First Published in 2015
Off a back road in Gerje in an unassuming compound I discovered a huge workshop/factory alive with the buzz of whirring sewing machines and a bustling shop floor of workers all busy with different tasks in the production of garments including cutting, sewing, pressing, folding and packaging garments. Evo Garment factory is busy indeed satisfying the needs of Addis and Ethiopia by manufacturing local products made from Ethiopian cotton, namely t-shirts, hats, sportswear and uniforms among other items. The prepared cotton comes to the factory in pre dyed rolls as material ready to be sewn. Founder and Manager Yonas started his factory more than a decade ago – the government was encouraging local garment production and this was a niche market which he has since witnessed flourish. He had studied abroad but was eager to start a local business at home and his parents had run a small cottage industry so he had some experience and expectation of the business and industrial world but on a smaller scale. The company Evolution Garment (now simply knows as Evo) started modestly with one central store but as business expanded, they opened new retail outlets – there are now several shops scattered across town filled with colourful items economically priced. All the items are produced in the Gerje factory. The promotion of Evo is mainly via word of mouth and from sales from the retail shops – they don’t have business cards, brochures or a website at least not yet but they are the only local business I know of which sells these types of casual cotton clothing items produced right here in Ethiopia with the local market as their custom base rather than the export market. And they are of course known for producing well-made uniforms for local schools. The company currently employs 200 people most of whom are women – they come to Evo with basic sewing skills but they are then custom trained for a further few weeks by Evo Garment geared to the specific needs of the factory. Bahir Dar University offers a new course in garment engineering and students on this course come to Evo Garment for four months of hands on practical training and work experience which enhances their learning and understanding as well as being able to provide Evo with practical and technical factory shop floor assistance. Evo employees are able to work flexible shifts and their work surroundings and facilities are spacious and comfortable. Later this year, Yonas plans to provide an on site cafeteria and be able to provide his employees with a meal during their shift as an added employee benefit. He believes that productivity comes from his employees feeling valued and having a role to play in the product production line. He also hopes to expand his premises and be able to employ more workers as Evo Garment evolves!