A self-professed “long-haired pastor from Idaho,” Regent’s School of Business & Leadership (SBL) alumnus Kenton Lee ’10 has made an impact from the pulpit to the mission field to the board room. Recently, Lee and his colleagues successfully launched a groundbreaking, for-profit company to support their life-changing, nonprofit ministry.
“Ten years ago, while living at an orphanage in Kenya,” he explains, “I had this idea for an adjustable shoe, after seeing kids that were outgrowing shoes and had no access for more.” While walking to church, Kenton noticed that the little girl walking beside him was wearing a very shoddy pair of sneakers. “Her shoes didn’t fit at all,” he remembers. “She actually had to cut open the front of her shoes to let her toes stick out.”
Lee’s heart broke when he saw so many orphans struggling to cram their feet into shoes that didn’t fit. So, after returning home to the U.S., he enlisted the help of a lifelong friend. The two men got to work, and after six long and persistent years, they eventually created The Shoe That Grows. These special sandals grow three sizes and can be worn for years.
The two friends soon started a nonprofit, Because International, to distribute this revolutionary footwear to needy children around the world. Then, through the grace of God, The Shoe That Grows went viral in 2015. After several high-profile national interviews that Lee gave were widely circulated on the internet, thousands of people began donating to Because International. To date, 175,000 pairs of The Shoe That Grows have been distributed to children in more than 100 countries.
Then, the “next big thing” happened. People who supported Lee’s ministry began asking if they could buy The Shoe That Grows for their children. “This was never really our intention,” Lee explains. “We are focused on our mission first. But we started to see the value of our shoes for every family and how a commercial version could actually help us achieve our mission even more.”
This past summer Lee and his partners launched GroFive, a for-profit business to finance their ongoing ministry efforts. The company has gotten off to an amazing start with the help of a highly successful Kickstarter campaign for their Expandals project, the commercial version of The Shoe That Grows.
His growing shoe for growing feet solves a problem that has been around for as long as people have been wearing them. “Shoes that can grow and last are better for families,” Lee insists. “A design that does more with less and lasts longer is better for our planet. Each purchase of Expandals helps us get more pairs of The Shoe That Grows to kids in poverty around the world.”
Lee says he pursued his master’s degree in organizational leadership at Regent to build on and improve his leadership skills. He adds that the university also gave him the courage to pursue and achieve big goals: “Regent not only provided me with an excellent education and tons of wonderful information about being a leader, but it really gave me the confidence to be a leader.”
To learn more about Lee’s efforts, visit becauseinternational.org and grofive.com. To sponsor a current or future Regent World Changer with your tax-deductible gift, call 800.335.4409 or visit regent.edu/worldchanger.