Endale Tessema (left) and his employee demonstrate the T-shirt printing process at ARMA Advertising & Printing shop in Gollagul Tower.

The name Gollagul, named after a tower, has habitually replaced the name of the area known as Hayahulet Mazoria, which is located on Haile Gebresilassie Avenue.

On the second floor of the tower, which is located on the corner of a roundabout, Endale Tesemma, 28, was busy printing T-shirts that were ordered by both his regular and new customers for Epiphany, which will be celebrated for the first time after it was registered by UNESCO on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Endale manages Arma Advertising & Printing, which is more engaged in printing various designs on T-shirts these days due to the high demand for the product during public and religious holidays. Most T-shirts are sold on Mesqel, Adwa and Epiphany holidays.

Most days Arma is occupied in graphic design for making stickers, billboards, yearbooks, posters and banners.

Since establishing the business in 2018, Endale prints different decorations on T-shirts for Epiphany, carrying on for the third time this year. The holiday is one of the colourful festivals celebrated by followers of Christianity all over the country to commemorate the baptism of Jesus Christ.

Hundreds of thousands of believers attend the festivities on the eve and the actual day. They dress in simple flowing white cotton robes, and these days many wear holiday-specific printed T-shirts.

The demand for T-shirts during this holiday is growing from year to year, says Endale.

Previously, the company used to print T-shirts without receiving orders and attempt to sell them in the market. However, this year most of the market is from orders by young people who come in groups from nearby areas, such as Haya Hulet, Urael and Kazanchis, and made down payments for more than 2,000 printed T-shirts, according to Endale.

Arma and other printing houses have designed different artistic images and traditional patterns on the T-shirts that attract the youth.

As Endale explains, he sources the blank T-shirts from small and micro-enterprises at Megenagna and retail shops at Merkato for 45 Br to 50 Br a shirt. The T-shirts that Endale mostly relies on are made of nylon, which is relatively low-cost for manufacturing and printing purposes compared with cotton.

The price of a T-shirt is 200 Br, but if the order is above two hundred shirts, it goes as low as 120 Br. But this is a holiday discount. Most of the time, when there is no holiday to celebrate, they are sold wholesale for 250 Br, according to the young businessperson.

According to Endale, his printing workshop has made more than 5,500 T-shirts in this month for Epiphany, and he expects to print a lot more judging from the interest people have shown on Facebook, the platform Arma uses to promote its products.

Arma also prepares T-shirts for different events. Even last week it printed more than 4,500 T-shirts for Jano Road Race held in Gonder.

The instrument used for printing is known as a heat press machine, which works through sublimation.

Sublimation is a digital printing process to produce images on sublimation transfer paper with sublimation ink. The sublimation paper is then placed into a heat press with the T-shirt and is exposed to high temperatures. This is when the ink is transferred from the paper to the T-shirt.

Arma also prints on cotton t-shirts, which are sold wholesale for 150 Br and if the quantity is more than 100, they cost 80 Br. However, the sublimation machine cannot print on cotton. A cheaper method known as screen printing is used to print on cotton.

As Endale explains, one of the mechanisms that helps him get more customers is putting grills that advertise his business around trees in the green areas of the capital's highway medians.

The company has placed the grills on the streets of Torhailoch, Megenagna, Mesqel Square and Haya Hulet.

Yohannes Kenea is a 28-year-old youngster living in Gofa Mazoria, which is also known as Mauritius Street, and runs a business that fixes vehicle air injection systems.

He voluntarily organises and collects money from the residents of his compound and close friends to prepare Epiphany holiday T-shirts. This is the sixth time that they are preparing T-shirts for the holiday.

“I greatly value the Epiphany holiday,” says Yohannes.

After agreeing with his friends to have similar costumes for the holiday, they went to a printing shop and ordered 100 T-shirts, each costing 75 Br, and sold them for 120 Br.

Addisalem Asefa displays an Epiphany T-shirt available for wholesale in Bete Shama shop in Haya Hulet Mazoria.

With the profit they made from selling the T-shirts they bought flags and other materials to decorate their surroundings, according to Yohannes.

This time he ordered 300 T-shirts, and the residents in his compound were eager to have them.

“Even those who worked near my compound had high interest in celebrating the event with us and paid 250 Br for the clothing,” he told Fortune.

Currently, there is a competition among youngsters in facilitating all preconditions for the joyful event, according to him.

Most of the youth all over the capital are preparing T-shirts, traditional dresses and other materials to have a memorable event.

“When I see people wearing similar dresses, it gives me pleasure and encourages me to volunteer to prepare such types of materials,” he adds.

Another company that is particularly engaged in the T-shirt printing service is Lizad Promotion & Import, which is located in Bole District, near Sheger House. The company printed T-shirts for the June 2018 rally in support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD).

Since 2013, Lizad has been working on print design, interior design, advertising and digital marketing for small, medium and large businesses across many industries and market sectors and has more than 11 employees.

The demand last year was high providing advertisers with good business opportunities, according to Tizita Kassa, general manager of the company, recalling that last year the company had orders for printed T-shirts for Epiphany. It supplied over 4,000 T-shirts for retailers last year.

It works with retailers, salespeople and spiritual associations who all go to the workshop to place their orders for different designs.

Tizita asserted that the demand is growing from season to season, and most of the customers are people with middle and lower-income status.

Until this week Liza printed more than 2,500 T-shirts but expects more in the coming days.

“The printer has to be on stand-by until the eve of the holiday, since most of the orders come late,” says Tizita.

If the order is over 1,000, Lizad charges 60 Br for the nylon T-shirts. Below that level, the cost increases by 40 Br to 50 Br an item. For over 1,000 orders of cotton cloth T-shirts, the company charges 70 Br; if it is below that level, it sells them for between 120 Br to 150 Br.

Lizad previously prepared 20,000 T-shirts for the city's education bureau for a public campaign programme. The company purchases the cloth it uses for printing from Almeda Textile, a textile manufacturer based in Tigrai Regional State.

The company receives orders from social media, and this year's order showed an increase, according to Tizita.

“The demand for T-shirts this year is definitely high,” she told Fortune.

Henock Semaw, dean of the College of Business & Economics at Haramaya University, says that such kinds of opportunities play a significant role in creating jobs for youth.

Even if the products are aimed for single or seasonal events, the opportunity gets them in contact with a larger potential market, according to Henock.

"It also leads to a high volume of sales with a discount,” Henock said.

Henock suggests printers and T-shirt makers should understand the demands of their customers and use attractive print designs to lure clients.

"Micro-enterprises also have to use the opportunity of the business through an effective marketing management system," he recommends.

PUBLISHED ON Jan 18,2020 [ VOL 20 , NO 1029]

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