A Morpeth entrepreneur and single mum who has just received an accolade for her inspirational work with women in business has teamed up with her childhood hero and gained global exposure for her products.
Emma Weston-Jones designs and supplies bunting for weddings and party occasions but it is her influential corporate clients that are helping her business to grow year on year.
Her cleverly named business, “Emma Bunting” began in 2004 when she moved to Morpeth. Originally supplying bunting for children’s birthday parties and weddings, the business now has an impressive clientele including Mothercare, Cambridge University, Innocent Drinks and Crabtree and Evelyn.
Her bunting is British made using quality fabrics and no plastic. Emma has strict ethical views which have helped her build up relationships with large corporate clients and individuals keen to display their green credentials.
Her bunting appears extensively in the new Warner Brothers Studios movie Paddington Bear 2. The specially designed and printed cotton fabric in six colours appears in the blockbuster movie – an inclusion that not only features her childhood hero but also has strong personal connections with her own experiences of growing up in the North West of England.
Brought up in Liverpool, Emma had a strict upbringing with her adopted parents, which was especially difficult during her teenage years. To keep up with her teenage friend’s demand for fashion and pop music, she would skip school dinners in order to save the money and spend it on buying pop magazines. She used teddy bear role model Paddington Bear as her inspiration to be part of the gang.
“I’d go without school dinners to save the money to buy magazines like Smash Hits so I could know the words to pop songs like my friends. I survived on marmalade sandwiches, which I made in our kitchen early in the morning before anyone was up, just like Paddington Bear.”
However, her life changed at the age of 17 when she moved to Japan with her parents because her father was offered a research post at the Cancer Research Institute in Tokyo.
“My upbringing was really mentally tough, I suffered from a lack of self-confidence and didn’t believe in myself at all. I didn’t want to go to Tokyo, but my friend persuaded me to go and I discovered not only a new country but a new me too.
“Japan was a country of opportunity and very different to my childhood upbringing in Liverpool. I came back with a different view of my world and realised that life is what you make it.”
Emma then went to Newcastle Polytechnic (Northumbria University), then travelled extensively through the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and parts of Asia, working as she went along. By 1994 had settled down, had a family and found herself living in Dublin and Stockholm before returning to the North East where she formed Emma Bunting.
Divorced and looking for a new challenge and outlook on life, her desire to help others was awakened on a charity visit to Liberia in 2014 where she witnessed real poverty and deprivation.
“The Liberia trip changed my life in a different way that my visit to Japan did. This was about helping other people and not myself. Since then I’ve been an active supporter of Oxfam and my fundraising efforts revolve around their campaigns, which always have women at their heart.”
Her work in both the community and charity sector as well as her business success and running a 250 strong women’s networking group was recognised by the Heart of Morpeth Business Awards recently when she won the “Emily Wilding Davison Award.”
“People think at first glance that bunting is a small cottage industry but in actual fact our products go all over the world and are used by some huge global corporations. I’m so pleased that when anyone watches the Paddington Bear 2 movie no matter where they are, they will see our bunting flying as proud as I am.”