Meet Chris Markl: Founder, Kourage Athletics
BFP:What do you do?
CM: I'm the Founder of Kourage Athletics: Kenya's Running Brand - We create athletic apparel that is 100% African & 100% Ethical from design through distribution. Our garments are sold globally with revenues reinvested into Kenya. We seek to leverage the storied tradition of Kenyan runners to inject foreign revenue & investment into Africa to create jobs. I also work as an Associate Professor of Economics Florida State College at Jacksonville and a freelance economic consultant.
BFP: What is the best part about your job?
CM: That I work with brilliant Kenyan entrepreneurs who are my good friends. Hussein my partner in Kourage - is one of my best friends in the world. I'm obsessed with his work. Also its pretty cool to get calls and text with World Champion athletes.
BFP: What has been your greatest challenge?
CM: Separating ourselves from the social entrepreneur crowd and attracting capital. There is a great rise in social entrepreneurship - which is fantastic - but it makes it easy for the nuances of Kourage to get lost. Some of the things I'm most proud about in our brand are things that go unnoticed. We always want to push to become more and more Kenyan/African. We don't want to employ the Branding of Kenya/Africa, but we think creatively to centre as many operations of Kourage in this location. Second I love that Kourage isn't creating a caricature of Kenya/Africa. I think many organisations showcase poverty while trying to do good - instead our message is "I'm Kenyan and I am going to leave you standing in this race". We are leveraging athletic dominance - to transform what the world thinks of Africa. This is our ethos - this is why we are called Kourage. I think we best describe what we stand for in an organization in this short video:
BFP: What advice can you give others facing a similar challenge?
CM: Patience. Patience and hard work. We constantly experiment and fail but we learn. As long as we don't give up Kenya will be the running apparel capital of the world. This is the advice I would provide: Always ask the question: Why? Why is it done this way? Why couldn't it be done in a different way? How can we turn this paradigm upside down?
BFP: If someone wants to do what you do – where do they start?
CM: Set aside 10,000 hours and get excited.
BFP: Finally, what do you hope to get out of being part of this community?
CM: I want to learn from like-minded individuals who are interested in finding unique ways that for-profit businesses can improve lives throughout the globe.