The chant echoes from Urael Church. Cars zip here and there along the crowded road, named for legendary athlete Haile Gebreselassie. Nearby, a famous young Ethiopian entrepreneur runs one of the city’s most popular promotion companies, Esayas Advertising. Just 100 meters from the main road, he’s built a workshop where he manufactures promotional garments for clients.
With an afro and full beard, the 40-something entrepreneur recounts how his promotion business began with just 53 birr – not even enough today for a macchiato.
Esayas Entertainment, a leading Addis Ababa advertising agency for over two decades, sprang from one determined entrepreneur – Esayas. Rising from humble roots to influence the industry, Esayas has overcome challenges to build an empire across sectors.
Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Urael areas, Esayas’ formative years shaped him. He attended Emperor Tewodros School through 6th grade, laying his academic foundation. Immersed in the city’s vibrant culture and arts, Esayas developed an eye for aesthetics and love of creativity.
Progressing to 7th and 8th grade at Tinsaye School and completing high school at Misrak General School, Esayas continued exploring advertising. He actively sought skills-building extras like painting, drawing and design. Then he realized his true calling: merging artistic talents with entrepreneurial spirit to build a successful agency.
Esayas’ industry entry began two decades ago with his art and a deep desire to craft independence and success while impacting business. Drawing from ads he’d seen as a student, he started similar picture promotions. With creativity, determination and passion burning, Esayas set out into competitive advertising.
However, when Esayas first approached acquaintances selling newspapers and waiting for rides, they struggled to believe he was an ad professional. This initial skepticism disappointed Esayas as he fought for recognition and to convince society of his skills. Undeterred by others’ doubts, he embarked on a challenging journey to establish himself as a reputable expert.
Esayas faced many obstacles on his entrepreneurial path. Starting with just 53 birr, he lacked funds to hire employees, so he handled all graphic design alone. “When I began, it was with 53 birr,” he said. “I had no staff because I couldn’t pay anyone. I did graphics by hand with brushes and paint since computers and internet didn’t exist. I take pride in quality work for clients.”
Esayas, married and a father of three, vividly recalls those early hardships. He often worked late into the night, tirelessly perfecting designs and personally delivering them. Gradually, word of his exceptional work spread and his reputation grew as a talented, reliable professional.
He gradually expanded his business empire. Today, Esayas Entertainment employs up to 150 across sectors like garments, paper printing and steel manufacturing. Esayas’s entrepreneurial spirit and innovative ideas have often faced challenges from local authorities and law enforcement. However, he has persisted, investing substantially – like 10 million birr on infrastructure, 25 million birr on garments and 40 million birr acquiring land. In total, he’s dedicated approximately eighty million birr developing facilities in Urael.
Esayas Entertainment’s vision has propelled it to the forefront of Ethiopia’s advertising industry, earning its founder a reputation for delivering exceptional results. Catering to diverse clients from local businesses to multinationals, the agency focuses on solutions.
“Excellence permeates our work, ensuring meticulous attention to detail and creative flair for each project,” he says.
Beyond business, Esayas is dedicated to social impact. He supports over 30 women through job opportunities. This philanthropic spirit reflects his character and desire to uplift those in need.
Community initiatives also benefit from Esayas’ involvement, through educational sponsorships and infrastructure contributions. He believes thriving communities form the base for societal prosperity.
Esayas envisions transforming Addis Ababa with cutting-edge digital platforms to rival global cities. Granted licenses for prominent urban screens, Esayas Advertising plans to invest 200 million birr to reach wider audiences through impactful, awareness-building messages in locations like Arat Kilo and German Square.
“This is the future,” he said while unveiling one of the digital boards in the Arat Kilo neighbourhood.
Plans also aim to expand operations within a year to regional hubs like Dire Dawa, Mekele, and Adama.
“This will not only grow the agency but also stimulate local economies through job creation and innovation fostering,” he concluded.