Navalayo “Nava” Osembo, a lawyer and accountant, had her dream job working for United Nations but she decided to leave all that behind to start Africa’s first high-performance athletic shoes manufacturing company, Enda, in her home country Kenya. It is a decision she does not regret making, she said.
Nava followed her passion and upped her life to start Enda with her co-founder Weldon Kennedy, a social activist and running shoe nerd. The pair met in 2015 over discussions on how Kenyans can benefit from their running culture.
Kenya is known worldwide to produce some of the best runners on the continent. Like machines are to Germany, Nava wants Kenyans to also monetize what they are good at — running — and what better way to do that than to create running shoes for athletes, designed with Kenyan athletes, while creating jobs and giving back to the community.
Enda means “Go!” in Swahili, a language spoken in Kenya and other East African countries. The company was officially registered in 2017 in Kenya.
The company prides itself in being the only running shoe manufacturer on the continent and it currently has about 90% of its consumers in the United States, 8% in Europe and the rest in Kenya.
Enda uses Kenyans to manufacture the shoes and try to source most of its parts locally. However, the local supply chain is not conducive and the company hopes it changes over time. Currently, Enda sources about 52% of its materials in Kenya and the rest from China.
A more affordable model will be launched soon that will have all of its components locally sourced so Kenyans can also patronize Enda because currently, it is quite on the high side.
According to Nava, her ultimate goal is to invest heavily in the Kenyan people and create jobs while supporting local communities.
“By making our shoes here, we are not only supporting those who work with us to make them, we are also supporting various subsectors that supply us with raw materials, Nava said to WIPO.
“My aim is to create an enterprise that not only supports top athletes, but also generates opportunities and benefits for the broader community. That’s why we donate 2 percent of our revenue to community projects.”
Owners of the company currently have to provide adequate training for the locals because one of their major hurdles is the lack of expertise in the field. Another major challenge is funding as many local manufacturers and investors are reluctant to support them.
Enda’s debut product, Iten, is the ideal shoe for shorter and faster runs. It was named after the village where many marathon champions come from. It launched in 2016 and this was made possible with a crowdfunding campaign.
The second product is the Lapatet – which means “run” in Kalenjin, a language spoken by many great Kenyan runners. It is a daily trainer that works best for long distance runs.
Nava is charting a new path for female entrepreneurs and the lack of women in the field means there is more work to be done. According to her, Enda is only the beginning for Africa and Kenya in manufacturing.
“Kenyans hold the majority of the company’s shares. While we do have diverse minority shareholders, we are Kenyan founded, Kenyan led, and with majority Kenyan investment.”