Indigenous-owned business Emro Designs is bringing traditional stories to early learning spaces.

Operated by Bundjalung woman and mother of three Emma Rolls, Emro Designs began as a response to a gap in the early learning system.

“It came about quite organically. I was having conversations with people in the early learning industry, going into day-care with my boys,” she said.

“They were looking for local artists, which with my job I’d worked with a lot of local artists. I was able to point them in the right directions, but they were asking if there was anyone who does cushions, or other mats and things.”

Rolls noted that larger companies are often white-owned.

“All of the big mobs that they go to … they’re all these big white-owned businesses that commission the artwork … The process that they go about is not transparent, so it’s hard to see if the artist is really getting looked after,” Rolls said.

“I saw an opportunity and I thought to myself why isn’t there any Indigenous people in this space? Why are we letting white-owned businesses run this space?

“I saw this gap and said I’d give it a go.”

In 2019, Rolls started working with her brother-in-law, who has been an artist for six years, and in April, Emro Designs debuted on social media.

“Having social media, being on Instagram and Facebook, it just took it to a whole other level which I didn’t expect,” Rolls said.

“I get so tearful when I think about how supportive mob have been with not just me, but other businesses. They want to see everyone succeed.

“I have never seen anyone cutting anyone else down, everyone has been pushing everyone else to succeed.

“I don’t think there is anyone else quite like me in the space at the moment and I think that is where the amount of support has come from.”

The woman behind the brand, Emma Rolls is a proud Bundjalung woman and the owner of Indigenous business Emro Designs. Photo Supplied.

Born from a strong ‘why’, Emro Designs brings culture into the classroom.

“I am 33 now but just looking at the difference of what is taught in the curriculum now with my boys compared to what I learnt,” she said.

“For children to be in an early learning space, or have their Mum or Dad buy a rug and have it in their bedroom and talk about the story and the artists, it grows an appreciation for our culture from a non-Indigenous perspective which is vitally important.”

When a product is purchased, Rolls includes a laminated card which details information about the artist and tells the story of the artwork.

Currently, Emro Designs hosts a handful of artists; from family and friends to artists Rolls has formed a relationship with through social media.

“For the artist as well, to see an Indigenous-owned business doing this, people love it and are happy to work together and support it,” she said.

“What was so important for me was to be able to have the artists continue, not just after I commission the piece, but to continue receiving commission from the profits that we make.

“Monthly they get a commission of profit … I want to ensure that they are sustainable and continue painting because there are quite a few of them who are just hobby artists. Their goal is to be able to do that full time and to share culture, so this is just a small thing for me to help them make that a reality.”

A relatively new business owner, Rolls hopes to inspire her children.

“One of the amazing moments for me was having my boys understand that this is my business, and that I made this. I want them to know that they can do anything, anything they want to do in this lifetime, they can do,” she said.

“I think growing up, I had a lot of self doubt about what I could and could not do. So to be doing this, and to be a role model for my boys and my little girl is just really powerful.

“I hope that they really take that into whatever they choose to do as adults.”

To shop Emro Designs, visit: https://emrodesigns.com.au/.

By Rachael Knowles