His then-employer had just been taken over by an American firm, and jobs were being shed.
But after spending the next two years developing a product to rival those of his former bosses, he and his family now run a burgeoning business which has cracked markets both at home and abroad.
Having worked as an export manager for his previous employers, Mr White had a plan – and over the last 16 years his firm, Miltex, has taken off with a turnover of over £100,000 a year.
He is looking to expand that and hopes to move into a bigger warehouse in the future.
Miltex have developed a market producing and selling labels which are used in the construction industry for cables. They also make a different type of label which is used on pipes in the aviation industry.
Mr White is sales director of the firm, which operates from the family home in Edenthorpe, while wife Janice is the managing director. The couple’s daughter, Maddie, is also now working as their apprentice, entering the family business after originally training as a beauty therapist. She is working towards business qualifications.
Miltex produce labels on a uniquely formulated material which is both non flammable, and self extinguishing, making it extremely safe. It is also made from an unreactive substance.
Its labels can be printed out by the customer using a printer that is adapted from machines used to print credit card-sized plastic membership cards.
It does not require specialist software.
But the secret is the design of the cards, the specially adapted printer, and the make-up of the material used in the cards. The labels are scratch resistant.
Miltex sell the printer with a free template to type their label into. The firm can then print out their own labels. Miltex make their money out of selling the cards onto which they are printed. They can also sell the labels pre-printed.
In terms of exports, they are a Doncaster success story. At present, 65 per cent of their sales are outside the UK. They have a UK manufacturer who makes the product for them.
Mr White said: “This time next year, we want to add another 50 per cent to the turnover. We’re looking to take on different products and expand the range to more industrial labelling. We’re looking for the right manufacturer at present.
“We are looking to get a big warehouse in Doncaster ideally. We’d also like to take more staff on, but not until the business will sustain that.”
Because of their large export trade, Miltex are feeling the effects of the uncertainty over Brexit.
They have seen customers stockpiling their products because of uncertainty over the future.
“We’re having a tremendous year," said Mr White. “But we realise that could just be a bubble, so we are re-investing that growth that we are seeing at the moment, by getting the ISO 9001 mark, which is a quality management symbol.
“It will help make sure we are taken more seriously by other businesses.”
Miltex has concentrated on selling the products to consultants and engineers. They find that it helps push the message down the line that people should buy their products specifically, because they know their quality.
For their aviation labels, it has meant they have to meet international industry standards, but it means they are now used by big companies including Boeing and Airbus, and companies that service them. They are widely used on executive jets, and also on the RAF’s Eurofighter jets.
They have a whole host of big name customers. As well as local customers for their cable labels including the Yorkshire Wildlife Park and Doncaster Sheffield Airport, they are also used by Network Rail, Wembley Stadium, and on the Mersey Tunnel.
It took two years to develop their products before they were at a position to sell their cable labels, and around 12 months for the aviation labels. It made for a difficult time for the family as they relied on Mr White’s redundancy money for some time when they first went into business.
Mr White said: “We were living off the redundancy money while we financed it. It was scary seeing money going out while we were trying to find a solution to designing our product. It took two or three years to complete research and development and get a product we were completely happy with. But after that, buyers started coming in quickly, and we got a distributor in Ireland and the middle east.”
They are currently working with Doncaster Chamber to try to find more export markets.
Mr White said: “We have a simple product and that is what has attracted people to it.”