By Ajong Mbapndah L
Navalayo is from a town in Kenya that has produced generations of the world’s greatest distance runners. To maximize social impact in Kenya through sports, Navalayo founded Enda , a made-in-Kenya running shoe brand that creates jobs, invests in local communities, and spurs economic development through exports. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics.
“We have started with shoe designs that tell the Kenyan story but hope to expand to tell other African stories. A big step towards that is getting more people in Africa to know that we exist. ABH has really helped us move in that direction,” says Navalayo Osembo-Ombati
What are some core lessons that you have learned in your ABH prize competition journey this year?
I’ve learned the importance of failing and trying again. This is our second time applying to ABH and I am glad that we tried again and succeeded this time around. I have also learned that we should put more effort in finding out what’s happening in other places on the continent rather than being content with limited knowledge of only our surroundings. The quality of businesses and entrepreneurs I have met from the Top 50 finalists to the Top 20 Finalists and now the Top 10 is excellent. I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of some of them before this ABH journey and neither had some of them heard about Enda. There’s a lot of room for improvement in that regard.
May we know the impact that the ABH exposure has had on the fortunes of Enda?
We have received great publicity, and with that, public support from all over Africa. That has been the most amazing experience because one of our long-term goals is to be known globally as Africa’s cultural shoe brand. We have started with shoe designs that tell the Kenyan story but hope to expand to tell other African stories. A big step towards that is getting more people in Africa to know that we exist. ABH has really helped us move in that direction.
We’ve also had people reaching out for investment, job opportunities and connections to potential suppliers in Africa. All these are resources that are useful both now and in future. We are creating a database so that we retain the information and reduce the cost of seeking these resources in future.
To young Kenyans and Africans out there who now see in you a role model, what advise do you have for them?
You only have one life, and your existence is not an accident. View life from a perspective of adventure and discovery. Whether or not you choose entrepreneurship, this perspective allows you to be curious, to seek knowledge, to understand the meaning of things, and to ask questions. Questions are the foundation of where your life will go so always keep asking. When you do this, you are likely to get on a journey of discovery at a personal, professional or entrepreneurship level. Don’t get stuck in fear. It will always be there as there are many voices that will make you doubt. Learn, however, to be comfortable with being afraid but continuing with the journey.
Based on the rich experience you have had with the ABH journey, where do you see Enda in the medium and long term?
In the medium term, I see us continuing our phenomenal three-digit percentage growth in revenue. We are also investing in research and design and will be launching newer and improved models of our core running shoes offering soon. In the long-term, I want Enda to be a global African brand that sources and makes products in Africa for customers around the world. Kenya is just the start of our dreams and ambitions. We also plan on sponsoring African athletes from different countries and increasing the number of people who benefit from us directly, e.g., through employment, or indirectly, e.g., through an expanded continental supply chain.
Any word to the ABH Sponsors and management as we wrap this interview up?
Definitely! My team and I are very grateful for the new opportunities and networks that have come with being an ABH finalist. We also have big expansion plans from the funding that we will get. ABH has been a wonderful experience and it is no doubt because of the investment and work put in by its sponsors and management. There would be no ABH without them – so we really are thankful to each one of them.