Thrings Meets… Man and Bear

Thrings Meets… Tony Carr, Man and Bear

In this series focusing on the region’s businesses and entrepreneurs Holly Algar from Thrings visits a maker of unique gifts.

 Faced with a tight budget one Christmas, creative couple Tony and Emily Carr decided to hand-make small presents for friends and family.

The gifts, including personalised cufflinks, were a hit – and sparked a journey that took them away from their day jobs and into a new world of creating unique wood and leather pieces.

“Emily was a pharmacist, and I was working in aerospace at the time, but that Christmas changed it all,” Tony remembers. “Someone suggested we should sell the cufflinks, so we made some more, and it grew from there.”

From small beginnings in 2012, working out of a shed in the bottom of the garden and selling on craft websites, the business, named Man and Bear after a game Tony used to play as a child, took off.

Several premises and 12 years later, Man and Bear and its sister brands – Sbri, which makes women’s handbags, and personalised keepsake specialist Create Gift Love – employ 14 people at premises in Ringwood.

Balancing work with parenting two young children, the couple divide running the business between them. “Emily is the ideas person and looks after most of the marketing, and I’m more on the production side,” says Tony. “It just seems to work!”

An ever-growing range of products includes wallets, key rings, bookmarks, a desk tidy, belts and even a foraging bag. No material is wasted – for example, offcuts are used to create smaller items such as watch straps.

Materials are sourced from the UK wherever possible, along with a supplier in Italy for world-class leather. The emphasis is on quality, selling directly to consumers rather than through retail to avoid compromises.

Man and Bear also supplies hotels, such as Chewton Glen, with unique wooden signage, and is partnering with the RNLI to make bespoke cufflinks out of wood from a flagpole to mark the charity’s 200th anniversary.

People in the business are encouraged to suggest ways to improve processes, and enjoy flexible hours and a profit share scheme.

“We are trying to build a business where everybody benefits, one that we would want to work in, says Tony. “Whether it’s taking extra time sanding or polishing a product, or taking care when sending it out, everybody knows how important each step is.”

Core to the business is the feeling that every gift is unique. “That’s the reason we work with wood and leather,” Tony says. “No two pieces are the same – each one has its own story.

“Our customers are typically trying to say something special to someone, or to capture a moment – so we have a responsibility to create gifts that are worthy of that moment.”

Holly Algar is a succession and tax specialists at the Romsey office of the law firm Thrings. For more information about Thrings solicitors visit

Thrings Lawyers home page

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