Kenton Lee

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Kenton Lee Photo1

Kenton Lee, founder of GroFive and Because International, is another accidental social entrepreneur—not necessarily looking to start a business, but if the shoe fits...

Kenton’s inspiration came one day at a small orphanage in Africa, and that moment has led to changing lives around the planet. And starting today, via a Kickstarter campaign, this innovative, everyday item will be coming to a home near you as well.

Like we said, if the shoe fits…

What life lessons did you learn from your parents?


My dad owned his own plumbing business; he taught me how to work really hard and be generous with your time and energy. My mom taught me that there is power in something simple like being really, really nice.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?


I always wanted to be a doctor. Even though I never liked science, medicine, or gross body things. But I liked helping people. 😊

What was your inspiration for designing a shoe (The Shoe That Grows) that adapts to a child’s foot as they grow?


Right after graduating college in 2007 from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa—I traveled the world for a year.  I found myself living and working at a small orphanage in Kenya. And one day I noticed a little girl next to me wearing a white dress – and she had on shoes that were WAY too small for her feet. That was the day I had an idea for a growing pair of shoes. I thought it would make more sense for this little girl and other kids like her, too.

Gro Five Shoe Profile

How do they work—and how long do they typically last?


The Shoe That Grows can adjust five sizes and last for years. The kids can adjust it in three places: front with a toe-piece, sides with Velcro straps, and the back with a buckle. They can last for years—very durable and made with quality materials. In fact, I even wear a pair every single day and have for more than three years now.

Aside from the cost savings for a shoe that lasts for several years, what other benefits to they bring to children?


We like to say that shoes are small things that make a big difference.  When kids have shoes, it protects their feet from the dirty and dangerous things around them. It helps them stay healthier as it protects from diseases that are in the ground where the children live.  It helps kids attend school more often—especially in situations where they are required to have shoes as a part of a mandatory school uniform. And shoes help kids to be more self-confident and happy—just to have their own pair of great shoes.

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How many pairs of The Shoe That Grows has your nonprofit, Because International, distributed to children around the world?


Since accidentally going viral in a Buzzfeed article in April 2015, we have distributed over 175,000 pairs of The Shoe That Grows to kids in over 100 countries.

You’re starting a new for-profit company, GrowFive, to sell these shoes—Expandals—directly to consumers. Why go the for-profit route?


Since that Buzzfeed article, we have always had people asking if they could buy our growing shoes for their kids. And we always said, “No, that’s not really our model.” But then we saw how awesome our shoes can be for every family. And we saw how we could connect the commercial sales to our mission. So now the sale of every commercial pair will empower one pair to be donated to kids in need. 

You’re launching Expandals with an upcoming Kickstarter campaign. Why Kickstarter instead of going directly to market—and when will this launch?


We felt like our product and launch would be an ideal fit with Kickstarter. Our product is unique. And we need some help funding this first batch. So it is right up the Kickstarter alley. We launched our Kickstarter campaign today and will be running it for 30 days.

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Visit GroFive.com for more information

Will Expandals be different in any way from The Shoe That Grows?


We went back to the drawing board and started from scratch in order to make our shoes as durable as possible plus more comfortable and stylish than ever. Our design for Expandals is awesome. There are a couple really big differences from The Shoe That Grows. But we made such great improvements to the Expandals that we are going to update our design for The Shoe That Grows, too. In the near future both the commercial version and the nonprofit version will be extremely similar.

Do you have a version for adults?


Yes, we have sizing (both The Shoe That Grows and Expandals) for adults up to a men’s size 13.

How often do you wear Expandals (or the Shoe That Grows)?


I actually wear a pair of The Shoe That Grows every single day, and I have for over 3 years. I love them. They fit great, they feel great, and they have held up extremely well over the last three years.

Kenton Lee Photo4

What did you eat for breakfast this morning?


I eat eggs over hard with olives, pepperoni, and ketchup. My kids call them “pizza eggs.”

What is your secret vice?


My secret vice is what I call “frozen Coke.” I put some Coke in a coffee mug and pop it in the freezer. Then a few hours later I’ll eat it like a slushie.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?


I would change my ability to grow a beard. Right now, I have no ability. 😊

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?


I would give everyone a house—even if it were small. I believe that housing is one resource that empowers so many other good things to happen.

What are you reading right now?


I am reading Social Startup Success. And I am re-reading my favorite novel series Pendragon Cycle, a great look at King Arthur. I have read it about 100 times. I love it.

What are you listening to right now?


I am listening to my favorite band Future of Forestry.

What are you watching right now?


I am watching the new Vietnam documentary by Ken Burns on Netflix.

Rock, paper, or scissors?


Rock. But that was a hard choice. 😊

What’s one question you’d like to ask yourself–and answer?


Who are the most important people in your life? My answer is that my life revolves around my wife, Nikki, and my two kids, Kenny and Rosie. 

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How should people connect with you on social media?


Facebook is best at Kenton Arthur Lee.  And then we would love for people to check out our work with our shoes at TheShoeThatGrows.org and also at GroFive.com.

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