Considerations For Signage And Printing Industry Start-Ups

The signage and printing industry features some profitable areas for start-up businesses. There are some considerations for entrepreneurs who are trying to break into these.

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Promotional Gifts and Mug Business

Profitable options in this area include: Themed and personalised gifts, shopping bags, decor and invites, promotional, corporate and safety wear, wood, vinyl, paper, plastics, metals, flat substrates like clipboards, binders, notebooks, mouse pads, coasters, business cards, stickers and corrugated signs or posters, smart phones and tablet cases.


Jaco Pretorius from JG Electronics has the following tips for those wanting to get into this industry:

  • Be sure that you have what it takes to sell. If the thought of cold calling leaves you sick to your stomach, don't get into any business where you have to be on the front lines selling yourself and your product.
  • Graphic design skills are essential. Designing in Microsoft Word or Microsoft Paint isn't going to cut it. You need to be proficient at a programme like CorelDRAW or Photoshop. A course to learn this kind of design software is essential (though if you pick things up easily, you can also search through Youtube to find free tutorials).
  • Discipline is essential in any new start-up. Have the discipline to keep up with the admin and statutory requirements, be disciplined in paying yourself as well as your suppliers and have the discipline not to grab the takings you see in your account and spend them impulsively. You also need to stick to your budget.

T-Shirt Printing

For screen printing, ensure you have space to accommodate a printing table or carousel. You will also need a heat curing solution such as a heat press, a flash dryer or small tunnel oven and exposure unit (optional). Ink options include water-based or Plastisol Textile printing inks, which are suitable for printing different types of fabrics or applications.

Besides T-shirts, one could offer printing of estate agents' Correx boards, safety signage such as exit and fire hydrant locators, and vinyl stickers for a number of applications. Machinery is easily adapted to print boxes, wooden crates, bags, metals, glass, ceramic and much more.

Photo Printing

Both amateur and professional photographers can invest in compact photo printers that allow them to print their products at home or ‘on-the-fly’ - while at schools or sports matches. Certain printer brands print high quality photos that come out dry, so they can be printed and immediately given to clients.

Laser Engraving

Laser applications can range from signage, plastics, metal, wood and promotional products, 3D signs, model building, stencils, personalised gifts, laser cut stationery to custom made event decor, wedding invitations, personalised diaries, corporate gifts, jewellery, and more.

With printers and laser engraving equipment, you will need a supplier that will assist you in getting set up and offers ongoing training and support.

Other considerations:

  • Does the supplier offer extended service contracts once the initial warranty period is over?
  • Will the supplier carry recommended spares locally and how soon can they react to a call out?
  • Does the supplier offer financing options?

You can speak to industry experts about business opportunities in these fields and do some market research at the Sign Africa and FESPA Africa Expo, taking place from 12-14 September at Gallagher Convention Centre.