The Story of ENZI

A blog article by ENZI founder Azariah Mengistu.

ENZI's Summer Release 2022

Huge Challenges at the Start

We never thought it would take over 10 years to get ENZI off the ground when we started. If we are honest, we almost quit several times. The challenges just seemed too great for myself and the co-founder/Creative Director Jawad Braye to overcome. 

Hope came in the form of a handful of humble, committed, and hard-working staff that quickly turned into an extended family. They have made our ambitious vision possible, and they have taken ownership of this vision for themselves. Here is a quick introduction to the real heroes of ENZI, and how it came about.

Jawad and I were committed to certain ideals that we were not willing to compromise on with ENZI. Our shoes had to look, feel, and do good with a transparent production operation in Africa. In hindsight, we were quite naïve, but we were convinced we could do something we had not seen before. After nearly 6 years of failed production runs with several existing factories someone challenged us to try making the shoes ourselves. We never considered ourselves production experts, and as a small start up we had hope to outsource this element, so we could focus elsewhere. 

Nevertheless, we decided to give it a go and hired a staff of two on short-term contracts with a goal of making 20 pairs of shoes in a month. 

We spent the next 4 weeks applying all the knowledge from Jawad days at London College of Fashion where he focused on design but also learnt some footwear production. We hardly had any equipment and even less money, but we made up for it with creativity and a huge amount of perseverance. At the end, to our own surprise, we made our deadline with 20 pairs of shoes. None of those 20 shoes would pass quality control at our workshop now, but they gave us belief and hope we needed then.

Our greatest achievement is the team spirit we have created in our workshop

Who would have thought that over the next few years we would host a Grammy winner, a New York Times bestselling author, CNN, the GQ fashion director and more in our humble garage! While we are grateful for all the exposure and proud of where our shoes have been, it is not what we take most pride in. Our greatest achievement has been the culture we have cultivated in our workshop. Every day our staff chip away at stereotypes of African capacity with their level of excellence and pursuit of perfection. With very little oversight they are able to produce the best hand made shoes in Africa (I may be biased) in an enjoyable working environment. We do not think of quitting anymore, because you don’t quit on your family.

- Written by ENZI founder Azariah Mengistu. 

More Stories About ENZI

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