Meet Janji, a startup social impact running brand that’s devoted to allowing runners to explore, connect and change the world through running. Every season, Janji goes to a different country around the world, meets with local artists, fabric makers, and designers, builds a line around that country, and then 5% of the sale funds a clean water project in that country. Today, Janji is in over 200 running stores and has given thousands of years of clean drinking water to people around the world.
Check out the quick Q&A with the founder of Janji, Dave Spandorfer.
What inspired you to start Janji?
Both my co-founder and I ran on the same cross country and track team at Washington University in St. Louis. Running had given us a way to explore the world, connect with amazing people, and really empower our own commitment to personal growth: what you put in is what you get out. And what we wanted to do was find a brand that fit those values. When nothing did, we decided to launched a running brand that was inspired by the places we go and the people we meet.
That’s why every piece of apparel is inspired by a different country we go to and why 5% of the sales fund clean water projects in that country! It fits those values of exploration, connection, and really creating change through running.
Where did your passion from running come from?
My passion for running wasn’t immediate, but it’s been lasting. I started running in high school because I had a sense that I had some natural endurance and (more importantly) I wasn’t good/big enough to play football in high school. When I began running, I was skeptical of the sport. But after, I realized how much better I felt physically and spiritually post-run. I saw how much I could improve, so committed myself and I was hooked. I’ve been running competitive now for the better part of 15 years.
Why was water the important issue you wanted to tackle with your company?
Water, as you might imagine, is vital for running. You can’t complete a 5k, let alone a 26.2 mile marathon without the right hydration.
But water is also this amazing connective tissue that links humanity. Every human civilization has been near water, required water, and throughout history we have been connected to each through waterways.
And yet hundreds of millions worldwide lack access to basic potable water. We wanted to change that and, in the process, impact the lives of millions.
Can you speak about some of the water projects that Janji has been involved in due to customer support?
We’ve worked in several countries around the world, with the most recent lined being inspired by Uganda. Our clothing lines are inspired by these countries and then 5% of the sale will fund a clean water project in that country. So in Uganda, we work with an organization called Evidence Action (which we also worked with for our Kenya line). They create these chlorinated water points throughout Eastern Africa that sanitize dirty water projects and make them potable. They’re absolutely amazing and do incredible, grass roots work that’s changed individuals, families, and communities.
What are some of the issues you would like people to understand about the global water crisis?
The water crisis doesn’t feel newsworthy; it happens silently and in the background. But hundreds of millions of families lack basic access, which can lead to family disruption, children being taken out of school, and a lack of progress for women, who are often responsible for fetching water from distance countries.
Water is not only important on the day-to-day level, but it can help uplift communities by freeing up hundreds of hours a year.
What is some advice you would give to future social entrepreneurs wanting to start an impact brand?
A great mission shouldn’t be in a vacuum. If you want to start a brand, come up with a great product, a great market fit, and then tie in your mission deeply. People (and especially younger people) profoundly care about social missions, but they also care about buying something that truly works. At Janji, it took us a few seasons to come up with a great product; now we’re off to the races.