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By Vicki Owen
Last updated at 9:03 PM on 30th October 2011
In tough times it is sometimes the companies that help others to save cash which thrive.
Emma Elston, co-founder of a waste container repair firm, is finding success through helping to save local authorities money.
UK Container Maintenance is now the biggest container refurbishment company in Britain. It has two offices, one in Cheshire and one in Essex, and fixes 75,000 waste and recycling containers a year for local authorities and waste and recycling firms.
Cleaning up: Emma Elston launched the company 13 years ago with her husband Julian
But when Emma, 35, launched the company 13 years ago with her husband, she says people laughed at the idea. ‘We operated from our bedroom at first,’ she says.
‘My husband was out repairing the containers and I was ringing round refurbishing and waste and recycling companies and local authorities for jobs.
‘When we went to the banks with our business plan we were laughed at. No one had
done it before. We spent about £30,000 on our credit cards starting it up.’
Emma says the cost of refurbishing a recycling bin is one third of the cost of replacing one. UK Container Maintenance will launch its third office, in Scotland, at the end of the year and has plans to expand on to the Continent. The company has a workforce of 80 and is hiring more people each year.
Emma is an ambassador for Real-Life Entrepreneurs, a campaign launched by the everywoman network and the Federation of Small Businesses. This aims to encourage women, the disabled and the young to start up businesses.
Everywoman and the FSB say 150,000 start-ups would be created each year if women began businesses at the same rate as men.
Emma says: ‘You have to stand out from the crowd, especially as a woman in this sector.’
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