Decorator Profile

Lending a helping hand in time of crisis

A PPE order being delivered

A life-threatening injury at the age of 18 while playing rugby, led Warrington Wolves prop Mike Cooper to secure his future outside of the sport by forming his own customised clothing business. Now at the age of 31, Mike is lending a helping hand during a time of national crisis when others need it most. P&P editor Melanie Attlesey speaks to the man himself to find out more.


ike made his professional rugby league debut at the age of 16, fresh from school. Yet, just two short years later, he suffered a life- threatening injury playing the sport he loved. “I had a really nasty accident and nearly lost my life. While playing rugby I broke my tibia and fibula in one blow,” says Mike.

Complications in surgery led to Mike contracting pneumonia. Medics placed him in an induced coma for 10 days to try and rid him of the lung illness. On the third day of the induced coma, Mike’s condition worsened to the point that his parents were told that he wasn’t going to survive and to say goodbye. Despite the odds, Mike did pull through. The injury, the time in hospital and the rehabilitation required both physically and mentally afterwards, proved to be a turning point in his life. And as such Mike set about securing his future outside of rugby league.

Mike teamed up with one of his oldest and closest friends, Sam Wareing, to open and run a sports clothing shop in the centre of Warrington. “We said to each other let’s do something. Let’s do it ourselves. We are both very independent and not particularly good at taking orders. We both like to be the boss. So, we said let’s both be the boss and do it ourselves. And that’s what we did,” says Mike.

An evolving business

Although the shop primarily sold sports clothing and equipment, over time the business evolved as customers began to ask for more bespoke options. Mike continues: “So, we began to deal with suppliers and manufacturers and all of the headache associated with this. Bringing in product, holding stock, that kind of thing. So, we said why not deal directly with the manufacturers ourselves.”

After a few years, the area where the shop was situated in

Warrington town centre got redeveloped and this provided the guys with the perfect the opportunity to use their knowledge and industry connections to form a bespoke sportswear clothing business called 1895 Sports. Initially the business focused on manufacturing rugby league kits, forging

| 46 | June 2020

Mike Cooper, Sam Wareing and John Welch of Bubble Customised Clothing with a delivery of PPE

hand in time of crisis

Mike Cooper playing for Warrington Wolves

relationships with clubs across the North West. Over time 1895 Sports branched out to producing sublimated running vests and football kits, among other teamwear.

In 2017, the pair struck out again and created Bubble Customised Clothing, doing everything from embroidery, screen printing and transfer printing for local companies, as well as larger national businesses such as John Lewis and O2. “It was a pretty quick transition to be honest. Neither of us had any experience with printing or embroidery and now we’re up to 14 heads,” says Mike.

In just three short years, Bubble has even managed to secure

FAMA accreditation to produce merchandise for Disney, something which Mike describes as the golden stamp of approval. One of the business’ most recent projects for Disney involved individually personalising 20,000 tote bags for the Lion King movie which were then sent to Germany.

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