Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

Make a Difference through Janji Running Apparel

Make a Difference through Janji Running Apparel  What is your product or service?

Date officially launched?

Janji, the new socially conscious business created by members of WashingtonUniversityin St. Louis’ cross country team, releases their running apparel on May 3rd. The design of the shorts is based on the flags of the countries that the apparel benefits, countries like Kenya and Haiti. With each piece of apparel sold proceeds go directly toward nutritional medicines, a season’s worth of water, and other sustainable solutions.

Who is the person? What is the background?

What came about that made them help in social change? Why was this social venture created?

The idea for Janji began on the way to the 2010 NCAA Division III Track and Field Championships when teammates, Dave Spandorfer and Michael Burnstein, were motivated by the possibility of improving the global food and water crisis through the power of running. They knew runners, including themselves, often take for granted the food and water needed to run, but not everyone is so lucky: the food and water crisis kills one child every six seconds and affects nearly two billion people around the world. Therefore by producing unique high performance running apparel, Janji can raise awareness and fund solutions. They chose the name, Janji, which means ‘promise’ in Malay, because their organization is built on the promise to ‘run for another.’ Currently Janji consists of ten members including the two founders along with two graphic designers, social media personnel and interns. Janji also works closely with their partnering social organizations to make sure that every dollar we give is used toward sustainable and efficient solutions. Janji chose their partners in Kenya and Haiti based on the organizations’ ability to address food and water problems in the short term, as well addressing poverty through job creation in the long term.

Could others help you and how?

Janji’s mission is to raise awareness and provide opportunities for people to contribute in new, but profound and sustainable ways. In addition to sporting the Janji apparel line, others are encouraged to join Janji running clubs, sign up for races that give back, and help Janji’s partnering organizations with their great causes.

Since there is so much that needs to be done to fight the food and water crisis, Janji has such an ambitious mission, therefore they need all the help they can get.

What free online or offline tools do you use?

In order to get the word out about their mission Janji has utilized many forms of online tools and social. Janji uses free online tools such as Dropbox, Google Docs, and Skype to communicate easily within the team, which has been very useful.

Since free social media plays a huge part in communicating with our customers and spreading our movement Janji has a Twitter, Facebook, and blog (Twitter-, Facebook-, Learning how to optimize their presence on the web, improve their website, utilize search engine optimization, and improve social media connections, such as increasing Likes on Facebook, have been critical online processes that Janji continues to make great progress.

What is the best advice you never got?

The founders, Mike Burnstein and Dave Spandorfer have learned a lot since creating Janji just two years ago. Of course starting a business takes many trials and errors , but learning from those mistakes has been essential for success. Janji had received great advice from the very beginning, but ignoring that advice which has been their problem. Even though they were told, “everything takes twice as long as you expect,” they missed a lot of self-imposed deadlines. However Janji has since learned to adjust their timeframe on projects. Therefore learning from mistakes early on and being ready to face criticism would be the best advice Janji has received from others.

What is the one thing that you did right?

The one thing the founders of Janji agree they have done right from the beginning was keeping the overarching mission of fighting the global food and water crisis as the first priority. Spandorfer also says building a great team contributed to their start up success.

“Although we’re all young, each of us has been unwavering in our dedication to Janji and relentless in accomplishing our goals. I couldn’t be happier with the people we have on board,” –Spandorfer

What was the biggest transition you had to make?

Not only does starting a business require a lot of time, patience, and cooperation, but it also requires a lifestyle transition. The founders experienced an adjustment in their daily schedules by learning how to work without a set plan, or outline.

“School usually provides you with a syllabus to follow in order to succeed, but start-ups require you to forge your own path,” – Burnstein

These adjustments have been great learning experiences for the Janji team and have led to critical independent thinking, innovative and creative designs, and ambitious goals. Janji also utilizes help from others, such as the many resources Washington University in St. Louis had to offer. In fact, Janji was awarded a total of $15,000 at the 2011 Youthbridge Social Enterprise and Innovation Competition (SEIC) at Washington University.

“Competing in the SEIC offered us more than funding,” Burnstein says. “It allowed us to refine our concept from a small idea to a sustainable business. Without that experience we wouldn’t exist.”

Janji also won first place and $20,000 in the 2011 University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Sports/Outdoors Business Plan Competition, beating out 15 other teams. Janji took advantage of these opportunities by being proactive and aggressive in finding outside resources, which has greatly contributed to their start-up success.

Make a Difference through Janji Running Apparel  What can you tell other potential social entrepreneurs who are deciding to make a difference?

What book(s) have you read that others should read?

Janji’s story serves as great inspiration for others who want to make a difference. Social entrepreneurs have the potential to make the changes we want to see in the world, and are therefore encouraged to take initiative. Spandorfer’s advice for other social entrepreneurs is, “As much as you might want to do it alone, we’ve realized that you need to have a great team behind you and a great group of mentors to guide you through the unknown. Building an organization that gives back is incredibly rewarding, but your own intentions are never enough.” He also recommends that other social entrepreneurs read Blake Mycoskie’s Start Something That Matters and the classic Great by Choice.

To learn more about Janji and their solutions to fight the global food and water crisis through running apparel, visit their website

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