On Sunday, The News Chronicle had one-on-one with the Chief Executive Officer/Creative Director of Brave-Galaxy Media Ltd., Mr Apeh Bernard. A young and dynamic entrepreneur with vast knowledge in graphics designing and printing; he bared his mind about designing and printing in Nigeria as well as how you can establish your own printing business.
Of course, declaring that printing business is a capital-intensive investment, Mr Apeh, however, lamented that printing business in Nigeria generally has been hampered by lack of functional paper mill, lack of power, inordinate cost of printing all of which have led to many printing companies deserting Nigeria in preference to South Africa and Ghana. He spoke with our Editor, Amaechi Agbo. Excerpt.
TNC: How was your childhood like?
Mr Apeh: My name is Apeh Bernard (FCIPON), the Creative Director at Brave-Galaxy Media Ltd.; a media consulting social enterprise, Graphic Design, Branding, publishing and printing firm in Abuja. I am a Nigerian. I have degrees in Sociology, Printing Technology from different universities in Nigeria. I have passion for excellence. To know more about me and my work, visit our websites and follow me: www.bravegalaxy.com, @apehgalaxy on twitter.
TNC: What attracted you to graphics designing and how old have you been in the business?
Mr Apeh: I was attracted to graphic design and the print industry because of my flare for quality graphics, top-notch prints and everything beautiful. Behind the beauty of major publicity instruments, ranging from billboards, magazine adverts, brochures or perhaps, a website to the smallest logo, lies the ingenuity of a graphics artist.
Basically, if you feel you have the dynamism, drive and imagination required to produce a constant flow of inspirational ideas, then a career in the creative and cultural industries will be an appealing prospect. In particular, if you can combine these qualities with drawing ability, software skills and an abundance of communication skills, you are likely to be attracted to graphic design as a career path.
Graphic design offers a world of huge opportunities for people with a flair for creativity to communicate through drawn, painted, photographed or computer-generated images. I have been in this creative business for the past 10 years.
TNC: You are also a printer, how do you combine the two, smoothly?
Mr Apeh: Sure; it is pretty easy because the printing process cannot commence without graphic design. They are two sides of a coin. I am privileged to be able to combine the two and I’m grateful to God for that.
There is no better person to be in charge of your “quality control” than your graphic designer. They are “in the arena,” communicating every day with printers and keeping up to date with the latest trends, in making your designs come to life.
As a client, there is no way to better represent your company, than with quality print products. You should be putting forth a concerted effort to make sure they are well-crafted and ultra-professional!
What could be a better feeling, than seeing someone have a positive reaction to your marketing or informational printed material – the quality of the paper used, design, inks, coatings and cuts – all factors into your overall presentation!
TNC: What does it take to be a professional graphic designer and printer?
Mr Apeh: To be a professional and successful graphic designer, you will need to have the following skills and personal attributes: creativity and imagination, a range of relevant IT skills, drawing ability, the ability to find practical solutions to problems, knowledge of printing techniques and photography, the ability to manage your time, meet deadlines and work within a budget, an understanding of current trends and styles within the industry, excellent communication skills, a good knowledge of spelling and grammar and of course, a university Degree will be an added advantage.
TNC: How can one set up printing business in Nigeria?
Mr Apeh: Before starting up a printing business, it is necessary to research and choose the printing process that best meets your objectives and desires. Printing can be an interesting and rewarding career, but it requires careful planning, training and experience to produce quality results.
Depending on the type of operation you chose, the investment can start from around
N1,000,000 for a basic screen printing or heat transfer setup, to well over N10,000,000 or more for a used commercial digital laser or offset printing press plus blank printing stock, supplies and printing facility.
Create a business plan that details all aspects of your printing business startup. Free business plan and other small business information is available on the Nigerian Small Scale Business Websites. You could check them out.
Obtain all necessary business permits, inspections, approvals and tax certificates from your local and state governments. The type of local permits, inspections and approvals necessary will depend on the type of printing operation and facility type. You begin the process from Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC.
Contact printing equipment and supply distributors and purchase the necessary items.
Consider buying used printing equipment from an equipment broker / seller to save startup capital. Equipment brokers that stock used equipment can be found online or refer you to listing owners in your area. Suppliers can be found online or through printing industry trade magazines. You can get one from Mova Technologies, Area 3 Garki – Abuja.
Set up your print shop. Some equipment and processes will require special ventilation and electricity needs. So, be certain that your facility is equipped accordingly. If you are operating large printing press, you will need to hire a press mechanic to move and set up your press.
Perform several practice production runs to ensure that all equipment is operational.
This is fundamental. Take advantage of practice runs to produce your own printed items for marketing and advertising purposes.
Purchase a print estimating software program. Estimating programs are available for most major printing processes, and will save time and money when estimating jobs. Alternatively, you could meet an experienced printer to give you format for costing.
TNC: What are the major challenges you have encountered graphics and printing business?
Mr Apeh: It was a huge challenge, but by God’s grace I always found a way. From raising enough funds to purchasing needed gadgets and machinery to hiring the right people for the job, I met various challenges.
The following are some of the challenges faced by printers and graphic designers in Nigeria.
Irregular power supply:
The first thing that greets a first-time visitor to the printing community, is the collective roar of hundreds of generators of various sizes and capacities. The din, collected in one solid mutter, is oppressive. It gives the impression of an industry that is perpetually engaged in a struggle for survival in a hostile business environment. Electricity, no doubt, is as vital to the printing industry as drugs are essential to medical practice. In fact, it is described as the most important “raw-material” in the industry.
Unfortunately, this ‘essential commodity’ is in very short supply not only in Garki but also in many parts of the country. Our businesses suffer a great deal for want of regular power supply, the alternative is to depend on generators.
But generators are not so easy to maintain. Depending on the size of a printing press, the average printer spends quite a handsome sum of money fuelling and servicing his generator every month. For example, Brave-Galaxy Media Ltd. spends an average of N6, 000 daily on diesel to power its printing machines. In other word, it spends about N150, 000 every month.
“The more machines you have; the more money that you are going to spend on fuel and the maintenance of the generator,”
We appeal to the Federal Government to provide assistance to the printing industry by expediting action on the ailing power sector. In fact, a lot of companies have left Nigeria for South Africa and Ghana because of the current crisis in the power sector. Nobody wants to operate in a society where they will be running at a loss all year round.
Depleting workforce, declining volume of production:
With the progressive decline of the Nigerian economy over the years, the industry has not only shrunken in size, the operational capacity of many a printing outlet has also been diminished. Many of the printers practically have to struggle to remain in business. Also, the downturn in the economy has caused printers to whittle down the size of their workforce.
Rising cost of printing materials:
The depreciating value of the naira is currently exacting a severe toll on business activities in the industry. The prices of printing materials, which are mostly imported, have gone up astronomically. For example, the price of printing paper (135 gms art paper), which used to be N9, 000, has increased to about N23, 000 in the market.
We have accused importers of printing paper of exploiting the current government policy on foreign exchange to milk printing companies dry. In fact, since the burden inevitably shifts to the users of the finished products, the result is a sharp decline in patronage. Consequently, we have no other choice but to accept the situation, just to remain in business.
The situation is compounded by the absence of functional paper mills in the country at present. All the major paper mills and newsprint manufacturing companies, such as the Iwopin Paper Mill in Ogun State and the Oku-Iboku Pulp and Paper Manufacturing Company in Akwa Ibom State, as well as the Jebba Paper Mill in Isolo, Lagos State, are no longer functioning. They are all moribund.
Greedy landlords, exorbitant rent:
The relationship between the printers and our landlords is anything but cordial. An air of mutual distrust and suspicion seems to hang around the community. As always, the cause of disagreement is the cost of rent. The owners of the shops and houses are perpetually on the lookout for an opportunity to increase the rent on their property. And the printers, who are the tenants, are not happy about this.
TNC: Where do you see Galaxy Media in ten years from now?
Mr Apeh: In the next 10 years by God’s grace, we would have successfully solidified our corporate governance structure, built our own office in the city centre and then we will start expanding to other cities in Nigeria and Africa. As an individual, I see myself providing professional and technical services in the media and print industry in Nigeria.
TNC: Many young Nigerians have learnt graphic design but can’t set up their offices. What is your advice to them?
Mr Apeh: There are myriads of problems facing the Nigerian graphic designers/printers. Attempting to mention or enumerate them again will lead to an endless discussion. Like I’ve always told people, especially the young ones, no bank or relative will help you in this regard. You need to first of all agree with yourself that it’s your cross. You need patience, perseverance and focus. Start small and grow at your pace.
TNC: How does recession affect graphic and printing business in Nigeria, currently?
Mr Apeh: The effect of recession on printers is humongous. A recession is when the economy declines significantly for at least six months. That means there’s a drop in the following five economic indicators: real GDP, Income, Employment, Manufacturing, and retail sales. People often say a recession is when the GDP growth rate is negative for two consecutive quarters or more.
As it relates to Printing Industry, the prices of printing materials have skyrocketed leading to low patronage and of course, less profit.