That’s mine founders, Paul and Elaine, are nearing their 30th wedding anniversary soon! We thought we’d take the time for you to get to know the people behind That’s mine. Coming from different backgrounds, Paul and Elaine are now the husband-and-wife dream team, CEO and Boss Lady; the ones keeping the That’s mine show going for the past 20 years.
“We’ll always remember how we started, Elaine designing products on the kitchen table. We started surrounded by family and friends, and we continue with their support now. The kitchen table came with us. Seriously, it’s in our new factory.”
Elaine studied BA Hons Textile Design at Trent Polytechnic, specialising in embroidery. She was very ambitious and passionate about working in the textile industry. It was at this time Elaine met Paul, both in 1st year, with Paul studying BA Hons Economics. After university, Elaine started her first job designing socks for SockShop. Then she went on to work for a UK towel manufacturer, which supplied towels for M&S. Paul had started his career in retail management, managing several B&Q stores. They got married and decided to jet off and enjoy their honeymoon travelling abroad!
After this, Elaine joined the nursery industry, working with Mothercare, John Lewis, Harrods, Debenhams, and others. She was the design director heading up the design team and loved the industry. Elaine found there was more room to be creative. Paul joined Elaine at the design company, working in sales. It was a very successful multi-million-pound business! Then Elaine got pregnant with her first daughter, Phoebe, and realised she wanted to have a career that allowed her more time with her. Therefore, That’s mine was born! Elaine found her priorities had shifted, and having a home-based business meant she was always available for her daughter.
Where the idea for That’s mine came from
Over the years leading up to this, Elaine had started creating personalised gifts for family and friends. At this point, personalisation was very new. Everyone loved how their name was on the gifts, making it completely theirs and theirs only. When it was time to come up with an idea for a new business, Elaine had a lightbulb moment! Combining her skills and experience from the nursery industry, she went on to create a home-based small business; personalised gifts for babies and children. In 2000, Elaine bought her very first Happy Japan embroidery machine, working out of her kitchen and utility room. She would embroider at night when the kids were asleep.
The re-launch of That’s mine
That’s mine was always a part-time business for Elaine, as she had Phoebe and then Amelia a few years later. Paul was the main breadwinner in the house. Over the years Paul had worked as a regional manager for Scholastic Book Fairs and then went on to being an area manager for Sports Direct for 10 years. Their second daughter Amelia had been diagnosed with autism. Therefore, Elaine took more time away from That’s mine to prioritise Amelia’s wellbeing. Paul decided to leave Sports Direct and then joined Elaine to fully relaunch That’s mine. They invested their life savings into their new website and business. They ultimately found this to work well, as Paul’s background was more into retail and sales, so his and Elaine’s skills were different. Combining her creative background with his business background made them the perfect combination, fulfilling different roles.
Questions with the That’s mine founders
What’s your favourite part of That’s mine?
Elaine – “I always would get a kick if school rang, saying Phoebe needed to be picked up from school, and I could just drop everything and go. I loved how I had that flexibility and independence. I also love having this business as I always feel the need to do something creative.”
Paul – “The buzz of running your own business, working with a team that are like-minded and have the same values and goals, it’s nice to develop it. A great bit is to get feedback from happy customers. It gives me a happy vibe, a sense of fulfilment, and a sense of pride in what you do.”
How did you find how important personalisation is?
Elaine – “It was from gifts for family and friends, they loved the presents and how unique they were to them. We did predict a trend. I started doing house parties back in the day, and a mail-order catalogue. It was strictly word of mouth; I would go round giving out postcards where people could request a catalogue back and put their order in. I enlisted family and friends to help out and model, it truly is and always will be a family business.”
How do you remain inspired and motivated?
Elaine – “I love new trends and keeping up to date. And putting into practice what I learnt at university and in the industry over 30 years. I love colours, textiles and fabrics and working with people. I do love working on my own, but I enjoy the energy other people bring and using those contacts and relationships to keep longevity.”
Paul – “I always want to provide better quality, and always improve on what we’ve done. It’s good to know we can always get better, better service, better packaging, always new innovative products.”
What would you be doing if you didn’t have That’s mine?
Elaine – “I maybe would have gone into psychology; I’m fascinated with it. Maybe into research or therapy, I came across ‘art therapy’ in school and had a great art teacher that nurtured my creativity. It was always going to be something creative no matter what.”
How did you build the team you have today?
Elaine – “Paul joined me first, and then we’ve carried on working closely with friends and family, we’ve never interviewed anyone! We find we are surrounded by people who want to help us, who choose to be here, who also grow from being here. There’s a feel-good factor at That’s mine. We are surrounded by the best people every day.”
Paul – “We built our company slowly and steadily because we wanted to get it right at every stage. Likeminded people have joined us, same outlook, same ethos, and vision for That’s mine. It creates a great atmosphere to be in.”
The biggest motivation is people’s happiness
As we were writing down notes for this blog post, Paul started reading out another happy customer review. “Blown away by this company, I requested a longer name on my personalised bunny and received a swift response advising me that it was no problem. The bunny arrived beautifully wrapped with a personalised bag – the perfect gift.” There has been ups and downs; sacrifices of having your own business and working with your partner. It can be all-consuming, and you don’t get a lot of time off! Although they get to see each other every day and share the stresses and strains. Overall, it didn’t matter to them the difficulties, as they found they were reminded of this every time Paul read out another amazing review.
They wanted to create a caring, inclusive environment for people from all walks of life, especially having learnt from their daughter Amelia’s diagnosis. They wanted to show that it’s important to care, to build a business for the future, potentially where Phoebe and Amelia could take over! “The best part is to be part of people’s personal lives. They’ve chosen That’s mine to be a part of something special, like a birth of a grandchild. It’s a privilege that people have chosen That’s mine to celebrate that precious moment in time.” At That’s mine, you always feel you’re in a very special environment, and Paul and Elaine are both very proud of what they have achieved so far, proud of themselves and proud of the team.
Happy 30th wedding anniversary to CEO and Boss Lady, the That’s mine founders!