Look Good, Give Back

Look Good, Give Back

Shopping while giving back to a charitable cause sort of seems like the perfect win-win combination, no? And never has the whole give-back-while-shopping concept been bigger than now—just ask Dave Spandorfer, co-owner of Janji, a year-old running apparel company that helps Kenya, Haiti, Rwanda, Tanzania and Bangladesh deal with the global food and water crisis. The line has a cool, offhand ’70s spin in the updated athletic tees and shorts that’ll spruce up your workout wardrobe nicely. And according to Spandorfer, “runners are incredibly giving—just look at the millions and millions of dollars raised for the Boston One fund within the past month, or the $1.6 billion raised through charity races last year.”

So if you’re running a race this summer here in town (Madison Mini-Marathon or the Madison Marathon, anyone?) or one of the hundreds that go on elsewhere, you might want to check out Janji’s goods. I asked Spandorfer a bit about his and co-owner Mike Burnstein’s (right, in photo with Spandorfer) Boston-based venture.

What does Janji mean and how did you two pair up on the idea?
Janji means “promise” in Malay. We felt it was a fitting name because it implied a pact between runners here and those who need our help abroad.

Mike and I came up with the idea for Janji during my senior year and his junior year in college. I worked at a running store in St. Louis before launching Janji and Mike went right from college to working on Janji full-time.

Explain what Janji’s mission is.
We sell running apparel that helps Kenya, Haiti, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Bangladesh. We have men’s and women’s shirts and shorts for each, and we also have a Janji logo shirt that gives meals to families in the U.S. All of our apparel is moisture wicking and made of 100 percent polyester, the exact type of material a runner demands in their apparel.

What’s your connection to starting a running apparel company that provides food and water to those in need? How do you funnel funds to those countries, and what organizations do you partner with?
Runners are incredibly giving—just look at the millions and millions of dollars raised for the Boston One fund within the past month, or the $1.6 billion raised through charity races last year. And runners know the importance of being well fed and well hydrated—it’s impossible to finish a 10K or a marathon if you lack the right food or water! That’s why we wanted to connect runners to a cause that affects over a billion people worldwide. With each of our country-specific apparel [lines], we partner with a great organization that’s addressing a food or water problem. For [example], for each pair of Haiti shorts purchased we give eight packets of nutritional medicine to a malnourished Haitian child through our partner organization Meds & Food for Kids.

Where is the Janji line sold?
We’re currently sold in Berkeley Running Company and Movin’ Shoes, two great running stores in the city. [Janji is] also carried in ninety-two running stores nationwide and starting this summer we’ll be in several locations of the famous U.K running store chain Sweatshop.

Do you see apparel companies partnering with charitable organizations as becoming more popular?
I certainly hope we see a surge of new apparel companies giving back. Ten years ago, something like Janji could never have existed. But with the phenomenal growth of TOMS shoes and other socially conscious companies, I think more and more people are inspired to make a difference through what they buy.

How do you see Janji growing and what’s next for the company?
Because runners really connect with the cause, we’ve experienced some great growth. Last summer we carried apparel that supported food and water projects in two countries; now we have apparel that supports five countries. [This] fall we’re introducing long-sleeve shirts, half-zips, pants, hats and headbands for the first time. I think as more runners hear about Janji, the more they will jump on board with Janji’s mission.

Have you ever been to Madison?
We moved from St. Louis to Boston last year to be part of a great running and socially active culture (much like Madison!) While Mike and I aren’t from Madison, it’s one of our favorite cities on earth.

Find Janji apparel here in Madison at Berkeley Running Company (2852 University Ave., 395-2375, berkeleyrunningcompany.com) and Movin’ Shoes (528 S. Park St., 251-0125, movinshoesmadison.com) or at runjanji.com.