the chi-africa journey
The Chi-Africa Journey
A lot of people ask us what Chi-Africa means. The original answer is fairly standard; it is the amalgamation of Chichester, where we are based, and Africa where our products are produced. However, Chi-Africa has come to be an embodiment of a lifestyle for many of us involved with the company. A company with a purpose and with a great background story. Now in our 20th year it is a pleasure to explain more about who and what Chi-Africa is.
Chi-Africa was founded in 1999 after a family holiday to South Africa by Paul Hepworth. Paul met some independent artists and was taken back by the skill and creative flare that they possessed, while using scrap metal as a material. We quickly established business links in Zimbabwe and attended his first UK flower show at Stansted House in West Sussex, which was a great success.
During the early 2000’s the company continued to grow, We were invited to exhibit at the RHS Chelsea Flower show for the first time in 2004 and subsequently at The RHS Hampton Court Palace flower show. He also began to employ local people as the business began to supply trade, garden centres and gift shops across the country. The 2008 financial crash took its toll on the business, but Paul was keen to keep the relationships with the artists in Zimbabwe, he began doing more local garden shows until sons Joe & Luke took over the day to day running of the business in 2014.
In 2014 Joe & Luke set about expanding Chi-Africa to reach a wider UK audience as well as increasing the amount of artists that we work with in Zimbabwe. Everything came together in 2015, a rebrand to contain our company ethos ‘Recycled.Reused.Reclaimed’ and the discovery of fresh ‘white metal’ sculptures in Zimbabwe coupled with a return to the trade market lead to rapid growth. Joe & Luke managed to establish business relationships with Large UK companies such as The National Trust, The RHS, The Royal Botanical gardens at Kew and many more. This saw production increase in Zimbabwe and saw us go from working with a handful of artists to well over 30 on a regular basis.
Chi-Africa has always believed in sustainable business, primarily by offering good quality sculptures in the UK at affordable prices. The knock-on impact that this has is widespread. In the UK we employ 10 people at our warehouse, where working hours are 9:30-2:30 this makes the job accessible for many people including parents and this is something we are very proud of. In Zimbabwe the impact has been genuinely life changing for artists, helping them to build their own homes and set real foundations for their families. One doesn’t have to look far to read of the difficulties that Zimbabwe has, It is this sustainability, both in the UK and in Zim that we look to continue to improve upon in the future. Its quite simple, the more sculpture we sell, the more we buy from Zimbabwe and it is this that allows people to grow… in short, Thank You .