Karina Emslie
Karina Emslie

Oil and gas redundancy provides mum with design for success

Being made redundant from her job in oil and gas six months into her maternity leave forced Karina Emslie to re-evaluate her career goals.

Nearly two years on, and taking inspiration from her son Mallku, the former lawyer and project manager has used help from Business Gateway Aberdeen City & Shire to launch a children’s tableware company – Little Mr. M & Friends.

Having recently secured a wholesale deal with a retailer in Staffordshire, the 33-year-old has now secured an order from an online retailer in the Netherlands who will carry her plate, bowl and tumbler which are all decorated with Bobot, a character inspired by her son’s love of robots.

Her second tableware set called Llumy, which is inspired by Karina’s Peruvian roots, will feature a colourful llama and is due to launch in spring.

Karina, who lives in Udny, Ellon, said: “Redundancy came out of the blue; my whole team were affected when the company had to restructure. I’d always been very career driven and immediately I started applying for a wide range of jobs, however, the competition was fierce and I never made it past the initial interview stage. Although I found it hard to let go of my professional career, I had to think of a new way to use my skills and generate an income.

“Weaning my son was a time of great joy and frustration, as I couldn’t get him to eat kale, spinach and other veggies until I started to make ‘dinosaur’ smoothies for him. I then realised that making eating fun could be enjoyable for both of us. Mallku and I often played a game where he would follow me around the house with a laundry bag on his head while making beeping sounds like a robot. Eventually that inspired me to design the Bobot tableware and start a business that highlights the simple, healthy and fun side of parenting.

“Coming from Peru, where we aren’t fortunate enough to have free access to business experts and advisers, I decided to use all of Business Gateway’s resources – from completing 10 start-up seminars and a number of DigitalBoost workshops to accessing 1:1 advice. All of which gave me greater confidence and access to further support, including a By Design Grant from Scottish Enterprise. Ultimately, I would love to see my products stocked in retailers like John Lewis, and my Business Gateway adviser, Gillian Macdonald, has helped me access IP support from Scottish Enterprise that will help protect my brand in preparation for larger orders.”

Gillian Macdonald, Adviser, Business Gateway said: “Karina found herself in a situation that many others in Aberdeen will relate to. Having taken her time to look at different career paths she decided to launch a business that focuses on her passion – her three-year-old son. Using our advice, workshop programme, Information Service, and connections to Scottish Enterprise, she has turned her idea into a reality and is now working with us to protect her brand moving forward.”

Having gained her law degree in Peru, Karina’s desire to improve her English led her to Texas where she meet her Aberdonian husband, Neil. On moving to the city in 2007, she gained an MSC in International Business from Robert Gordon University while landing a job at an oil and gas company, quickly becoming a project manager working across Europe. Following redundancy, she volunteered with Aberdeen City Council’s Creative Learning Team and helped organise last summer’s Aberdeen International Youth Festival’s ‘See the world in Aberdeen’.

She said: “Aberdeen is very much a city in transition, one that is beginning to find its feet again after the crisis in oil and gas. I was at the lowest point in my career after being made redundant, but I decided to believe in myself when it seemed no one else would. I know there are many others in the same situation I was. My advice would be to let go of how you previously defined career success and start thinking about other ways in which you could use your skills. I was afraid of not succeeding, then I remembered something my dad always used to say, that failure is the first stage that leads us to success and life’s too short not to dare to do something different.”