BY DAVID ONJILI
Kenya’s position in the world of athletics is not disputable. From Kipchoge Keino, Paul Tergat, the late Samuel Wanjiru, Lorna Kiplagat, Catherine Ndereba, Paul Bitok and Eliud Kipchoge are just but a few among the many other world-beaters who’ve brought pride to the nation.
High altitude training town of Iten remains a great practice place for athletes from across the world. Ultimately, you are more likely to be recognized abroad as a Kenyan because of the fame of these athletes.
So in mid-2015, Navalayo Osembo and Weldon Kennedy; out of a shared frustration that the nation was not maximizing on its hard-earned global reputation in running pieced up an idea for a running brand. They would start producing local running shoes to help market Kenya as a running nation.
The first pair, christened Iten, was made after a Kickstarter campaign. A Kickstarter campaign is a platform that allows people to support creative projects and see them actualized. The founders were able to run 2 such campaigns and this helped fund the production of the shoes. In the first campaign, Sh13.2m was raised from 1,021 backers from across the globe. And this sum is the seed that was used to make the very first pair of shoes under the brand, Enda.
The primary product for Enda is the running shoes but the company is also diversifying into making running apparel like shirts and singlets. The first shoe, the Iten, is a lightweight trainer designed for shorter and faster training runs. Enda recently launched their second shoe, the Lapatet, again on Kickstarter. It is designed for longer runs and also serves as a perfect daily trainer. It will hit the stores in January 2020.
To make the shoes, Enda currently gets raw materials for both the midsoles and the uppers from China. To ensure that Enda is a 100% production, they are currently experimenting with knitting the uppers locally. Also, there is engagement with local manufacturers in the assembly and packaging process as well as the making of the shoelaces and tags. Enda appreciates the need to bring the entire production chain locally, but it won’t be an overnight event.
Enda is situated at the Kenyan Coast in a flip-flop factory and its contract manufacturers. The company outsources certain production activities like the assembly of the shoes to a third party. This is premised on the reality that setting up and running a factory requires tremendous capital injection.
Contract manufacturing aids people with little capital to access manufacturing services from factories with idle capacity, offering cost-effective and an easy alternative through which many can get into the manufacturing business.
Enda makes her shoes in batches as the daily production capacity is usually in the hundreds. The first production run had 1800 shoes and the most recent, about 6000 pairs of Enda Itens were produced.
Enda continues to work closely with top athletes who use their products. Legendary and world long distance champion Henry Wanyoike is currently training and racing with the Enda Itens. Also in their stable is Joan Massah Cherop, who came 8th in the Lo Angeles Marathon this year and Daniel Simiyu. The latter set the course record at the Amazing Maasai Marathon, he used the second shoe model, the Lapatet. Through this, Enda was able to get insightful feedback on the shoe that is currently in production.
Enda employs five staff members and three volunteers, but the number rises to 22 if the supply chain and packaging is also included. According to Enda, there generally does not exist a standard certification for running shoe world over. However, there exist a huge number of professional running shoe reviewers worldwide and a number have received Enda shoes from the manufacturers for review. The results have been overwhelmingly positive and, for instance, the Itens have been listed on Gear Patrol; an online sporting gear magazine in the United States, as one of the best running shoes for the second year in a row.
Enda is a company run with a social mission of driving development and increasing employment in Kenya. That is something the founders remain committed to and her customers are interested in. This cannot be emphasized better, cognizant of the fact that the company has to bear a slightly higher cost of shoe production locally. It is this mission that motivates it to remain a local production