Kourage: The Power of Sport to Fight Poverty

By Chris Markl, Founder, Kourage Athletics

Kourage: The Power of Sport to Fight Poverty

I’m Chris Markl an economics professor and an expert on foreign investment and job creation. I’m also the founder of Kourage Athletics.

Kourage Athletics is Kenya’s running brand. Our mission is to leverage the tradition of Kenyan runners to create authentically kenyan running apparel. In addition Kourage seeks to become the first African brand that is globally recognized. Over the London 2012 games, I’m going to be writing 5 articles about the intersection of sports and development in Kenya. Today’s piece centers on my organization, Kourage Athletics. Before I begin, there are two ways you can help Kourage, (1) we are in the middle of a capital raise, if you like what you read and are a sophisticated investor, email me at ch***@ko**************.com (2) we are employing a crowd-sourcing for our olympic – I Am Kenya – shirt; by purchasing this shirt you are investing in Africa’s future http://www.indiegogo.com/iamkenya.

There are two ways that a business can improve lives in an emerging economy. First on the consumer side, by creating goods that improve lives for those who reside in poverty. Think about how increasing access to a solar powered lamp, medication, a water purifier, or a cell phone – can improve lives.

The second way business can improve lives is through job creation. This is the area that Kourage works in.

Kourage has a social mission to improve lives in Kenya by creating apparel that is authentically Kenyan, selling this apparel globally, and injecting the revenue generated into the Kenyan economy.

Top ethical fashion companies such as Olibrete shoes, Apolis Global, FEED bags, and Louis Vuitton’s EDUN, espouse a similar social model, yet concentrate all operations in Europe or America, except manufacturing. This social business model is suboptimal as investment in an emerging country is minimal.

In contrast, Kourage is a Kenyan-oriented company. Specifically:

  • Kourage is reorganizing as a Kenyan corporation, paying Kenyan taxes.
  • Kourage headquarters will be in Nairobi, Kenya, where all operations occur but sales.
  • Kourage garments are sold globally with 100% of revenue injected back into Kenya.
  • Kourage funds will be held in a Kenyan bank.
  • Kourage’s supply chain is 100% Sub-Saharan African and 100% ethical – from design through distribution.

This business model ensures that the maximum amount of money is injected into and ripples through the Kenyan economy.

In addition, Kourage seeks to create a point of pride for Kenyans and break negative stereotypes of Africa by:

  • reinforcing a positive image – that Kenyans are the best runners in the world.
  • promoting Africa as a business friendly continent. There are few high-end consumer products developed by African companies. Kourage seeks to become an example of Africa’s potential by building a global brand that is profitable and is selling high-end consumer goods throughout the world.
  • Highlighting the similarities between African professionals and their European and American counterparts. This is a side of Africa that is not recognized from the outside world. To achieve this, Kourage will show the life of Kourage employees in Nairobi – professionals with iPads, drinking mojitos, listening to Kanye West, and wearing H&M while residing in the vibrant city of Nairobi.

The goal of me sharing this vision of Kourage is to inspire you. To show you that an emerging economy can leverage its brand to create economic development.

Kourage started with an idea and a small group of inspired hardworking entrepreneurs. We aren’t seeking handouts for Africa but instead seek to employ top talent in the continent to develop a global business.

My hope today is that you can see the vision of our company and how one day Nairobi Kenya can be the running apparel capital of the world! We need your help, please support us at http://www.indiegogo.com/iamkenya

I’m excited about subsequent posts and I promise to pour my entire mind and economic knowledge into them!

Editor’s Note:

To mark the London 2012 Olympics, we have teamed up with Kourage Athletics to bring you a series of exciting blogs about the power of sport to fight poverty. Please share your own stories!

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