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Case Study – Emily Ward

Emily’s first introduction to North Tyneside Council’s business support came at a time when the thought of running a business filled her with fear.

With a BA (Hons) in Art, Emily had taught art in the community for over 25 years before rediscovering her love of painting after a breast cancer diagnosis in 2010. After a friend suggested that painting might help take her mind off coping with cancer treatment, Emily picked up her paintbrushes and has never looked back.

Showcasing perfectly that often the most successful business ideas come from personal passions and interests, her first subject was in fact her then 4-year-old son Louis.  The resulting portrait soon had school-gate parents asking for their own portraits of their children or grandchildren as an alternative to the traditional children’s photograph. 

After redundancy forced Emily to look at her professional outlook, she decided to take a big step into self-employment with the help of North Tyneside Business Factory. Remembering that time Emily says:

The thought of running a business terrified me back then. I was completely overwhelmed and was particularly worried about the written side of things as I’m dyslexic. Thankfully, my business advisor, Janice Ross, was a great support through that time. I was determined to succeed and, with three small children to care for on my own, I used the time they were at school to get stuck into painting commissions and more personal artwork that reflected beautiful local landmarks.

Emily was able to develop her unique artistic style in a way that connected not only with customers but with the local environment from which she takes inspiration.  For instance, Emily captures the rough sea at Tynemouth Longsands with her splashing technique, bringing movement to the waves that crash against the walls of Tynemouth Pier. 

Looking back on those early days, business advisor Janice Ross is full of praise for Emily’s talent and vision for her business.  Janice comments:

“Emily’s love of nature and vibrant colours was absolutely shining through her expanding collection and it was evident that she was building a following for her unique style. Original paintings were selling well and we worked together on building relationships with independent stockists across the North East to help increase opportunities for the business to grow.”

In the first Spring lockdown in May 2020, as the country began focusing on home improvements and connecting with their local roots, online sales started to increase. It was a chance for Emily to look at ways to maximise the opportunities for her business but once again, help was never far away.  Valuing the support she’d had before, Emily got in touch with The Business Factory with a new request. Emily comments:

I knew that there was an opportunity to increase my sales, and I’d developed a full range of products depicting my most popular images, such as Tynemouth Priory and Bamburgh Castle. However, putting the words together for marketing and social media brought my old challenge rushing back. I needed help.

She continues, “When I found out I could access one-to-one support with one of the Business Factory’s specialists, Amanda Dixon of North East Social Media, I was so relieved. She helped me to get my platforms buzzing with words that represent how I talk about my art.”

“Now sales are on the up and I’ve had to hire in support to help with the packaging and distribution of orders. I’d love to take on more staff to expand what I can offer in the future.  My advice for anyone running a business in North Tyneside is to recognise when you need extra help and don’t be shy in asking for it. Without the Business Factory’s support for a second time, I may not have been able to take advantage of the opportunities I had in a challenging time like 2020 and I’m so grateful!”

Emily Ward is a professional artist with a home studio in North Shields, which you can visit by appointment. She has painted murals, commissions and artwork for many large charities in the North East, as well as personal portraits for hundreds of families around the world.

Emily’s philosophy is to create affordable, beautiful and unique art. You can see her work on her website.

If You Feel Inspired…

…give us a call on 0191 605 3110 or drop us an email on

Alternatively you can join our introduction to self-employment workshop. See our available online workshops here.

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