Hemporium was founded in 1996 by Duncan Parker and Alistair Maclean who were then students at UCT, with Tony Budden joining soon after to help with marketing and general hemp activism. The first order of material arrived from China in May 96 and a range of bags and clothing was developed during the course of the year, distributed in Cape Town mainly through The Hemp Shop in Long Street and through a wider range of outlets in Gauteng and even Windhoek.
Hemporium was promoted by many loyal hempathizers who generously agreed to promote the company through the user of car bumper stickers. Many activists also marched on Parliament in early 1997 in an attempt to educate people about the difference between marijuana and hemp.
Hemporium has stayed true to its tagline of “Innovate Educate Cultivate” by innovating through the development of hundreds of different products from clothing and accessories through to cosmetics and even construction materials. Education has been incredibly important with 100’s of articles published, radio and TV interviews, YouTube video’s and many talks given locally and internationally (See “Media”). Hemporium took “Innovate” to a pinnacle with the building of South Africa’s first hemp home in 2011. For more information please see the videos page.
In 2011 we finally received the opportunity to implement the “Cultivate” phase with our farming partner, Rapula Farms, receiving a Commercial Incubation Research Permit to grow 2 hectares of hemp as part of a 3 year pilot programme. 2015 saw the culmination of that programme as we presented our final report to the Departments of Health and Agriculture.
There were several challenges that we experienced in the trial, mostly due to us not having permission to process and manufacture products from the produce we harvested, which made it very difficult to prove commercial viability. We did prove though that several varieties grew well in our climate and would produce yields that would make it feasible to grow profitably. We are still waiting for the final outcome from the trial and the reports from the other sites.
We have also increased our fabric sales business, supporting many other designers with hemp fabric and focusing on setting up an industry, not just our own brand. We collaborate with product design and development, as well as assisting with sales through our shop and online.
Our promotional item range has also seen good growth with more companies wanting to put their brand on items and fabrics that have integrity and are eco-friendly.
In 2018 we launched our own in-house accessory manufacturing section, and now have the ability to develop bespoke accessories and do small runs which makes it easier for us to experiment and test the market with innovative products, as well as creating new sustainable jobs locally.
Having seamstresses on site has also given us the opportunity to offer a repair facility where we can fix any damaged Hemporium items for free as part of our commitment to the 4 “R’s”, Refuse, Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.
Our aim is to continue growing our brand and offering but also to support our new partners. Tony Budden will concentrate on the developments in Africa where his experience and advice are valued and in great demand. He will be working with Hemporium’s partners to develop their industries and operations in several surrounding countries, while continuing to push for legislation change in South Africa. While remaining as a Director and board member, he will continue to be available to our local Hemporium customers as a consultant with a strong focus on construction and cultivation.
We wish to congratulate Philippa Mohr on her appointment as the Managing Director. Over the last twelve years she has trained and mentored our entire staff, established Hemporium as South Africa’s largest supplier of organic fabrics and has been responsible for the development, design and manufacture of our numerous loved products. We are confident that she will continue to shine in this position and, together with our capable team, keep Hemporium growing towards greatness.
Duncan Parker will continue to offer leadership and strategic guidance as Hemporium’s founder and Financial Director.
As far as we have come, we feel like this is only the beginning, and we look forward to the next phase of helping to set up a South African hemp industry over the next few years.