Podcast Transcript – Series TWO, Episode 44
navalayo osembo, enda athletic October 2021
[00:00:00] And so “Run Kenyan” is also about what does it mean that even sometimes you might run to be a runner, but it’s okay to mix it with other sports, like just being aware of your body and saying, okay, maybe I’ll walk and I’ll swim. And that’s perfectly fine because you understand the impact of let’s say, running on pavement and things like that.
[00:00:22] And so ultimately know. we want “Run Kenyan” to be the embodiment of all these things so that when people come, they come torun with joy, they come to have a running community. They come with patience and humility and excellence, like showing up. And as Enda means, you know, keep going.
[00:00:40] What’s up Unfound Nation. Dan Kihanya here.
[00:00:42] Thanks so much for checking out another episode of Founders Unfound. That was Navalayo Osembo, co-founder and CEO of Enda, a company that is building on Kenya’s reputation as the global leader in distance running with “Run Kenyan” as its motto, and it makes running shoes in Kenya for runners around the world.[00:01:00]
[00:01:00] I’m so excited about this episode. Navalayo was the first guest we’ve had on from the place of my own ancestral heritage Kenya. If you didn’t pick that up. She grew up with a military father and a teacher. Which meant strong theme, discipline and excellence combined with her gifts of curiosity, intelligence and grit, she set out to master accounting law and eventually global development. But it was her returned to Kenya from the U S and UK. That helped her find the calling where she could make her impact: “Run Kenyan.” And so, Enda was born.
[00:01:28] Navalayo has a great story. You’ll definitely want to listen in.
[00:01:32] Our episode is sponsored by Aperture Venture Capital, a seed stage fund re-imagining startup investing for the multicultural mainstream. Founding partners, William and Garnette recently announced their inaugural $75 million first fund focused on diverse and female founders.
[00:01:47] But Aperture is double-clicking on changing the VC narrative. They also want to showcase the voices and stories of diverse entrepreneurs. Feel like you have a great story to tell. They want to share it at aperturevc.com/ [00:02:00] founders, head over to their site and look for a link in the show notes.
[00:02:03] And please make sure to like, and subscribe to the podcast we are available anywhere that you get your podcasts. And if you like what you hear, drop us a five star review on Apple or at podchaser.com. And make sure to tell your friends about.
[00:02:16] Now on with the episode, stay safe and hope you enjoy.
[00:02:29] Hello and welcome to Founders Unfound, spotlighting, the best startups you don’t know yet, we bring you stories of exceptional founders from underrepresented and underestimated background. This is the latest episode in our continuing series on founders of African descent. I’m your host, Dan Kihanya, let’s get on it.
[00:02:45] Today, we have Navalayo Osembo co-founder and CEO of Enda, a company that is building on and contributing to Kenya’s reputation as the global leader in distance running. And it makes running shoes in Kenya for runners around the world. Welcome to the show [00:03:00] Navalayo. We’re super excited to have you on. Thanks for making the time.
[00:03:06] Awesome. So we’re going to obviously dive into the story of anda. But before that, let’s hear a little bit about you. What did you do before? And, uh, where did you go to school? Where’d you grow up?
[00:03:16] How’d you grow up? I grew up in two different places. So in Kenya, you basically are in the city where your parents work and then over the holidays, you go to the village where your grandparents are.
[00:03:26] So I kind of grew in between Nairobi. A place called Teriba, which is about four, a couple of kilometers from Eldoret. And there it is a place that is known as the city of champions. And so way before people kind of came to know about Kenyan runners, there was internet and a lot of them typically make the investments in that city.. So running that was around me and my dad being in the military was also something that was in kind of like my growing up background. The military is very disciplined in terms of sports. And it’s also one of the few employers in town that actually [00:04:00] hires athletes to be athletes, not to do anything else.
[00:04:03] And so it’s one of the reasons that I got exposed to run as at a very early age, over that particular point that. People that I was familiar with community that I grew up in. I studied in Kenya for my basically high school and my undergrad in my undergrad. I did law. So I have a law degree and I passed the bar and all that.
[00:04:24] And then I also did accounting. So I’m also certified accountants that was before actually joined university because those days they used to meet for like two years before university. Nowadays, this lucky kids don’t have to do that to me. Oh, as I resolved to that, those two years, I spent doing accounting before I did my undergrad.
[00:04:43] And then after that, I worked for a couple of years and then I did my post graduate in London at the London School of Economics.
[00:04:51] Let’s go back a little bit. So those are a lot of impressive things that seem to go in some different directions. But what were you like as a kid? Were you studious? Were you athletic or were you [00:05:00] musical?
[00:05:01] I would definitely say studious. You know, like I like books, I like reading. My mom was a teacher and so. There was no shaming her, you had to like be the best. And, uh, I I’d say both of my parents were super strict on education and getting the best of that. So while I did enjoy writing and reading, I know my personality was more drawn to books, studying research and things that are historical meaning.
[00:05:27] That makes sense. Did you have any sense of entrepreneur-ism around you or where inside of you?
[00:05:34] I would say yes. You know, I look back at all the stuff I did or the stuff that I made my friends do for me. And I think it was there. There was one point I convinced my dad to put fish bones in his beloved. Uh, I dunno you coordinate, is it a farm?
[00:05:50] Okay. It’s like a farm more. And so
[00:05:52] I think we call them a garden here.
[00:05:54] But then I feel like I got in is more the backyard guided, whereas this is more like, like [00:06:00] Lambda UTL to grow. And so the, the, having to convince him to basically fulfill his regular habits to kind of like dig up coins to, to grow fish was, uh, you know, something that they did for me, uh, efficiently.
[00:06:15] They did they did, then it was good. I think we had challenges with it later, but, um, at the very end, at least my parents had endless supply of fish for them to eat whenever they want, even in that business.
[00:06:29] So your dad had basically very large garden slash farm, small farm. And you convinced him to dig it up that it’s producing vegetables and start farming fish.
[00:06:39] Yes. I actually went and got people who are interested in buying fish. I had this, I had everything like that. The only thing I did not foresee was. Would come and fish at night. Like it was that one thing you don’t think of that. And so that really, I think that really broke my head. And so I was like, I’m not doing this anymore.
[00:06:59] [00:07:00] Like, it’s insane to think of someone studying fish at night. Like that was just an insane thing. And so after that had to break, I just told my friends, it doesn’t have to be commercial, you know, they can just stay there and see you and fish. They can usually go fish. I would say that’s just one example of different things.
[00:07:16] I didn’t see it as entrepreneurial. I just saw it as ideas that needed to be tried and tested. And so sound didn’t work some days, but eventually I think it’s the spirit of trying different things and seeing what comes out of it. And how old were you? I must have been, I was still in uni when you went into two and when we were doing this.
[00:07:37] Nice. And so what, what attracted you to law?
[00:07:40] I have always wanted to be a lawyer since growing up. I don’t know, maybe it’s just a, this fixation and reading a lot of John Grisham novels and also kind of see lots of Law and Order, you know, how American TV shows and the cultures of other countries. And so, um, I knew that I wanted to be in law and I knew that I wanted at least from a [00:08:00] perspective of helping people, you know, um, navigate the justice system, get justice.
[00:08:04] No, when you’re young, you’re really naive. You’re. Into, we need to demand justice now. And I was really into that make you count on me. I just figured out there was so much injustice, a little bit governed by poverty. And so I was like, okay, here’s something I can do. That’s the career I wanted, essentially. That’s how I ended up studying law.
[00:08:23] So you end up at the London School of Economics. And so you get this amazing academic credit. Where do you go from there?
[00:08:31] Okay. So London was a whole chapter, right? Like I I’m a huge tennis fan and that was the first time I actually got to be, I would say the same space as the Williams sisters.
[00:08:42] I adore them. Like I, like, I have watched them for the longest time. And so London was the closest I was ever to them, even though. And another place, but I was like, you know what, they’re reading the same answer. And so when I was there, the thing that really blew me away was kind of being in the space [00:09:00] of women, the women’s championship.
[00:09:02] And I looked around like from the data to the players and it really, it hit me. I was like, athletic develop. See that, like, if you look at two different sport, uh, people of African descent, basically super athletic, but in this one sport, there were no Africans. And so I started an agenda with wire then or African from tennis, and that led me down the rabbit hole.
[00:09:26] I visited a couple of tennis academies in the UK and I was like, I know what I need to do. I need to go home. I need to get the next person that’s going to get into these championships in the next 10 years. And I say entrepreneurship is a mix of optimism and sometimes foolishness because I was like, this is possible.
[00:09:44] You could not convince me it was impossible. So I went back home. I thought that’s after finishing my degree at LSE. And I, again convinced my parents, my brother, actually this time to give me a piece of land and to build a tennis academy there. So [00:10:00] that was used my own savings. My own money created like a school of.
[00:10:04] And, you know, like there’s a whole ecosystem. I tapped into the tennis network in Kenya. I go to the coaches and I was like, let’s do this, let’s making some champions. And then, then he relays what it takes to make a champion. It was really difficult. And at that particular point, I got a job offer with the UN in New York.
[00:10:25] And so I had to leave. And that was one of the challenges, basically trying to run a sports academy. In a rural part of Kenya, not even in Nairobi, that would have been easier, but in the same way, Google, like not really saying like super rural and trying to organize that on phone was like difficult. The guys didn’t even have like a mobile phone to take pictures, you know?
[00:10:47] Find someone who has a mobile phone with a camera to go and take the photos that I went to them. So after some time I realized you’re not giving the kids the quality permits and so close the shelf date and figured out I shall do [00:11:00] something in future. And so when this didn’t happen, I basically joined a business accelerator program because I was like, I want to know what I can do better next time.
[00:11:09] And in this particular program, Tennis. Hmm. Interesting. You know, that could be, I could tell they were like, you didn’t see, but they helped me go through the theory of change and basically think, okay, what do you want to do? I want to create huge social impact. How do you want to do it through sports? Okay.
[00:11:28] Let’s go through it and figure out other ways you can work, even if it’s most tennis. And that is how the idea of working in granny came because I was like, wait a minute. Running. It’s just that one thing that you don’t need to explain to anyone with Kenyans and non-Kenyans. Uh, about them. So that I would say was the beginning of Enda.
[00:11:47] And so tell us before we get the end though, like, how did you end up working in the UN and I think you were in the United States, right?
[00:11:54] We’re in New York where the UN is, how did, how did you end up with that experience? And I [00:12:00] guess my second part of that question would be, I’m sure it was a great opportunity, but were you always thinking about the tennis Academy’s done, but I’m on, I’m going to be have the next thing coming soon.
[00:12:09] I don’t think that’s the thought process.
[00:12:12] I went in that accelerator to figure out how to make this any second didn’t work. Right. That was my thoughts. But I think it’s more of being open to feedback and being open to the opportunities around you. And also just looking at the lessons and figuring out is this something I can overcome? No. So I can’t go back to the same idea, new challenges I had, but simply not use all the.
[00:12:34] Bumper to the next thing. So I think it’s just a sequential, logical thought process of, okay, what’s next? This is not happening. What’s next. And that is how I ended up there. The UN job was simply that they literally just sent in an application, which has just also. Got to get, I need to pay my bills. I need to do stuff.
[00:12:54] And the tennis academy had taken all my savings, uh, with all my naivety. [00:13:00] So I was kind of like down to zero and I was like, okay, let’s find something to do sent in an application. And yeah, I got a call for the interview process and it felt we need, at some point I was like, this is the, I ha I hear people have super horror stories of being swindled and stuff like that, but literally it was just that easy.
[00:13:18] Um, I always believed. In life, we don’t need to win the race. You just need to be in the race. Sometimes you might be the best of the worst mind. Sometimes we limit ourselves when we think anyway, that’s what I tell myself, anytime I’m applying for something and I’m like, I don’t qualify for this, but I’m like, no, I’m going to be good.
[00:13:34] If I am the best of the west, then at least they will see that I exist. And so that is how I ended up applying any 20 sent in my application two minutes before the deadline. I remember that. And worked out. So I got the job moves to New York with my family. It was a whole new experience, super experience.
[00:13:53] I’m a huge fan of the amazing race at an interview. Watched it later, watched it back to back, but it always amazes me, you know, like to [00:14:00] travel, to see the world, but it’s also the team dynamics. I think that’s what really makes me happy about the show. And the last season, just before I moved the last season, one of the last tasks was actually at the UN headquarters building.
[00:14:13] Mind blowing that I had watched that and I saw them like trying to do all these tasks in the UN building. And then literally a few months later, I was there looking at the same building. I’m feeling like I am going to change the world. You know, I’m going to make world peace. You know, he’s my knowledge to act to the best of my abilities.
[00:14:31] And that’s how I ended up in the UN. I was in New York for four and a half years. All this time of the idea of Enda was growing. We’re growing the team, having meetings to getting out how to divert product samples. So a lot of things are also going on the side, but the business literally just grew much faster than I had anticipated.
[00:14:51] And at some point it became clear that I had to make a choice. That’s you my career, or to just go and try in the, within the, and see [00:15:00] how far it goes. And so being the person who asked why not, and not wanting to live with regret, I was like, you know what? I can probably, I can get another job. Right. So when I wouldn’t always have a company that has gained this much momentum.
[00:15:14] See how much momentum we can do. And then if it works out amazing, if it doesn’t work out, you know what? We tried, you know, naughty goods. And that is how I switched now from my job and moved back to Kenya to basically be full-time at Enda.
[00:15:28] Well, that’s a perfect setup. We’re going to hear more about the beginnings of Enda, but we’re going to take a short break and we’ll be right back withNavalayo Osembo from Enda.
[00:15:38] I love that I’m building something most importantly, that really matters, and that can change the world in a very relevant and necessary. But being able to run my own business and be able to write my own check as a lot of Americans would like to be able to do. I want to be able to be a bright shining example of exactly how to make that happen.
[00:15:58] Hi, we’re William and Garnette [00:16:00] founding partners of Aperture Venture Capital, VC for the multicultural mainstream Aperture is a $75 million seed stage fund, re-imagining the startup landscape for diverse and female founders. If you’re listening to this amazing podcast, you already know, diverse and female founder to largely been ignored by the VC industry, apertures making it our mission.
[00:16:21] We want to elevate those voices. So if you’re a diverse founder, we want to showcase your story. Come share your voice and your founder’s journey at aperturevc.com/founders.
[00:16:31] That’s A P E R T U R E V C.com forward slash founders. Thank you very much.
[00:16:40] All right. We’re back with Navalayo from Enda.
[00:16:43] Before we jump into end though, I have a question. What, what’s your perspective on? So you, you grew up in Kenya and, uh, and we share, you know, my father’s from Kenya and my uncle is in the air force and knows your, your father so that we have a connection there. [00:17:00] Yeah. And, and so you went to United States, so you were in London, in the UK. What, what was the, what was different about your perspective when you came back to Kenya.
[00:17:09] I’d say a lot of things. One, I feel like because London was my first experience outside of Kenya. I not the first time I experienced race, not racism, race, the awareness of being a black person, it was confusing. Right? Like you cannot be in places and sometimes you feel like, okay, these people are looking at me or at my image.
[00:17:32] And I guess, you know, like not having the baggage of growing up in a system where you’re very aware of. I think in Europe is when I fully became aware that I am a black vessel. Like, yeah. And so I think that was one of the things that made me think. Okay. How do people get in this space and how do you, how do you basically figure out how to navigate in places where.
[00:17:56] I don’t know how to describe it. Like nobody would make you feel welcomed that you would [00:18:00] feel different. And so that was the first time I kind of like experienced that. And then also we did have a class trip at that too, you know, let look at the international organizations and stuff. And I remember, I think my friends and I were like the only Africans on the flight and these guys legit made us wait for everyone to like load in and do a checking, all the passwords and every page.
[00:18:23] And I know that was the day I was like, oh man, Africa really needs to get these to get, to get that, you know, I would say that was it like more of an awareness, but also a lot of questions, like why, you know, why should we, I don’t know how to describe it. It was more of a desire to seek excellence more to pursue excellence because I know, I know myself, no, I need you to tell me that I’m not smart or anything like that.
[00:18:49] I feel like I’m beyond that. Like I know who I am, but at the same time, I was like, have you basically changed the trajectory or. Uh, section of what our continent is [00:19:00] from both the people and also the people around, how do you change that so that I can walk around anywhere in the world and not feel like you will not shocked, surprised to see like a black class, you know?
[00:19:10] And so that was one of the things that I came back. I was like, okay, I want to do something good, but also very glad to land in. looking at me. And then there’s also the element of in receipt. So I do have a bone to pick with international development, and I do think the discipline itself needs a review. I think a lot of the research has been done from a perspective of studying Africa by Nana Africans.
[00:19:38] The staff is incorrect, but I did find a disparity when people are talking about poverty, corruption, all these kinds of things, not to say that they don’t exist. They do, but I wouldn’t necessarily call my childhood a childhood of, of lack. We didn’t have much that we had an amazing childhood. It was amazing.
[00:19:57] And so to juxtapose what you would call [00:20:00] poverty with, what’s my experience of that poverty is, and I’m like, yes, we need to help people. But at the same time, I am not miserable. And wretched, you know, I am a whole human being who injured. Being in an environment with the ignorance as the ignorance is bliss.
[00:20:14] And so it felt as though when you are creating a system of international development where you actually need people to go. And, you know, like I work in development, which is essentially Africa, Asia, and south America, people who are going to go into these spaces. But the feeling is working from them is either PT or you are evoking a better than you attitude or evoking.
[00:20:38] I just feel like that’s the wrong foundation. To have the international development perspective, then you end up having a hierarchy, even at the local level because the curriculum makes it sound like everybody’s miserable and you’re lucky to be able to serve them. I’m like, no, there has to be a different way to look at.
[00:20:58] But without making it [00:21:00] look so miserable, it’s one of the thoughts that I’m still developing. I’m like I should get like a book or something. Some of the things I thought about, and I was like, there is a way at which to look at the international development. Adding on to the extra negative pressure or perception of what Africa is.
[00:21:20] And I just feel like that was already adding onto it. And anyone coming in was really coming, like I’m coming to save and to do all these things and looking at the history of international development, it’s been over 50 years. Other countries has been over 60 years. Something’s not working if you’re spending all this money.
[00:21:38] And so the question was okay. What is the problem and how do we try to fix it? Very nice questions now that I know what I know, but, uh, those are some of the things that I came back home and I was like the only thing I think, and I do believe the only thing people lack is opportunity. I’ve seen people hassled to the bone.[00:22:00]
[00:22:00] They just need the opportunity. And I feel like that’s the key thing that in Africa, in Kenya and anywhere around the world where people are struggling, give them opportunity. And I think people can rise to the occasion.
[00:22:11] That’s fascinating. And that’s, I think people really can’t appreciate enough just how different it is in the United States and in Western Europe, this idea of racial distinction.
[00:22:22] And, you know, it’s almost as if you were like how tall you are around all the time. And people were judging you by how tall are you?
[00:22:29] And, uh, and that’s that sometime when everybody keeps on telling you you’re so tall, you’re so cold then in your mind, even if someone is looking at you and perhaps can say what a nice t-shirt, you’d be like, oh my God, they’re just going to say how tall I am, you know, and it is that thing that affects how people react and respond. And I think ultimately, yeah, we need to change this, that as human beings.
[00:22:50] So tell us, like, so how, how did you get it started? I mean, you’re, you’re not a designer. I don’t think you’re not, you’re not somebody who has 25 years in the, in the, in the shoe business.
[00:22:59] [00:23:00] How did you actually get the business going?
[00:23:02] That’s actually a good question and they love it because I used to see, and I still see a little bit when you see people kind of like advertising for jobs and they’d be like, and that was something that used to annoy me so much, like 10 years of experience in this and that.
[00:23:15] And I’m like, there’s two ways to look at life. There is one way you have curiosity and then there’s one where you have the. Um, you know, like the true and trusted way of doing something. And I do think in this world, we need to keep a balance of both. And so I have no shoemaking experience, but I don’t need to do that.
[00:23:31] If I can get someone on my team who has the knowledge, the expertise, and you know, the networks to be able to do that. And so that’s something we figured out with. My co-founder actually met him. When I finished that accelerator program. The last day, they had invited people who are interested in this space to come, and he was one of the people who were there.
[00:23:48] And we really talked a lot after my presentation, that we had a serious conversation about what the opportunities are in terms of Kenyan running.
[00:23:56] What was the thing that convinced him to come on board?
[00:23:59] How do I explain it? I think [00:24:00] it’s a feeling and it just like a mutual feeling about, say that because he comes from a background of social change.
[00:24:05] So he had to work on a change or before. The director, the one campaign, which was going to, I think it was under bono at that particular time. And so his background is how do we make the world a better place? Like, that’s the kind of person he is. My background was like, how do we make Kenya better space in Africa generally?
[00:24:24] And so when we met, it just felt like it was, what do you call consensus and item? We had the meeting of minds that was basically like, okay, we do think we’re in the same head space. Uh, we had a really long chapter. That I didn’t talk long time. That day we agreed to meet a week later, we met, uh, at, uh, for lunch and we stayed there until the police closed down.
[00:24:44] Like it was just ideas to make making can do this and we can do this. And I think at that particular point, you could feel the connection and you could feel that we definitely were thinking along the same thoughts and it felt like a natural match in potency. Like from a business perspective, it [00:25:00] just felt like we were being driven by the same values.
[00:25:03] It feels like. In a place I wanted to make change in a place where we felt like each we could work together to be able to do this. And yeah the rest is history.
[00:25:13] yeah, so let’s, let’s get to the starting point. So you decided that running is the heritage of Kenya and it’s a great place to make, make your mark and start a business.
[00:25:22] How do you actually get it going? How do you come up with the design and the supply chain? And I mean, how does that all come together?
[00:25:30] Ahhh, it’s been a long journey. I would say the key thing I have learned is, you know, like you just need to have a good team around you and the team that you have each other’s backs.
[00:25:40] And I know that if Dan is going to be , you can’t do it and we’ll figure out a way to do it. And so I would say that has been the secret sauce at Enda, in the sense of. Didn’t know how to make shoes. And the other business was getting someone who made shoes and someone who also understood the nation, because if you don’t understand the mission [00:26:00] and be like, why are you guys and problem solve and such as important as well?
[00:26:07] I was able to do that. So we hit LinkedIn actually in a very useful, we also sent emails to other fans whereby they gave you to someone who is in this particular skillset. We’re not just looking for people who make shoes, that it would take people. Yes. And settling, running footwear in digital marketing in the running space.
[00:26:27] Like we’re looking for all these things and in every conversation, because it’s like, okay, thanks dude, who, if you are, which other people you talk to. And so, as a result of that, we formed an amazing and strong network. That’s how we found the people that we found, like, um, eventually all the conversations led to the right people.
[00:26:47] And we were like, okay, so we have the designers, we have the factory in China. That’s willing to help us do that. Let’s get started. And so we were able to raise money from friends and family and also use a little bit of CPAs to [00:27:00] get to the fast. And you are hoping we’ll be able to get some financing now that you have a working prototype.
[00:27:05] You know, that’s what everybody say is good. Their prototype get the time date. And that wasn’t the society for us cross the road while making the product in Kenya like white, like there was a lot of skepticism. It hadn’t been done before. What makes you think you’re so special that you couldn’t do this and as a field and things like that.
[00:27:23] And so we basically hit, we hit several events and that’s also. Challenge of being an entrepreneur is like hearing no, I don’t know. Not as, I feel like people really glorifying, like, yeah, you just kind to make you go, go, go, you know, but it hurts sometimes to kind of be, to have the door shut in your face over and over and over again.
[00:27:42] And so at some point you were like, okay, we need money. We’re not going to get it from positional financing. The VC’s are either stringing us along or the nice ones were just upfront. Like, yeah, no, we’re not interested in this. And so. We figured out the best bit was to do crowdfunding. And I’m so glad we went [00:28:00] down that path.
[00:28:00] I wouldn’t change anything about it because I feel like that’s how we started building our initial community of people or customers or friends as we call them people who essentially supports the brand and Kickstarter was a lot of hardware. It is a lot of hardware, but it was great festival. It gave us money with no strings attached.
[00:28:21] We could be able to execute as we wanted. It gave us a patient audience and mostly people who are supporting that platform know that it takes time to build product. So unlike someone who says, here’s my money, when’s my shoes. Tomorrow. The crowd on Kickstarter is more like, okay, here’s the money. When do you think the shoes will be here?
[00:28:38] So that’s what, as a lot of time to get started. And essentially we started with money from Kickstarter, which is just enough to make the orders and a little bit more. And so we didn’t have any shoes for returns and exchanges. And that’s when I had to figure out how to deal with customers were very angry and upset that they can’t do exchanges.
[00:28:57] There was nothing we could do, you know, but at least from [00:29:00] entrepreneural side, we had established aid that was market leaders, validation. We’d gotten media coverage from it. And even though we couldn’t be able to, you know, meet all the customer demands, at least we established that there was a demand worth investing in, and that is how we launched both of our first and that our second shoes.
[00:29:18] That’s a great story. And I love the fact that you talk about like, yeah, we tried to appeal to an investor lens and when that sort of wasn’t productive, you said, well, let’s just go to the people who are going to buy this and let’s ask them what they think. Right. So I’m curious, you know, your, your, your slogan is kind of Run Kenyan. Maybe tell us a little bit about the shoes themselves. What’s different about them. Is it design, is it functionality? What do you think is special about the industry?
[00:29:47] First of all just, I just realized, I never mentioned what Enda means, Enda means go, I suspect he knew words that you hear a lot when people are supporting that teams, especially in the most competitive Olympics, whenever [00:30:00] people are watching a sport to us, when someone is at a scoring or approaching the finish line, everyone will be like, indict that like, go, go, go.
[00:30:07] You know? And so that’s what the company needs. It means to. And, uh, as I said, it’s inspired by Korean dramas and the future and the ecosystem of that industry. Because again, as I said, I grew up in Janine country and there you, you realize just how much pressure this run has faced. You know, you have one guy, who’s basically the one guy who’s made it in a village and he has to support everyone.
[00:30:32] And there’s this social expectation. That we have back home where you, you know, your neighbors, you is there a problem is your problem. And so when that is good, from a development perspective, it really sucks. If you’re the guy, who’s the one with, you know, plenty other, then everybody, because then you’re, you know, paying school fees, being medical fees, being.
[00:30:54] If needed in the community. And so I was like, we needed to expand [00:31:00] the benefit of this industry and see how much further we could take it along. So that in future, there less pressure on athletes. There’s people who can, you know, gain whack from it or benefit from being the supply chain or whatever, but just expand that business and see how it goes.
[00:31:15] And so, so Kenya and essentially. It is our philosophy. It is the way the athletes live. If you see how athletes work together, right? It is what does it embody to make a champion to make a champion means it’s a community, right? If you see how they live, they actually didn’t even comes together. They go see their families, but everybody lives in the camp and in the camp, it doesn’t matter whether you’re champion.
[00:31:40] It doesn’t matter whether you’re an. If it’s your time to clean the toilet, it’s your time to clean the toilet, you know? And so that spirit of brotherhood, that if I cannot make it, then at least, you know, I’m coexisting with others and that’s, what’s wrong. Kenyan means drinking and also means, um, there’s a quiet excellence, right?
[00:31:59] Like a [00:32:00] lot of people just see the athletes on the podium, but we get to see them when they’re waking up. Mostly, I was like, when the cameras are not. It takes discipline, man. Like I don’t even think I’ve achieved that level of discipline to be consistent at going on and on and on. And sometimes they get an injury or they get a setback that takes them, like, how do you come back from that?
[00:32:21] And so what we’ve seen, um, and what I really admire and worked, we went on Buddhist ramping and it’s also the act of quiet discipline and quiet. Excellent that you kind of keep going because you know the path ahead of you and there’s no distractions, you know, like even if you get an upset. Yeah, you have your community, but the, the work is done away from the limelight and that’s okay.
[00:32:43] You know, like don’t always have to be on the limelight. And lastly, John Cannon is also about efficient running, you know, like there’s different ways of running. Um, there’s heel strike mid-foot strike. There is an efficient way in which our bodies were created to run. I mean, um, evolution has. [00:33:00] Mess that up with our diets and all the things that we do in our lifestyle, but it’s also, how do we get people to run in their most efficient running from, or at least to get them to be knowledgeable about what it takes to be an efficient trainer so that it’s not just someone who is, um, running, but also kind of like punishing their body, but running in a sense that is holistic and educational, the designing and now like running is really popular and everybody’s running.
[00:33:28] But if you understand how running, what you also know that runners are also prone to injuries, especially me injuries, hip injuries. And if you are not aware of how you’re running and the right tools, the right running shoes for that, then you might be kind of like high-fiving yourself and people want a good with a mighty workout.
[00:33:48] I did, but in essence, you’ve just been like tearing up. At your muscles and your joints, you know, and so ran Canon is also about what does it mean that even sometimes [00:34:00] you might run to be a runner, but it’s okay to mix it with other sports, like just being aware of your body and saying, okay, maybe I walk and I’ll swim and that’s perfectly fine because you understand the impact of let’s say, running on pavement and things like that.
[00:34:13] And so ultimately. Ron Kenyan to be the embodiment of all these things so that when people come, they come to run with joy, they come to have a running community. They come with patience and humility and excellence, like showing up. And asEnda means, you know, keep going.
[00:34:31] I love that. Well, we’re going to take another short break, and we’ll be right back withNavalayo Osembo from Enda.
[00:34:38] I love that I’m building something most importantly, that really matters, and that can change the world in a very relevant and necessary way, but being able to run my own business and be able to write my own check as a lot of Americans would like to be able to do. I want to be able to be a bright shining example of exactly how to make that happen.
[00:34:58] Hi, we’re William and Garnet. [00:35:00] Founding partners of Aperture Venture Capital, VC for the multicultural mainstream. Aperture is a $75 million seed stage fund, re-imagining the startup landscape for diverse and female founders. If you’re listening to this amazing podcast, you already know: diverse and female founders have largely been ignored by the VC industry.
[00:35:18] Aperture is making is our mission. We want to elevate those voices. And so if you’re a diverse founder, we want to showcase your story. Come share your voice and your founder’s journey at aperturevc.com/founders. That’s A P E R T U R E V C.com forward slash founders. Thank you very much.
[00:35:40] So we’re back with Navalayo from Enda.
[00:35:42] So tell us a little bit about the shoes themselves. Let’s let’s talk about like what’s the design, what’s the intent around what the shoe represents in terms of its differentiation in the marketplace? Because there’s lots of running shoes out there in the world. What’s different about, uh, the Enda shoes.
[00:35:58] So there’s two [00:36:00] things. First, there’s the technical bit. And then there’s the aesthetic, the static, we try as much as possible to tell Kenyans. So the shoe, um, let me start with the aesthetic pepper. So first of all, if you read a lot of African history, you’ll realize a lot of history was passed down or any, there wasn’t really anything, a very contentious point danced at and things like that.
[00:36:21] And they do feel like we have to think about how to educate our current youth and the world that large. The African culture, but in a way that is honoring the process of communicating through symbolism. And so that’s what we are doing with our shoes and like every shoe selling a particular story. So the first two we did was a lightweight strain.
[00:36:41] It was called the Eaton. It 10 is a place in the Northwest rift valley of Kenya. And it has produced the largest number of rough middle, like gold middle champions in distance running. And so when we named the shoes. What is he tin? That is an opportunity to educate, you know, then you look at the color, the [00:37:00] initial colorways are red, green, and black, which was the colors of the flag.
[00:37:03] Our logo is the tip of a spear, which comes from the coat of arms . And it’s also what a scanning presents. You know, it’s about swift motion direction. You never see a spear that’s crooked. It’s almost like, you know, and it’s what the brand is about telling that Kenyon story as well. And we have the word Harambee at the bottom of all the shoes. Harambee that means we all pulled together the national motto Kenya, and it means if I cannot do it alone, the community, which is literally the story of Enda, like it was a crowd funded campaign that came to life. And so that’s why we basically make sure that we have the word Harambee at the bottom of each shoe. So the first shoe was at a lightweight trainer and it is intended for shorter distances.
[00:37:47] It is ideal for, although some people ran with it matters, but all our shoes are developed to enhance, I mean, food strike, which is the most efficient training for. And also one of the [00:38:00] things we try to own, uh, is, um, connectivity to the ground. So we have a low drop shoes. The first to the Eaton is, has a four millimeter and drop and drop is essentially the distance between the heel and the pad under the mid foot.
[00:38:14] And so we try to not go too much for stability and also to make sure that it’s not as positive. We are trying to get you to the ground and giving you just enough cushioning, uh, what you need in order to be able to connect to the ground. Now this again, has historical meanings. The human species became homo erectus, actually Northern Kenya.
[00:38:34] And so it isn’t just about us trying to be fancy. Kenya is where we became bipedal is where we started running. And we try to honor that culture and also with how the athletes have shown us the best way to run, then making sure they choose actually support a mid-foot stance. The second shoe we we had is a daily trainer.
[00:38:56] It’s more cushioned it’s for long runs. Ideal [00:39:00] for if you’re going to go like the long ride of a weekend or over math on a, it is called the LA. Like I said is a wedding challenging. That means run. And so when you are working with the athletes is what you’ll hear a lot and lots of and everybody’s sprints, you know?
[00:39:16] And so again, an opportunity to. To educate people about language, you know, and we designed it initially to be inspired by the natural features of Kenya and the EFAs feature, our wave. Uh, they have waves on the APA because the waves were things that you observe in nature, whether it’s the wind blowing over the Savanna or the ocean or the sky, there’s almost an element of movement.
[00:39:41] And so that too was dedicated to that. We have evolved the second storytelling for the narcotics. Has it been the bads of Kenya, which is what you’re doing. But ultimately, as I said, the products are about education. It’s not just about, here’s a product I want to where I do think in [00:40:00] this world, we need empathy.
[00:40:01] And I do think empathy starts with. Seeing someone as a story, like understanding where they’re coming from, what drives them, as opposed to just looking at each other and judging each other, the hurdles, like when you get to know what drives the people, what makes the people, I do think ultimately that brings more empathy to the world, which is what we need, and that’s what we want to achieve as a brand.
[00:40:24] Beautiful. I love the convergence of culture and design and utility. It’s very intentional, which is a great story. So tell us about where has ended today. I mean, is it, are you distributing online or use a shipping in Africa, in Europe and other places?
[00:40:43] So, Enda today has evolved so much. When I look at the beginning of the emails, making sense, going to Pop-Ups, like you’re just two people right now.
[00:40:55] We’ve grown the team here about seven people full time. We do have, uh, [00:41:00] we do also work with consultants who held last week.
[00:41:07] as well. And so we started off when we started it off with Kickstarter, we actually had customers from 32 countries, which was a very quick lesson in logistics. And we were like, do you know what basket you can chew? And so we really scaled down, make sure that the customers were getting the best experience and it took us a long tenure and the us, because the majority of the.
[00:41:27] However, now we are launching into Europe. We are still working behind the scenes to make sure that works. But, uh, Europe remains one of our key markets and we want to see that grow. Uh, the U S as well, Kenya, we initially thought the active would be low, even the cost of running shoes, especially if you’re making them from scratch.
[00:41:47] And there’s also the competition from secondhand products, but the market has also been doing. And we are working with the suppliers to come up with a shoe that is more sourcing more locally. And when you start to look at it’s [00:42:00] basically cheaper and that’s who is also something they’re hoping to launch either in September or October, you can get products on our website, in the U S you can also find us on Zappos.
[00:42:10] Uh, we do, uh, they do stock our shoes and we do have some stores, although we have primary. D to C company, the stores are stores that stock up for, that’s not really asked us, but as we grow, we’re definitely looking to get into that space as well.
[00:42:26] So I’m curious, you’re you’re the first company we’ve actually talked to from Kenya.
[00:42:31] Ironically, how was the bids? Because business has been around for a few years now. How was your business affected by COVID last year?
[00:42:39] COVID was actually a blessing for the running industry. You look at the numbers run industry is like it’s thrive. You know, I, one of the things of course is people became more aware of health and they also think the fact that training was one of the activities that was kind of like allowed even during lockdown.
[00:42:57] Uh, in most countries needed to an [00:43:00] easier to fall back into. And again, all you need in running and make tennis is a therapy issue. And so it’s, uh, one of the lessons I learned also about how do you make sports more accessible and running? You can run in anything, you know, um, of course we try to get people to be more aware of that, like getting the right running shoes, but I’ve seen people just, you know, like run in anything.
[00:43:22] And so. COVID was great, not just for Enda, but also for other running shoe companies in the industry.
[00:43:30] But in terms of like supply chain or, or your workers and disruptions, where were there any impacts that came from that? Or maybe, maybe, I don’t know if you support or work with some of the, the elite runners there.
[00:43:43] I mean, a lot of events got candidly in the Olympics got delayed a whole year. Did that affect your business? I mean, I understand the demand side, but like on that other side, did you have any impact from that.
[00:43:53] Yeah. So one of the things we did when we began, something’s definitely going on at the global stage, you know, [00:44:00] and it’s affecting China.
[00:44:01] Uh, one of the things we did was to talk to our advisors, they, some of them have been through the com bubble. They’ve been through the financial crisis and they were like, listen, When humans are stressed, running increases, it’s just a correlation we’ve been in this industry long enough to know that when there are stress factors that directly affect people, the running shoe industry really fast.
[00:44:26] And so their advice was stuck up, you know, like make the orders as fast as you can secure them, get them in the factory, make sure you’re ready, which I’m forever grateful for because. I do have another person who owns a business though in not in the sports and wellness industry and that email, it was like an SOS email in the late days.
[00:44:46] And now you guys, you’re my friends. Here’s what I’m sending you cut spending, um, you know, like reduce salaries, like just hunker down, cause it’s going to be grafted. And on the other hand, going to the advisory board and they’re like, no, no, no, no. [00:45:00] Like by like this, make sure you’re ready. And we were so glad we did that.
[00:45:04] So by the time. The global supply chain was kind of. You know, getting really thick things in terms of the supply chain we had at least shipped our product out of China and so independent make it, we were, you had choosing storage. I have to save you. You acting our fever. Uh, for the athletes, it was really hard.
[00:45:24] So a lot of events got canceled, not just athletics. Gender and the old sports, unless you’re making e-sports or something like that. And so what we did for the athletes is fast. We, uh, we did two things for athletes was to create projects that would, you know, didn’t need their crowd, but would also help us elevate the brand.
[00:45:43] So. We chased the fastest known time to run up and down Mount Kenya, uh, and discovered that the record was held in Italian. And I was like, okay, I love Eataly guys, but this is getting there. We kind of have to take that back. And so we actually had a [00:46:00] really fun time going up and downloads Kenya and kind of breaking those records that your athletes did, which is amazing.
[00:46:06] And then, um, for other athletes that are not part of our brain. Uh, like we don’t respond to them directly. We gave them cash and grants. We usually donate 2% of our revenues to community projects. But this time when we send then instead of doing a project as the speed, the discretion grants, and that was really helpful for athletes whose income had been cut off. Um, because at least we were able to give them some money to get by until things that are picking
[00:46:31] up again.
[00:46:32] Nice. Wow. That’s, that’s a great story. And it’s interesting to hear as entrepreneurs who have gone through the last 18 months, two years, how they’ve reacted some have, you know, it’s been crisis, some have been opportunity.
[00:46:46] Some have been a mixture of both. And so, yeah, that’s, that’s a, that’s a great story. And the fact that. You know, Harambee with, with other athletes. That’s, uh, that’s great. And a lot of people think, you know, the United States, [00:47:00] like the thought about being an elite athlete, whether you’re professional or not, like if you reach the elite status, you’re kind of taken care of one way or another.
[00:47:07] Sometimes you get endorsements. Sometimes you get some opportunities to speak and you get paid for that. I mean, but I think what people don’t understand is, you know, people who are maybe elite runners from Kenya don’t necessarily. You know, massive pot of gold waiting for them when they, when they bring home the gold.
[00:47:25] Yeah. And I have to say, I’ve also discovered like that applies in the U S as well. Uh, I would also under that assumption, but the more, and as I need, the more I realize, like you look at space, uh, brands really left to, you know, pick on the most successful lessons until you find on one end. There’s an athlete who then over, over demand and everybody wants to supply to get them.
[00:47:47] And they asked me to basically have two. To be able to continue pursuing the sport. So there are level of athletes that everybody’s trying to get pro some will be good enough, but who never gets proved, but they seem dedicated [00:48:00] to the sports. And that’s also something as endo. We want to change, whereas it doesn’t have to be.
[00:48:04] And the world has shown us. If you look as Tik TOK, social media, You don’t have to be the most famous, the most beautiful, the most, you know, you just have to be you like BU and see how that comes. And I do think that is how the face of sponsorship is going to change. It wouldn’t necessarily be the best athlete, but it also be in terms of performance, but also the best athlete in terms of engagement and, uh, fun.
[00:48:28] Yeah. Basically fan engagement. That able to navigate this space as well. So that’s something we’re encouraging our athletes to do. And basically saying you can turn pro and here’s all the money, or you may not turn crew, but here’s how you can be able to do that. Bots can be really punishing if you, if you don’t make it to the top.
[00:48:47] And we need to understand the pressure that, that. And yeah, hopefully change that. You know, one athlete at a time.
[00:48:56] I love that. I mean, end up in your perspective around it, it’s almost like it’s a [00:49:00] company enveloped in a movement and a philosophy and a set of values, which is tremendous, tremendous to hear about. So what what’s success for Enda? Like if you look into the future, how will you define and that as being a success.
[00:49:17] I want to be the top brand new shoe brand the next four years, because I think you can do it. And I definitely want that because I’m like so bad. Um, so definitely want to, I want to see that I also want to see more, um, I want to end up to be kind of like a shoe from Africa, the same way you would land in Switzerland.
[00:49:44] Same way. I went not just to be in Kenya, but in Africa as well, because I think in my view and that even about a bigger perspective of a brand that can actually stop and go global because we have a little [00:50:00] at the top, most brands in Africa, I think only one was consumer and only the one that was African was MTN telco.
[00:50:11] And so that also made me start thinking like, guys, come on, you, Africans are being asked to look at the best grants and none of them on the continent, you know, and things like that trouble. And I think it’s worth seeing it’s worth showing people that it is possible. I do think that. Someone sees it.
[00:50:27] They’re like, yeah, they did it. I can do it. You know? And so I want to end that to symbolize more than just a shoe company. I wanted to be something that shows the possibility of what can happen, even in the midst of SKUs resources, like resources and everything that you can still build a great company out of Africa.
[00:50:44] And, you know, don’t really have to change, like to be the best version of yourself and tell your own stories. I want the athletes to be more like, if I think of how the company should be, I want us to sponsor more athletes. I want us [00:51:00] to invest more in community projects. I want, I want the ecosystem to grow.
[00:51:04] Some people would question that and say, well, that’s not the best way to make business, but I do think my opinion is that we have seen. From an African perspective, it’s always been about extraction, right. And development equals to extraction and, you know, refining and stuff like that. But the repercussions have been devastating and I almost feel like it doesn’t have to be that week.
[00:51:29] It is. To grow our company and grow the community and all stakeholders will be happy. It doesn’t have to be shareholders, stakeholders. And so I think for me, that’s the success I’m looking for, where, um, you know, like there is much more space, much more opportunities in the industry. Not just Kenya, but people from around Africa and around the world, um, because of our existence.
[00:51:56] And yeah, that would make me really happy.
[00:51:57] Amazing. I love that. I love that [00:52:00] vision. This has been awesome conversation. My last question is. We’d like to ask. If you could go back in time and speak to the pre vendor version of Nava, uh, what kind of advice would you give her? What things would you tell her to, to run towards, to watch out for.
[00:52:24] Don’t be busy. Right. I would say focus on what is core to the company like, which are just three things makes you say she was good at community, that’s it? You know? And so I feel like sometimes you get so exhausted and burnt down trying to do everything. And I would say, just focus on those three things.
[00:52:43] Um, I would also say a more work-life balance, you know, like start putting the habits in advance cause you’re not going to do so well at that. So. The balance upfront. And I would say, I know it’s cliche, but I would say. [00:53:00] I look at my journey and they only see there were so many moments of doubt that I was like, I’m going to do it anyway.
[00:53:06] And they did. And so I should believe that if those women’s work, this is no different. Like I’m going to do it anyway and it’ll work
[00:53:15] I love that.. And that’s the kind of confidence that you have to call upon. Right. You know, like you said, sometimes you go through these seasons where you get a bunch of nos, right.
[00:53:23] And then it starts to hurt. It starts to become like, wait a minute. Is this the evidence that we don’t have something here? Right. So you have to have that confidence about like, yeah, we we’ve gotten through this before, or we’ve been through other equally challenging times. Um, and so that’s great. Uh, and work-life balance is particularly important for the long haul that startups.
[00:53:46] All right. You can do anything for a long, for a short amount of time, you know, sleepless nights and things like that. Well, this is awesome. And I’m so excited for you. So tell us, how can our audience be helpful to you Nava, or to Enda? [00:54:00]
[00:54:00] First of all, just follow us on social media, Instagram, we are @endasportswear.
[00:54:05] Uh, E N D a and sportswear. I do think it’s always great to, you know, like fast get to know us. I would have to say, go buy the shoes, but I’m going to get to know us faster because what are we going to do is create a community of runners and they do think it’s great for people to understand that we live our philosophy.
[00:54:22] And then of course, rhe, uh, patches on the shoes, uh, be part of the, in the community, sign up for the, in the foundation, every person who buys a shoe kind of gets to sign. And this is amazing because you get to this. Uh, which projects in Kenya, we are going to fund. And it’s usually based on previous customer feedback.
[00:54:39] That’s like the place that people absolutely love when it comes to kind of seeing that story and contributing and saying, okay, we want these guys to get the money or not these other guys. And sometimes we’ve even found people who said, okay, my people didn’t find the money, but I’m going to fund them anyway.
[00:54:53] You know, I do think ultimately it is the human and the impact, the story. We went to, to get [00:55:00] people to communicate and kind of like remove all these biases and obstacles that are in our thoughts. Yeah. I’d say that. And of course, you know, and just tell a friend about us. Walk up to someone and say, Hey, did you know a running shoe company in Kenya called Enda?
[00:55:14] And that’s a really, really great conversation status.
[00:55:20] That’s a great call to action. I love that. Go tell a friend it’ll definitely spark a conversation. I would almost guarantee it. Well Navalayo this has been so great. I really appreciate you taking the time and your story is amazing. And we look forward to hearing more from you, maybe in the future.
[00:55:40] We’d like to thank our guests, Navalayo Osembo and our Sponsor aperture VC.
[00:55:45] This podcast was produced by me with additional audio editing and production by
[00:55:49] We Edit Podcast.
[00:55:51] Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts or simply go to founders, unfound.com forward slash listen to that’s listen, T O. [00:56:00] And follow us on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn @foundersunfound.
[00:56:04] Thanks so much for tuning in. I am Dan Kihanya, and you’ve been listening to Founders Unfound.