Manny Ohonme | Nice Alumni Series

Samaritan's Feet International, Non-Profit | Class of 1996

Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria | Currently: Charlotte, NC

Owning a pair of tennis shoes in Manny’s neighborhood in Lagos, Nigeria was like owning a Mercedes-Benz. Most people lived on less than a dollar a day. To help support his family, Manny would sell water and soft drinks around town.

One day at the age of nine, while seeking customers at the neighborhood basketball court, he participated in a competition that would change the course of his life. The stakes were high—the winner of this shooting competition would earn a brand new pair of tennis shoes.

Manny had never played basketball before, but his first shot went in.

He ended up winning the competition becoming the first person not only in his family but in his community to own a pair of tennis shoes. That day he started playing basketball, his future escape.

In high school, he told his coach that he wanted to play basketball in America. Recognizing his commitment, his coach gave him names of schools in America, and Manny ended up at the University of North Dakota.

Growing up hungry compelled Manny to pursue an education that would enable him to work for the UN Food Program. This goal led him to study supply chain management at NDSU’s School of Transportation.

Years later, Manny traveled back to Nigeria when his father passed away. While there, he saw children without shoes and reflected on how shoes had encouraged him to dream big dreams. He learned over 1.5 billion people in the world were infected with diseases transmitted through the feet, so he and his wife began working to create a world where there were zero shoeless children.

In 2003 they started Samaritan’s Feet, an organization that inspires hope in children by providing shoes.

We chased success for most of our lives, but now we want to chase significance.

It took years to set up the global infrastructure, but today their impact extends far beyond their own efforts. Government leaders and professional athletes have even championed their cause, from the South Africa Springboks team raising awareness by entering barefoot at the World Cup, to the NBA’s Karl-Anthony Towns washing feet and putting new shoes on children in the Bahamas. These are just two examples of how more than 200,000 people have volunteered with the organization since its founding. Samaritan’s Feet has now served over 7.5 million people in 108 countries around the world.

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The Nice Center at NDSU created this series to demonstrate that entrepreneurs come from all walks of life. As we pursue our mission of making entrepreneurship for all we invite your support through mentorship. Share more about yourself at thenicecenter.org/mentor

Credits: Story by Scott Meyer & Dane Johnson / Illustration by Izak Moleterno

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Posted on November 18th, 2020 by Dane Johnson in News and Stories