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It took a Navalayo Osembi-Ombati—a Kenyan lawyer and accountant, and Weldon Kennedy—a social activist and running shoe nerd, to create Edna Athletic—producing the first Kenyan running shoes.

Everybody knows that Kenyans are born to run. If the world stops rotating, it is believed that only Kenya would still be in motion. So it makes a perfect sense to have a Kenyan company designing and producing its running shoes.

The shoe company sees itself beyond just making running shoes for women and men. Edna co-founded by Nava and Weldon aim to solve problems and to recreate the world making it more positive and stronger.

Here’s more about Edna in Nava’s interview with the Lionesses of Africa:

Interviewer:

What does your company do?

Nava:

Enda is bringing together world-class shoe designers, developers, and Kenyan athletes to create performance running shoes that capture the skills and experience of Kenyan athletes. We aim to produce these shoes as ethically as possible in Kenya and sell them around the world. Through Kenyan production, global sales, and persistent storytelling, Enda Athletic provides a means through which runners globally can connect to Kenyan running greatness. We also greatly increase the amount Kenya benefits from its running reputation in three ways: job creation, investing a share of our revenues in communities, and building Kenya’s reputation to include a place that makes great products.

Interviewer:

What inspired you to start your company?

Nava and Weldon

Nava:

I’d say Enda is a series of many events that kind of just led into one point. I’ve always been interested in sports and once upon a time I started a sports academy in Bungoma that was focusing on helping kids who have really great talent in sports but without the economic background to support their talents – the program basically intended to put them in a place where they can just focus on being their best. That experience, mixed with my experience in international development forced me to start thinking about how we can use sports as a tool for development.

Interviewer:

Why should anyone use your service or product?

Nava:

Enda creates original men’s and women’s running footwear and apparel made in Kenya, for sale under its branded name, on both online retail and wholesale to running and athletic retailers. As a made-in-Kenya running shoe, Enda possesses a unique brand and selling point that no existing competitor can match. Furthermore, we will continually seek to lead the marketing in sustainable and ethical business practices. Beyond these aspects of the brand story, our shoes will also possess a subtle Kenyan design aesthetic and will have their technical performance informed and evaluated by world-class Kenyan athletes. In both individual products and product line planning, we have staked out a unique viewpoint of making running shoes to match the gait and training of Kenyan athletes. 

In product terms, this means shoes that are designed to reward a natural midfoot strike, increase proprioception, and move with the foot through metatarsal flexion. In terms of product line, this means that each shoe is designed for a specific part of an athlete’s training schedule. While most brands are focused on the right individual shoe for a runner, we recognize that athletes with a varied training schedule need different tools, so match the tools to serve the purpose. Visually the shoes are still visually identifiable as a technical running shoe, yet are minimalist enough in their design that they could easily serve as a fashion shoe as well. While most brands communicate technology through their design, we pride ourselves on communicating culture resulting in a clean and appealing aesthetic.

Interviewer:

Tell us a little about your team?

Nava:

We have a diverse team consisting of employees and independent contractors spread over Kenya, Asia, and the United States. Each team member and department is responsible for specific roles, e.g., operations design, supply chain and so on.

Interviewer:

Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And do you come from an entrepreneurial background?

Nava:

Prior to founding Enda, my entrepreneurial journey was a rocky one. I had tried several other businesses and had seen mixed results; some grew, and others were subject to seasonal changes. I tried farming, fashion, corporate social responsibility consulting etc. The business that I was running just before Enda was a tennis academy that I had established in Bungoma, Western Kenya.

Interviewer:

What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?

Nava:

My ultimate vision is for Enda to be one of the top three running shoe brands globally, to be Africa’s cultural shoe brand, to be a source of employment for thousands of people and an inspiration for millions.

Interviewer:

What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?

Nava:

The impact that we make. Our impact in Kenya involves creating jobs directly through our company and contractors, and indirectly in the supply chain. Additionally, 2% of our revenues go to community projects. So far, we have supported a community-based organization in Nairobi’s Korogocho slums that teaches life skills through sports, an NGO in Nandi County that buys livestock for disadvantaged women to help them earn a livelihood, and most recently, an organization in Kenya’s coast that empowers girls through sports. We have also given direct cash grants to athletes. I am excited about the future because we have the capacity to create an impact for so many more people.

Interviewer:

What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?

Nava:

Just start. There is tremendous value in starting the journey. It is only when you start that you will be motivated to seek the right people and resources to help you grow. Without starting, it remains just another idea in your head. Africa needs more SMEs, and more so, more women in business. You owe yourself and the continent a chance so go ahead and get started.

 

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By Elijah Christopher

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Elijah Christopher is a lifelong creative artist and a journalist for “A New Touch Of Africa”, an American news media and magazine focusing on Africa-related issues, fashion, new technologies and innovations. He has contributed to several published works, most notably a collaborative poem celebrating Scottish poet Edwin Morgan and in 2021 was the winner of the DIAJ Award for his photo-artistry.

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