6 Small Running Brands Making Big Impacts

Apparel That Gives Back

Janji, founded 2012, Boston

When Janji released its first spring line in 2012, founders Mike Burnstein (left) and Dave Spandorfer were in the midst of finishing their senior year of college at Washington University in St. Louis. “Mike and I were part of a team,” says Spandorfer. “We had a school that we were running for [in track and cross country] and we were running for something bigger than just personal performance. We wanted Janji to be about the idea of running for a much larger community and for something that’s unbelievably important.”

So they built a brand based on a charitable business model: For every piece of running apparel sold, 10 percent of that sale would go toward clean water projects in one of nine countries—India, Haiti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Peru to name a few—where they’ve partnered with nonprofits Water.org, Living Water International and DIGDEEP. It was an exceptional idea, but getting started wasn’t easy.

Having to buy Walmart fabric because the factory overseas couldn’t send samples in time for an important industry trade show in Austin, Texas, dyeing the first samples in a friend’s bathtub, pulling two all-nighters to build a booth, missing a week of classes and Burnstein having to write a senior thesis on the drive to Austin are some of the crazier challenges the two had to overcome in the months before they even got started. Now their products feature top fabrics, advanced manufacturing techniques and distinct patterns.

“We’ve come a long way in terms of product—we’re not using Walmart fabric anymore,” Spandorfer jokes.

Janji has also been making significant connections at home. In April, Bostonians and Boston marathoners alike had a chance to explore Janji’s second pop-up store. “It really comes down to how we make the greatest impact,” Spandorfer says. “And hopefully that’s increasing the connection for people buying Janji in knowing exactly who they’ve helped.”

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