Sometimes we don’t end up where we aim to when we start. Sometimes success is more of an evolution. Just ask Zanele Salman, founder and owner of Athi Health & Fitness, the newest addition to SOKO District in Rosebank Mall.
Once Zanele Salman had completed a BSc honours degree in Chemistry, her various roles working for listed corporates brought with them opportunities to travel internationally.
It was during her travels that she was exposed to many global clothing brands, and this astute businesswoman identified several gaps in the South African retail space – including one for fun, exciting activewear and tailored leisure/casual wear.
“In 2018, I founded Isibani-ci, an investor relations and business development advisory firm. I am also an avid runner, having completed two back-to-back Comrades ultra-marathons and I am passionate about health and wellness. This passion combined with skills I developed while working in the corporate sector have been key in ensuring the success of Athi Health and Fitness so far,” Zanele says of her journey to becoming an entrepreneur.
She founded Athi Health and Fitness in 2020, based on an idea that has evolved and morphed several times in the past decade as she has tried her hand at several ventures. Athi is her daughter’s first name, and to their family the name means ‘gratitude’.
The brand is also inspired by her daughter’s personality… according to Zanele she is bold, sassy, smart and a born leader. She’s also very gentle, kind, sensitive and has a great creative streak!
Where science and fitness meet
When asked how she would describe her business to a potential client, Zanele says this is an African premium fitness, lifestyle and experience brand which is Proudly South African as all their products are designed and manufactured in South Africa.
She maintains that physical activity impacts how we live and our ability to compete and succeed in life.
The right fitness attire for that physical activity needs to fit well and have cooling properties which can prevent injury, minimise restriction, regulate and control body temperature, improve performance, boost confidence and improve motivation. You could say her scientific background is woven into the fabric of Athi Health and Fitness.
The brand stands for Action, Time, Heart, Informed.
Athi is colourful, bold and expressive and does not compromise on quality, functionality and comfort!
The brand supplies high quality, durable activewear for running, gym, hiking and yoga as well as well-tailored casual wear for leisure time. What really sets this brand apart is the bespoke and personalised service to those who need and require something out of the ordinary.
Zanele’s vigour and wholehearted belief in her brand is evident when she speaks about it: “We promote and enable health and fitness for all through various fun and convenient activities as well as sharing insightful and valuable knowledge.”
“And we love colour! Our tribe consists of individuals who are active, driven, playful, self-assured and love to have fun. Those who exercise to keep fit and healthy, take pride in how they look, feel and present themselves.”
A thriving, impactful, sustainable business
Since its inception almost two short years ago, AthiHF has set their apparel apart from most local activewear brands by not only operating successfully during a global pandemic but growing too. They have successfully hosted outdoor fitness events, grown their social media following, participated at SA Fashion Week 2021 and now opened a store at a second location.
Zanele chose SOKO District because AthiHF’s brand values mirror those of SOKO. Both brands have created a strong platform from which to grow and explore new opportunities:
“I love the SOKO District concept, I think it’s a great vehicle for promoting and enabling great local brands. I love the South African fashion industry and believe our unique sense of style is worth investing in. On the other hand, the South African economy needs all the help we can offer to create sustainable industries and jobs!”
What does the future hold for Athi Health and Fitness? Zanele has her sights set on becoming the preferred health and fitness lifestyle brand in South Africa through the supply of quality activewear, well-tailored leisure wear and fitness lifestyle elements.
The ultimate goal is to have a thriving, impactful and sustainable business, create employment and contribute to the growth of the country.