Former boss of Flamingo Horticulture recognised by King Charles for contributions to business, sport and charity in Kenya and the UK
The founder of Flamingo Horticulture, Richard Evans, has been knighted in King Charles III’s New Year’s Honours List.
The award recognises Evans’ contributions to business, sport and charity in both Kenya and the UK, where the flower, vegetable and herb supplier principally operates.
The company said the knighthood is testament to Richard ‘Dicky’ Evans’ “values of service, entrepreneurship, community, optimism, and resilience”, adding that many of these live on through the businesses he created, including Homegrown in 1982 and Flamingo Horticulture in 1994.
Evans said: “I could not be more surprised or honoured. I have been blessed throughout my life with the support of family, friends, and thousands of wonderful people with whom I have worked and played.
“I am deeply grateful to His Majesty King Charles for conferring this honour upon me. We both have deep rooted connections to Cornwall and to Kenya and I hope that this award will further highlight the beauty and strength of both lands and their peoples.”
Martin Hudson, who co-founded Flamingo UK with Evans in 1994, hailed his friend and former business partner’s achievements by saying: “Congratulations Sir Richard and Lady Evans, plus [children] Louisa, Emma and Ross, who have all played their part in creating a fabulous business that colleagues past and present remain most proud of.
“What a great business this continues to be, and despite its significant scale, it constantly evolves, stays resilient and relevant, and still feels like family.”
Evans’ connections with East Africa began after his undergraduate degree in Engineering at Kings College, London. He was teaching local engineers in Uganda to build UN-funded clean water systems, when two were killed in Idi Amin’s coup d’état of 1971. Evans was evacuated from the country, arriving later that year in Kenya.
In Kenya he used his water irrigation skills to improve the quality of fruit, vegetable and flower growing, and subsequently set up his own company, Homegrown in 1982.
The business initially supplied Covent Garden Market with fine beans and strawberries. It subsequently became well known for supplying a wide range of speciality vegetables, prepared vegetables, roses and many other types of cut flowers to major UK supermarkets.
Along with Hudson, Evans then established Flamingo Horticulture – something he says he is extremely proud of, especially following the supplier’s continued growth and success. To this day, Evans is in regular contact with Hudson to monitor the company’s progress.
In early 2023 Hudson stepped back in as interim group CEO until Olivia Streatfeild was appointed permanent group CEO on 1 September. Hudson continues to support the group as co-founder and non-executive director.
Evans is credited with substantially improving Kenya’s balance of payments and opening up market opportunities that created jobs and economic growth over several decades in the country.
Such was Sir Richards influence that former Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi appointed Evans chairman of the Export Promotion Council in 1992, charged with boosting Kenya’s foreign exchange earnings.
In 1996 he was awarded the Order of the Grand Warrior (OGW), one of Kenya’s highest honours, for his services to agribusiness.
With a heavy heart, and for succession reasons, Evans made the decision in 2007 to sell his interests in Flamingo Horticulture to James Finlays Ltd. He had already established the award-winning Hemingways Collection – a group of luxury hotels and travel businesses, for which he remains chairman. The business is headed up by his son Ross Evans as CEO.
Alongside his career, Evans played a lot of rugby. Growing up in Cornwall, he played for Mounts Bay Colts and Penzance & Newlyn Rugby Football Club, followed by the Kings College university team and then Rosslyn Park in London.
In Africa, he played in Uganda and then Kenya, going on to captain Kenya’s international side, known as The Simbas, and a combined East Africa team, known as The Tuskers. The Tuskers are an African equivalent to the British and Irish Lions.
Over several years in the 1990s Evans came to the financial rescue of Penzance & Newlyn RFC, now known as The Cornish Pirates, helping the club to rise through the tiers and become an established top 20 English rugby team.
In 2010 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and passed on executive responsibility for Hemingways to his son Ross Evans in 2021, while remaining the principal shareholder and chairman.
It was Evans’ long-term championing of Cornish sport, culture and heritage that led to his investiture in 2013 as a Cornish Bard, and the awarding of his Cornish name, Morlader Pensans, which translates as ‘the Pirate of Penzance’.
Flamingo Horticulture pointed out that while well recognised in business and as a generous benefactor to Kenyan and UK sports, Evans is said to be extremely private about his wider philanthropy. It is only recently that it has emerged that he funded schools, individuals in need of urgent medical treatment, and the living costs of disabled or parentless children in the UK and Kenya.
During Covid, hospitality businesses were severely impacted and there was no furlough scheme in Kenya, but Evans ensured his staff at Hemingways were protected from redundancy at a substantial cost to his company.