What you need to know:
- Odipo landed a life-changing scholarship to study and play football in the United States at Midcontinent University mid 2000
- He undertook his Doctorate in Business Administration Studies in Marketing and International Business and currently teaches in the Business Department at Shorter University
- Besides teaching, Odipo, 46, runs his sports apparel company, Overcoming Adversity (OA) Limited, which manufactures playing kits
Edwin Odipo’s dream was to become a professional footballer. Even though he was never a bookworm, his parents valued education and were strict about it.
After clearing high school in 1992, Odipo relocated to Mombasa and Kenyan Premier League side Bandari Football Club were eager to sign him up. However, his father gave the club one condition – to allow his son to join Bandari College. The deal collapsed.
He would later join Kenya Navy FC, a team he played for about a year as he waited to join Mombasa Polytechnic to study Construction Engineering. During his student days at Mombasa Polytechnic, Odipo turned out for Feisal FC. He later joined Barclays Bank FC in Nairobi upon graduation from college.
In 1999, Odipo moved to Utalii FC where he had been promised a job, however, he was not hired. He quit after a few months and started working as a freelance construction designer.
“I designed houses for people and the hustle paid well. In 2000, I joined Kenya Pipeline under coach Robert Matano. That was my last stint as a footballer in Kenya,” Odipo told Nation Sport.
Mid that year, Odipo landed a life-changing scholarship to study and play football in the United States at Midcontinent University.
“A good friend of mine Daniel Gacheru "Massaro", who played for Reunion, then relocated to the United States, and was searching for gifted football players. I got his contact from another friend and high school teammate, Charles Muiruri, who owned a cyber café where we lounged,” Odipo said.
“Massaro was looking for three talented players. He asked John “Baresi” Odhiambo, Brian Okumu, and I to sit the TOEFL exam. We passed the test and earned scholarships. The rest is history.”
Fast forward, and Odipo is now a professor who lectures at the Shorter University in Rome, Georgia.
Odipo has a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management and Mathematics, and a Masters of Business Administration in Marketing from Murray State University, where he is also an assistant coach. He undertook his Doctorate in Business Administration Studies in Marketing and International Business and currently teaches in the Business Department at Shorter University.
Besides teaching, Odipo, 46, runs his sports apparel company, Overcoming Adversity (OA) Limited, which manufactures playing kits.
“I picked 'Overcoming Adversity' because it relates to our daily lives. We face hurdles which we must overcome to succeed,” he said.
“When I relocated to the US, I noticed the sports apparel industry was booming. This sparked my interest in entrepreneurship. I researched on sports apparel and realised that there was still room for one more company,” he added.
OA apparel company
Odipo said entrepreneurship has been challenging, but the lessons have been worthwhile.
“The process was slow. For two years, I shopped for designers and manufacturers to bring my dream into reality. I found one who produces the quality products you see today. Business is picking up slowly. Most of my customers are repeat clients or referrals,” Odipo said.
“Social media is a very important for marketing, our sales have increased after marketing our products online. The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted sales because all outdoor activities shut down. As of May, a Washington Post article reported that over 100,000 small businesses have closed forever. No sporting events means no purchases from sports teams. Things are starting to open up, which is a good sign for small businesses,” he added.
Most OA merchandise bear the Kenyan flag branding and Odipo admitted that most of his clients are from his motherland.
“Presently, a large chunk of our orders and shipments are from Kenyan teams because we are flexible and can customise their uniforms. After relocating from Kenya, most Kenyans realise how much we love our country, and, therefore, anything that identifies with Kenya is highly treasured. We supply local football teams or individuals. One special order was by Eastleigh High School alumni led by former Kenyan international Baresi. It reminds me of long-gone days when we wished to have such uniforms,” he said.
“In the next five years, our goal is to make OA an internationally recognised and respected brand. The colleges and high schools market is looking very lucrative, and our goal is to make OA among the top choices for any sports team to place apparel orders. You never know, you might just spot us at the next Olympics!”
“What would be your word of advice to anyone wishing to pursue entrepreneurship?" Odipo is asked.
“Entrepreneurship is neither a walk in the park nor is it for the faint-hearted! There are no days off. Bill Gates eloquently said: ‘It is fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.’ You have to keep on working every day, all day. It is you and only you who will make it happen. Don't give up, especially when things are not going your way. You have to keep showing up every day and keep a positive attitude,” Odipo said.
Support your own
Odipo urged Kenyans to support their own who are struggling to keep their small businesses afloat and not always expect giveaways.
“I want to clarify on the notion that OA has already made it. We are still in our crawling stage, we are going through business growing pains, and we need everyone's help to get us up and start walking. Once we are fully up and functioning, then the time will come for us to start giving back to the community. '
"Part of our growing pains is correcting the myth that we have apparel to give away. Every piece of clothing is designed and customised for an order for a team or individual; as we work through our growing pains, support us,” Odipo said.
“Let us learn to support each other and promote our own. Buying from small business and sharing on social media, referring customers are ways one can help us grow,” he added.
Odipo has not forgotten his Kenyan roots. He was born in Siaya and grew up in Eastlands’ Jerusalem Estate where he attended Dr. Livingstone’s Primary School and later Ofafa Jericho High School.
“As I matured, I was fortunate that there were plenty of football fields. I used every opportunity to play football. The day I realised that I had a unique talent is when I was selected to represent our primary school team in a regional competition. Having showcased my talent against other regions, I was picked to join the Nairobi team playing against other provinces. Unfortunately, due to my small stature, I was dropped from the team,” Odipo said.
“My earliest memory is when Ofafa Jericho High School thoroughly thrashed Kakamega High School on the national championships at City Stadium in Nairobi. At the time, I happened to be the team's vice captain. That game gave credence to my ability as a team leader. I remember vividly the moment I was appointed team captain the following year, and we carried the team to the finals in Mombasa, where we sadly lost to Mombasa High School 2-1. That was such an exciting time of my life.”
The lecturer credits his mother and late dad for his success. His mother, though, was concerned that Odipo so much on football, fearing that he would perform poorly in his studies. She was surprised that someone could pay for him to study and play sports.
“The first people who played a significant role in who I am today are my parents. From very early on, my mom believed I was too involved with football. I could forget to eat, sleep, and read all in the name of playing football. I spent every waking minute dreaming of the next goal. As every African parent, my mother believed I would fail my studies because I put too much effort into football. She was shocked that anyone would pay for me to go to school and play sports,” Odipo said.
“Another group of people who impacted my life was the team I coached every weekend in Kentucky. They were very young players who didn't know much about football back then, and the community rallied together to let me coach the kids throughout my years in college. Most importantly, my wife and children have played the most prominent role in my life. The late hours of school, the endless support, the love they have given me continues to shape the man I am today. Without them, it would not be possible.”
Despite his talent, Odipo has never played for the Kenyan national football team but he doesn’t regret this.
“I endeavour to live a life of no regrets. I was more than qualified to play for the national team, but at every turn, there seemed to be something standing in the way of it happening. Around 1990, I was in the youth team travelling to Sweden, but I couldn't travel because of school. For the second time, the following year, after staying at camp for three weeks, we were set to play against Zambia, but they cancelled the game. In another instance, around 1992, having been chosen for the Under-18 team, the trip was cancelled due to insufficient funds,” Odipo said.
“Around August 1996, I got a call from the late Harambee Stars coach Reinhard Fabish to join the national team. Unfortunately, my dad fell sick, and I couldn't attend camp since I was in Mombasa taking care of my ailing father. My dad passed on and was buried on January 12, the same day Kenya played against Nigeria, and we tied 1-1.”
Odipo is content with how life has turned out for him in the US.
“American actress Whoopi Goldberg once said: "I am the American Dream. I am the epitome of what the American Dream basically said. It said you could come from anywhere and be anything you want in this country. That's exactly what I've done,” he said.
“I'm still pursuing my American dream. As far as my education, I feel like I have attained the highest level I can. On the aspect of entrepreneurship, one never truly completes that journey; it has just begun for me,” he concludes.