That’s Mine: Lancashire couple who left multi-million pound companies to start their own personalised gift business
In 2000, Elaine Cribb was the director of a multi-million pound textiles company and loved her work. But, when she became pregnant with her and her husband Paul’s first child, she wanted to spend time with her baby girl.
"Back then, it was a different business world,” says Elaine. “There was no flexibility for working mothers, you either committed to work and your child went to nursery, or you quit. The only way I could work whilst still spending time with my daughter Phoebe was to leave my job and set up a business at home with flexible hours, so that’s what I did.”
Leaning on her expertise in product design, Elaine founded That’s Mine, a gift business selling high-quality and personalised gifts for babies and children.
“Personalised products were quite new at the time and the response was amazing,” says Elaine. “I started out in the days before the internet, so customers would request a mail order catalogue by sending me a postcard and they’d return their order form by post! Then the internet revolution happened and I was excited by this new way of retailing.
“However, my second daughter Amelia was diagnosed with autism, so my internet dreams were put on hold,” she adds of the family business, which even features then-18-month-old Phoebe’s handprint in the logo. “I’d work in my dressing gown through the night and see to both girls’ needs by day.”
Having started out by getting business via word-of-mouth and through a display in Coppull Mill and a stall at Botany Bay, That’s Mine took off in 2015 when Paul, who had previously worked as the North West area manager for Sports Direct, joined Elaine.
“We invested our life savings into a brand new website and That’s Mine was launched into the digital world,” explains Elaine, with the pair going on to establish the company’s reputation as one of the North West’s premier independent retailers. “Our customers are a huge motivation, and it’s so humbling to be part of such important milestones in their lives.”
“It was a big leap of faith to leave my job and it was a bit daunting, but it was a case of now or never and we wanted to give it a really good go,” says Paul, with That’s Mine having moved to a larger unit in Buckshaw Village during lockdown to meet growing demand. “The work is all-consuming, but it’s given us the flexibility we wanted.
“And business is going in the right direction,” he adds. “When you do take the time to step back and think about what you’ve achieved, it’s pretty mind-blowing because, in the moment, you think you’re swimming in treacle and you’re overly critical but, standing in our factory, it’s hard not to go ‘we’ve done all this!’”
From soft toys, blankets, and towels to bathrobes, swaddles, and bibs, That’s Mine’s product range is all about quality and wow factor when it comes to all things cuddly - a facet of the work that Elaine revels in.
“We send our personalised gifts all over the world and I thank my lucky stars because selling teddy bears is a pretty nice line of work to be in!” she says. When you’re having a down day, it’s good to remember that!”