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Meet Juzar “Jazz” Sulemanji of T-shirts Etcetera

Today we’d like to introduce you to Juzar “Jazz” Sulemanji.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Juzar “Jazz”. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My family moved From Uganda, Africa to the United States as refugees under the dictatorship of Idi Amin in 1973. The Lutheran church sponsored us and helped us get to Houston. At the age of 5, my mother, father, two brothers and sister came with only the clothes on our back.

The dream of beginning this business began with my father in 1983. He visited a franchise expo and became excited about opening his own business. However, he was informed by the owner of the t-shirt franchise that opening this business was going to cost much more than he could afford at the time. He appealed to them to help him, and they did. They helped him secure some gently used equipment, and they sold the franchise to him at a deep discount. With $5,000 and a dream, he opened a store in the Heights.

I completed my schooling at the University of Houston in 1991 and, upon graduation, took over the business. My father had created a business but was mostly a hobby and was not making much profit. I took over and the business went from selling a single t-shirt with an iron-on transfer to multiple screen-printed t-shirts for companies, school, business, restaurants and other organizations. I bought an embroidery machine and began embroidering logos on baseball caps and jackets. The business kept growing every year and adding more equipment. We’ve recently added printing equipment that enables us to print banners, signs, magnets – the possibilities are endless.

We now have a new family-owned store, located in Katy which my nephew owns and operates this store.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
As in every business, competition brings many challenges, good and bad. Competition from overseas and internet drives the market down, and learning to adjust to that market has been a struggle.

Social media has proven to be a challenge as well. It’s definitely changed the way people do business. In the 80’s and 90’s customers actually came into my store, At times I don’t get to interact with my customers face to face. Everything is done on the Internet. I sometimes find that disheartening.

Please tell us about T-shirts Etcetera.
T-shirts Etc specializes in screen print, embroidery, promotional products, little leagues, signs, banners, trophies and much more. We have very low minimums and our turn around times are a week or less.

We are most proud of accommodating our customers in a time of need. From getting Memorial shirts done quickly to helping out a coach that has forgotten to order uniforms for a weekend tournament.

After a 33 year stint in The Heights, we recently moved from a 1400 sq ft location to a 3,000 sq ft office/warehouse where we have more room to grow. I had a dog named Magnett. He was an English Springer Spaniel. He came to work with me every day for 12 years. My customers got to know him and would make a special stop just to see him. Sad to say he passed away this year at the age of 15.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
If I had to start all over I would have bought new equipment instead of used. With the used equipment you get what you pay for. Whereas new equipment will last longer and most of the time training is included.

I would also try not to go into debt. I know that is difficult to do but it can be done. Interest is what keeps everyone in debt. If you can pay everything off, it makes a world of difference. We now have zero debt and all equipment is paid off.

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