In Summary
  • To compete with international brands, we have to inject a lot of resources into production and marketing. That can limit growth.
  • Do not settle for mediocrity. If you need to move, move. If you need time out, take time out. Whatever happens, always move, and always pivot, while seeking advice from mentors.

We are sitting on a log under a tree.

Navalayo Osembo has taken the side where she is partly under the shade but also enjoying the sunshine.

The 31-year-old is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Enda Athletics, a Kenyan brand that specialises in making sportswear.

It is weirdly silent here. On most days, Kuona Artists Collective on Likoni road, Nairobi -- where her office is located -- is a buzz of activities. But, today being on a Sunday, it is deserted.

The first time I met Enda was when I interviewed her after she was nominated for the Business Daily’s Top 40 Under 40.

Even then, we settled to have the interview outside her office. She works indoors most of the time so whenever she can, she settles for the outdoors.

Also, the ambiance is great and there are less distractions, except from her cat which wants a cuddle.

BUSINESS IS THE PRIORITY

We are still catching up when a man says hello and points at Navalayo’s shoes.

“Same shoe, ah! I love them.” He’s wearing a green pair of sneakers, similar to Navalayo’s red ones.

The shoes come in red, green and black. The mid soles are white, representing one of the colours on the Kenyan flag.

"I also wanted a black pair but they are out of stock,” he continues. “We will re-stock soon,” she assures him.

I am surprised at how humbly she takes his knowledge of her brand. Why didn’t she introduce herself as the Enda Athletics proprietor?

“I don’t want fame. What I need is success. I want people to familiarise themselves more with the shoes and less with me,” she shares.

On her LinkedIn page, she describes herself as a runner-in-training, but she reveals she is also a sports fan who started a sports academy in Bungoma, her home place.

FINDING PRIDE

Why Enda Athletics? “Out here, most countries have a brand that they are famous for. I wanted to create a product that would give nuance to the Kenyan story. Beyond our borders, we are known as a running nation but we depend on other countries for apparel. I wanted to change that narrative,” she says.

In 2015, while Enda was still in its formative years, she got a job as an accountant in New York City, USA, and moved there with her family -- her husband and four-year-old daughter.

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