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From project director to making bunting - and loving it
SHE was a high flying project manager overseeing the building of primary schools.
But when funding for the projects Jo Robertson was working on was cut, she found herself out of work with a week’s notice.
Suddenly, she was an unemployed single mother with an 18-month-old child to look after.
That was in 2010. With no income, Jo started working for herself, first as a project manager and then last year setting up a children’s party business – Complete Party Box – which supplied everything parents needed for children’s parties.
This included quirky, colourful, hand-made bunting.
Soon Jo, from Alresford, was getting far more enquiries about her bunting than the boxes, so she focused on that.
Sitting over her sewing machine with a pile of fabric to the side of her and the radio on might be a far cry from her previous job, but she says she has been surprised at how much she enjoys it.
“I’ve always been creative,” she says.
“Being a project manager building primary schools was a creative role and I’ve been able to take aspects of my experience and use them for what I’m doing now.
“I love having my quiet time, with the radio on, sitting in front of my sewing machine.”
Before Jo started the children’s party business, she hadn’t sewed and rather than waste money buying fabric to experiment with, she experimented with making bunting from her son, Samuel’s old clothes.
“I realised that this was a really cute keepsake,” she says.
“Lots of parents have old clothes that their children have grown out of sitting round in a drawer that they would never throw away, so this is a nice thing to do with it.
“Now the keepsake bunting is a really popular product in its own right!” Jo now runs Best Loved Bunting alongside a part-time lecturing job at the University of Winchester, which she started in September.
Among her more popular and unusual products are people’s photographs printed onto waterproof fabric.
“I did it for my son’s birthday party when he turned five,” she says.
“I had ten photos showing him from birth to almost five and it was lovely – it’s something I will keep forever.”
Another of her popular products is bunting made with chalk cloth which can be written on and wiped clean, like a blackboard.
It is especially popular at this time of year for writing Christmas slogans and messages to Santa.
Jo loves her work, but says that she is very aware of potential cash-flow problems working for herself.
“This could dry up and that worries me – it’s scary for any single parent working for themselves,” she says.
“But I would love this to really take off and be supplying independent shops and even high street chains with my bunting.
“I know that there is a lot of bunting out there, but I offer something different.”
Jo with her son, Samuel
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