Enzi shoes are designed by co-founder Jawad Braye and made in Ethiopia. Enzi is dedicated to challenging global perceptions of Africa through its products and fair-trade standards. Want a pair of shoes that are ethical and use some of the world's highest quality leather? Shop now, and read more about their brand below.
What drove you to start your business?
The drive to start our business was the glaring difference between the Africa we know, and its global perception. We wanted to create a brand that changed the narrative and challenged stereotypes. When you look past these stereotypes and perceptions you see luxury, craftsmanship and even royalty. ENZI is on a journey to highlight this and showcase Africa’s great potential.
Who are your employees or your artisans?
Tilahun, Ettaferauw, Getinet, and Teweded are the superheroes that make the shoes. We say superheroes because what they have achieved is no small feat. They have all been working in the local footwear industry for many years (collectively nearly 40 years!) and in that time had developed a standard of work and habits that weren’t up to our standards. Since we’ve started working with them they have developed an entirely new work culture and commitment to excellence that require very little supervision from us. This alone, although it’s completely intangible, is one of our greatest achievements as a brand. Every day our super-heroes debunk and disprove what the world has come to believe about Africa’s capacity and abilities.
How did you find them?
Tilahun was our first hire and he was introduced to us through a friend. He believed in our vision from day one and has helped us recruit more people.
What do they mean to you?
They are the center of everything. We couldn’t have done any of this without them, and they are the reason we work so hard. They are us. I think that’s the best way to explain it.
What made you decide to start producing ethically?
The difference between us and our employees is a single generation. If not for our parents and God’s grace, there would be very little difference between our economic outlook in life and that of our employees. So, for us, setting up an ethical operation was a part of our vision from day one. We held a strong conviction that our brand would not compromise. We wanted to deliver a well-designed, quality product and be proud of how it was being made. When we started there weren’t many people delivering these types of products.
What impact has your business had on your community?
We are punching above our weight here. We are paying more than double the national average to employees and this allows them to support their families. We have also incorporated the work of a local NGO and local artisans into our supply chain. They both provide elements of our packaging.
What was the most difficult part of starting and running your business?
We’ve been on this journey for over 8 years, so there have been a lot of challenges. I think the challenge has been getting our shoes made to the standard we envisioned. We spent over 4 years, in the beginning, working with 4 different established factories. None of those production runs worked, and there were some very low moments during those years.
What has been the most rewarding outcome of your business?
There have been many. When customers see our shoes and ask, “This is made in Ethiopia?” with a look of disbelief. We’ve had some significant media coverage, and the response to that is always humbling. The one moment that stands out must be the day when our staff made the very first quality sample. They themselves couldn’t believe the quality of shoe they produced and kept on saying “...we just made that?” in disbelief. Their confidence has grown so much since then and they now see themselves as ambassadors for Ethiopia.
What is your company’s mission?
We want to inspire. We want to inspire the people to take a few moments and put forth the effort to look past the headlines and clickbait. You will find something beautiful when you do. We also want to inspire Africans to believe in themselves and to also realize their potential.