Kenton Lee – Founder and Executive Director of Because International

Hard work. Hard work. Hard work. I am not the smartest or most charismatic. I rely on hard work.

Kenton Lee is the 30 year-old Founder and Executive Director of Because International – a nonprofit organization committed to practical compassion. Their first project is something he invented called The Shoe That Grows – a shoe that can adjust and expand 5 sizes and last 5 years. Lee also started a church in his neighborhood in Nampa, Idaho with his wife. He loves being a part-time pastor along with his work with Because International and The Shoe That Grows.

Where did the idea for The Shoe That Grows come from?

I was living and working at an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya after college when I had the idea. It was one day when I was walking with all the kids. I looked down next to me at a little girl in a white dress and was SHOCKED to see how small her shoes were. They were so small that she had to cut open the front to let her toes stick out. I looked around and many kids had shoes on that did not fit. Later that day I asked the director of the orphanage, “Why do so many kids have shoes that don’t fit?” He said that they had received a shipment of shoes a year ago – but they had not received any shoes since then. And they didn’t have any money to buy any new shoes. But they are kids – their feet are always growing. So right then and there I thought to myself, “Well, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a shoe that could adjust and expand?” And that’s where the idea started.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical day includes a little bit of everything: The Shoe, church, family (wife and son), and some local Nampa work, too. I work from home. But I usually go downtown once-a-day to the local coffee shop for a meeting or two. I make my day productive by planning it all out in 30 minute increments and sticking to what I write down.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Hard work. Hard work. Hard work. I am not the smartest or most charismatic. I rely on hard work.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I love the trend of local. I think the more people that care about their town – no matter how big or small – will be an incredible benefit to their lives and the community.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

When I work in the morning – I am incredibly productive. I always try to plan my office work in the mornings and my meetings in the afternoon.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I was a security guard when I was 15 for a small town race-track. It was terrible. And I learned that some people won’t respect you if you are 15 and look like you are 12. It is hard to be an authority.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would put a lot more time into the detail work of our organization – gathering emails, mailing addresses, etc. Keeping meticulous notes. That’s what I would have done differently.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Work hard. Be nice. Those are the two things that I always tell others. Those are the two things I believe in.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

One strategy that I used was this: “I will talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere about our shoes.” I have been doing that for a full year – speaking to small groups, nursing homes, individuals, people that I thought would not be able to help us at all – and they have held amazing contacts and networks for us. Talking to everyone and not judging if they are worth your time – that has proved to be a good strategy for us.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

We failed for the first two years when we tried to give away our idea for a shoe that can grow. We didn’t care who did it – we just wanted someone to do it. But nobody was interested (Nike, Crocs, Toms, etc.). So we overcame that failure by doing it ourselves. And that has been an incredible journey.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

It is called “Goal Buddy” – an app that will text you daily reminders to achieve your goal. The easy part is making the goal. The hard part is making it happen everyday. Goal Buddy can help. 🙂

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I spent $100 on a 10 week Crossfit course, and it was great because it was specific time that got me out of the office doing something physical.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I really don’t use that many. I keep things pretty simple. Gmail. Google Calendar. Evernote. My phone. That’s about it.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Everyone should read Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. Really interesting book about how to bootstrap, scrape, and crawl your way to success in your startup without breaking the bank.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Thomas Jay Oord is a theologian in the Church of the Nazarene. He is an incredible author and speaker. And he is an even better person. His teachings have influenced my thinking more than anybody else in the past 10 years. An amazing mind and man.


Because International on Facebook:
Because International on Twitter:
Shoe That Grows on Twitter:
Shoe That Grows on Facebook: