From passion to business: Meet Jennet Lemma of Gaber Garment

According to a report on “GLOBAL TEXTILE INDUSTRY – GROWTH, TRENDS, AND FORECAST (2019 – 2024)” the global textile industry was estimated to be around USD 920 billion in 2018. This figure was projected to grow at a CAGR of approximately 4.4% during the forecast period to reach approximately USD 1,230 billion by 2024. In Africa, Ethiopia’s garment and textile manufacturing industry continues to grow and attract investors despite looming challenges. One such company specialising in garment manufacturing is Gaber Garment located in Addis Ababa. Jennet Lemma, the company’s Managing Director shares her journey of moving from USA after 12 years to set up Gaber Garment.

Meet Ethiopia’s Gaber Garment
Gaber Garment is a garment manufacturing company based in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Birthed from a passion for fashion, the business is divided into three segments: uniform solutions, branded garments and retail with their main customers ranging between the ages of 18 to 35. However, Gaber Garment is no ordinary business, they have distinguished themselves as a social enterprise with a notable social impact on empowering women. Jennet believes that their social impact, quality products, attention to details and adaptation of market trends keeps Gaber Garments ahead of competitors.

Deep dive into the inception of Gaber Garment
After living in USA for 12 years, Jennet began contemplating about moving back to Ethiopia. At the same time, she wanted to set up a social impact driven business in her home country. After thorough research she knew that she wanted to get into manufacturing since it’s one industry that creates numerous opportunities. Her undeniable passion for clothing and fashion led her to start a garment manufacturing business. In 2016, Gaber Garment was established with the help of her parents who are also shareholders.

Gaber Garment workshop

Social impact on women
“Empowering women together” then became Gaber Garment’s motto and to live up to this, 95% of their 100 employees on payroll, are women. Of the 95% some are in managerial positions. To ensure that they build a strong internal capacity, they focus on promoting from within and provide internal opportunities for growth through continuous training.

They also partner with Non-profit organisations to teach young women on different topics. Currently, they have partnered with Noble Cup who offer menstrual education and textile training institutes who provide quality training.

Proud moments in building the business
Jennet admits that she is proud of the speed of growth for the business. In less than 3 years they have made major milestones as a company. In 6 months, they were able to hire and establish different departments from scratch. She is also proud of the management staff who have been with her almost from inception of the company.

Challenges in growth and expansion
“The most significant challenge in my entrepreneurship journey was getting the business up and running at the implementation or beginning phase. After living in USA for 12 years I got used to things getting done quickly so it was very challenging to get used to the speed of doing business in Ethiopia. For example, getting our machinery and equipment delivered took much longer than expected because of some simple documentation error by the supplier.” Jennet mentioned.

Advice to other entrepreneurs
Her advice to other entrepreneurs is they should have a network of other entrepreneurs they can discuss business issues with. Having this network will make it easier to overcome challenges faced. She added that entrepreneurs should not be easily discouraged because sometimes it will feel like the odds are against them, especially in a growing economy.

Why I joined the GrowthAfrica Accelerator
Jennet joined the Acceleration programme because she believes that, “the time for scaling Gaber is now.” “We have been in operation for the last 3 years and our core team is solid and ready to take things to the next level. So far, I have learned how important it is for me to step away for the daily operations related activities and take time away to strategise and see big picture.” She added.

Future plans for Gaber Garment
In the next three years she sees Gaber becoming a recognisable garment brand locally as well as expand to other countries in Africa. They plan to open more branches locally and build export partnership.


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