Emma Elston – Setting up a business in difficult circumstances

Emma Elston is the co-founder of a leading waste container repair and refurbishment firm and is finding success through helping to save local authorities and waste companies money by refurbishing and reusing waste and recycling containers.

UK Container Maintenance is now the biggest container refurbishment company in Britain. With its Head Quarters in Cheshire and a turnover of £6m, UKCM fixes over 75,000 waste and recycling containers a year for local authorities and waste and recycling firms.

The company has a workforce of 80 and is hiring more people each year. Emma is ambassador for Real-Life Entrepreneurs, a campaign launched by the everywoman network and the Federation of Small Businesses. This aim is to encourage women, the disabled and the young to start-up businesses.

When we first set up the company I was only 23 and it was from our bedroom and I had a baby on the way. In the early days of the business we lived in a caravan and I had no money for milk. We went to the banks with our business plan, that was researched at my local library and were laughed at by the bank manager ‘who would want to repair bins!’ We spent about £30,000 on our credit cards starting the business up.

What kept me going was I knew the idea would work. Product knowledge and passion is key to success. It took us a while to get there but now I can’t imagine not having my own business. You have to work really hard but I can also now take my kids into the office and I am teaching them a few business skills too!

Since then, Emma has gone on to win numerous awards including an MBE for her dedicated services to manufacturing. The business is also going from strength to strength, from a range of new and innovative services being launched for the refurbishment of containers, to announcing in the summer of 2017 that is relocating to a new and improved site in Cheshire, where the business can continue to grow and tap into new industries.

Emma also devotes significant time mentoring people from all walks of life, either helping them make the step into the world of business or providing them with advice that makes a difference to their outlook. As a keen supporter of start-up businesses, Emma will often provide considerable investment in those with a bright future.

She adds:

Looking back, it’s fantastic to see how far the business has come as well as me as a person. I continually thank those people who believed in me from the beginning because this has now encouraged me to be supportive of up and coming entrepreneurs.