2021 | Because International
A non-profit organization based in Nampa, Because International, is the latest recipient of the University of Idaho Martin Institute's Distinction in International Achievement Award (DISA).
The Nampa nonprofit is the inventor of a durable shoe — called “The Shoe That Grows.” The shoe was designed to be used by children in impoverished regions of the world and can be adjusted to accommodate a child’s growing foot. The organization also helps innovators develop new products.
The DISA is annually awarded to a Pacific Northwest-based organization with outstanding, international accomplishments. Students and staff of the Martin Institute, part of the U of I’s College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, form the DISA committee to research and honor excellent international endeavors.
Kenton Lee, founder of Because International, virtually visited the Martin Institute to accept the 2021 DISA.
“I believe there is power in small things,” Lee said. “Small things can make a big difference.”
Lee had been living and working in an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya, when he noticed a little girl had cut the end of her tiny shoe so her toes could stick out of it, and his idea was born: a shoe that could grow. It took Lee and a group of friends more than six years to turn this idea into a real product. They created a shoe that grows five sizes and lasts for years. Lee’s endeavor was meant to be a small hobby until one of his videos unexpectedly went viral.
Lee started Because International to get “The Shoe That Grows” to as many kids as possible, children who were in desperate need of footwear. The organization has grown and now also offers the Because Accelerator, a free program to help entrepreneurs get their innovative products into the market, improve lives and create local jobs.
“Job creation is one of the best ways to alleviate poverty,” Lee said.
During his virtual visit to the Martin Institute, Lee met with the DISA committee, talked with students in the International Studies Freshman Seminar course and spent time answering questions and telling his story.
“College was formative for me,” Lee said. “I would not be here doing this without my experiences of college and my travels afterwards. They have changed my life. Explore — figure out what you love, where you want to be, and who you want to be.”