Two college cross-country teammates launch new apparel line to help runners aid countries in need.
Dave Spandorfer and Mike Burnstein ran cross-country and track together at Washington University in St. Louis. Now they’re working together to make a business focused on their love of running while promoting a cause near and dear to runners: clean water.
The two created Janji (the name means “promise” in Malay), a running apparel company that is dedicated to helping combat the food and water crises around the world. The company has created technical shorts and tops incorporating the flags of countries that have problems obtaining clean food and water. For each item purchased, approximately $4 is donated to that country to help solve the problem.
The company officially launches its line—starting with designs for Haiti and Kenya—at the Big River Running Company in St. Louis on May 3. It will continue introducing apparel at specialty running stores this summer and through their website, runjanji.com. Before the introduction, co-founder Spandorfer spoke with Competitor to give us some background on the company, its goals and the issue of clean drinking water that most runners take for granted.
When did you come up with the idea for Janji?
Mike and I came up with the idea for Janji on the way to the D3 National Outdoor Track Championship. We were sitting on the bus surrounded by our friends with the opportunity to compete against some of the best athletes in the country. We felt pretty lucky. It was at the time that we wanted to find a way to give back through our sport. We knew there were thousands of races for a cause and we thought, well, let’s try and find a way for runners to give back each and every time they run—beyond just race day. By the time the track meet ended, Janji was born.
What is your running background?
Mike and I have both been running since our freshman year in high school. My team was nothing special, while Mike’s team was a running powerhouse. We met at Washington University, where we ran cross-country and track. Together, we’ve had a lot of success in running with five school records and five All-American awards between the two of us. After college, Mike plans to run half and full marathons, as I have been doing.
Had you any experience in apparel before starting the company?
When we had the idea to start Janji, we had a passion to give back but limited experience with apparel manufacturing and retail. Since then, we’ve read extensively and have talked to many mentors, who have guided us. I’ve also spent the past year working part-time at a specialty running store, Big River Running Company, which taught me the ropes of the running apparel industry.
Tell us about the products you have available now. What materials are they made out of? Where are the manufactured?
Janji’s shirts and shorts are both made out of 100 percent polyester fabric. Although the feel of the fabrics are very different, they’re all moisture-wicking and incredibly light. We’re working with a producer, located in China, which has shown a commitment to fair wages, proper working conditions and ethical labor practices.
How long have you been involved in the global food and water crisis?
We felt there was a natural connection between runners and the food and water crisis. Who knows more about the importance of being well fed and well hydrated than runners? At the D3 National meet, Mike and I were very cautious of what we ate and drank as we approached our big races. Yet we knew that hundreds of millions of people worldwide don’t even have access to adequate nutrition and clean water. Since the minute we started the company, we wanted to change that. While we have minimal experience in international public health, we are committed to working with partnering organizations around the world dedicated to alleviating problems related to unsafe water conditions and food insecurity.
For more information, visit runjanji.com. The official launch at the Big River Running Company (West County location) takes place on Thursday, May 3, at 7 p.m. Find out more at bigriverrunning.com. On May 10, the Naperville Running Company in Naperville, Ill., will host a launch at 6 p.m. Visit runningcompany.com runningcompany.com/Calendar/Events/Event-76 for details.