and you are trying to do this, the cost alone will make it hard to make any progress.”

Secondly, access to markets is also a limiting factor. You can make the shoes but you also need to figure out how you'll access the international markets and spaces where people are talking about running to sell your brand.

This needs a deep network which most people might not have which makes me understand how and why it would have been hard to start.

How then did you manage to find these networks? 

First of all, you need to be ready to accept that you’ll be turned down and that’s OK. People might not be readily available but most of the time you’ll find someone.  Talk to them, nudge them gently and you'll get some information or even build a relationship from it. Plus, the good thing is that we are connected now more than ever before so get in touch with different people as much as possible.

What about accessing finances?

Getting funding is hard. In the beginning, we had friends and family who chipped. It's also not lost on me that at that point I had built a network of people who trusted me to the point that even if the project wasn't going to work out, they were confident that their money was put to good use, and that’s something that not everyone will readily have.”

That said, crowdfunding is a goldmine. This is how we raised money in the beginning and I wish we could embrace this concept more. Normalising Harambee for business and not just weddings or funerals. 

It’s a very strong concept and I think it's the way to go because your idea is judged on merit. People will buy in if your idea resonates and if not, that’s that. But just going around and asking people for money is a bit hard.”

In that case, what other realistic options are there to get funding?

The most realistic thing, especially if nothing works for the younger guys is to try and find an incubator program with funding attached to it. Even if they ask for some revenue share at the start, I think it’s worth the bargain and is a very realistic approach in a market like ours where it's hard to tap into funding.”

With such challenges, what did it take for Enda to get started and pick up?

It took two years from inception (2015) to make the first shoe so that alone took longer than anticipated. We knew we wanted to make running shoes but we had never done that before so we had to figure that out. 

The prototyping and funding stage was another process. Initially, we got investors whom we convinced that the concept was worth buying into and we got that initial support, but it's been a long journey.

Initially, I thought it would take about six months but that's not how things turned out. As much as I wish things happened more quicker, I’ve learnt that it takes time to build something and you need to be gracious enough with yourself.  

We know you are keen to find out more about the shoes Enda is making. That's in part three of our series.

Read More:
What Do ENDA Shoes Say About Kenya?