How OA sports apparel company is cutting a niche for itself

BY DAVID ONJILI

As Edwin Odipo was working on his dissertation; Athletic apparel and pro athletes endorsements while at Northcentral University in Glendale Arizona, U.S.A in 2016, it dawned on him how exploitation was deep rooted in pricing of the sports apparel. It would later fuel his motivation to seek solutions to the prevailing circumstance and launch Over Armour apparel

Odipo is a former footballer and captain to the revered soccer powerhouse, Ofafa Jericho High School in Nairobi. He was the team’s captain in 1991 when they beat the Green Commandos of Kakamega High School, Kenya’s other powerhouse in school soccer competitions at City Stadium to win the national soccer finals of the year. Jericho Ofafa at the time comprised of players like Musa Otieno, who went on to captain the national team and also play professional soccer for Santos FC in South Africa and Kevin Ateku, who later played for Barclays Bank FC, Pipeline FC and Utalii FC footballer, later received a soccer scholarship to the USA. 

A Graduate in Business Administration and Mathematics, Odipo also had a stint as assistant coach at Murray State University in Kentucky where he did his graduate studies and later completed his doctorate studies in Business Administration, Marketing and International Business. He is currently an assistant professor at Shorter University in Rome GA near Atlanta USA while coaching at the same time.

Determined on this mission to bring sanity and limit consumer exploitation, Odipo embarked on creating his own brand, cognizant of the dominance by established brands like NIKE, Adidas and Puma. Yet, there was still a niche consumer market that love sports and needed to don these apparels without necessarily being exploited by the exorbitant prices. With laser beam focus, he had identified his market and needed a calculated entry.

Edwin Odipo and his wife, Akoto Odipo

His motivation was to be a direct rival for Under Armour (UA), an already established brand, notorious for consumer exploitation. To counter this, he settled for the initials OA but challenge now was to fill the initials with a right name. He opted for Overcoming Adversity (OA) but admits most of his market and close friends never liked the name. They preferred Over Armour (OA), a name he concedes that he could not adopt for legal reasons.

The latter limitations never deterred him; he came up with his “OA” logo and sent it for patent approval. A costly and wearisome process, but after a year of patience it was approved and he was given the patent certificate by the United States Patent Office. What’s more gratifying for Odipo is that the patented initials OA are also similar to both his and the wife’s last names, Odipo Akoto. With the patent certificate in hand, all that was remaining was to roll out the OA brand merchandise.

Odipo, at first targeted Kenyans in diaspora because that is where he resides. Every time there was a Kenyan event he would make sure he attends with the merchandise. Armed with great quality apparels and competitive prices, he sold out all his merchandise in his first event. Ever since, there has never been turning back, admitting that his friend, Fundi Frank; a household and pioneer Kenyan designer has been his greatest motivation. Sharing notes and insights from Fundi Frank has offered him great business lessons to date.

So in such a market, what is Odipo’s target? If you are an athlete or just an individual looking for comfortable, quality and affordable athletic apparel, Odipo’s doorstep should be your destination. OA currently is targeting sports’ teams especially soccer, whom they provide with custom made kits. Eastleigh High School in Nairobi is one school that uses OA apparel. Former Kenyan soccer international and alumni of the school, John ‘Baresi’ Odhiambo currently based in the USA is credited with making this possible.

Annual Toyoyo Tournament in Wichita, Kansas U.S. Kenyans from various States come together for this tornament as a catch up just to keep tabs with what is happening

Huruma Youth, a team based in Nairobi and sponsored by Kenyans in diaspora was the first team to don OA apparel. He is also finalizing a deal with the Joe Kadenge Foundation to kit the team that is bound to depart for Sweden later in the year. Boniface Ambani, a former Kenyan international and currently a businessman who specializes in sports merchandize is also in talks with Mr Odipo so he may be a partner in their sales. OA apparel is sourced from manufacturers in Guangzhou China to maximize on cheap labour economies of scale. Being in the USA, there is a minimum threshold quality for imports. This ensures that OA has quality replicas, and Odipo notes that mostly the OA gear leaves China for Nairobi directly whenever need arises. The current Corona Virus epidemic, he admits has stopped imports from China to the USA currently. 

With most of Kenya’s sporting disciplines lacking a kit supplier, OA is positioning itself to fill this void. Offering quality apparel at competitive prices should be an enticing proposition as he seeks to establish OA’s imprint. Buoyed by his current sales success and forecasted potential, Odipo is a man aiming for the stars.   

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