Competitive runners Dave Spandorfer and Mike Burnstein know something about going the extra mile. The duo behind Janji, a charitable athletic clothing company, formulated their idea for giving back to the world in 2010 while undergrads in St. Louis. On the bus ride to a track meet, Spandorfer and Burnstein talked about how it’s essential for runners to have access to clean water and food, and how upsetting it is that such a necessity isn’t readily available to everyone, everywhere. Running had been good to them—they wanted to figure out how to be good through running.
So they put together a business plan, won a prize from the business school at their university (impressive, since the competition is normally reserved for grad students) and by 2011 Janji was in business.
Janji (“promise” in Maylay) started out with a basic collection of men’s shorts designed around the icons and flags of Kenya and Haiti, with donations going to clean water and nutritional food organizations in each country. From there, the Boston-based company has launched eight complete collections for men and women which are available in 140 stores nationwide. Twenty-five percent of the price of each shirt, pant, short and headband benefits similar nonprofits in countries like Peru, Bangladesh and the U.S.
Though 25% might not sound massive, some perspective: 25% of a pair of $40 shorts can provide a whole family with seeds—and therefore, food—for two entire seasons. The fact that said shorts (and all Janji apparel) are comfortable, lightweight and high-tech (the fabric wicks sweat away from the body) makes wearing Janji a win-win.
But Spandorfer says it best: “Having something behind you [like running for the Food and Water Crisis] really helps you go farther. It helps you do things you never thought you could do before.”