“From inventor to entrepreneur”: a talk by Celia Gates on 24 February 2010

On Wednesday 24 February the Business Enterprise students and a few regulars at our weekly Innovation & Entrepreneurship Business Success Stories had the pleasure of welcoming Celia Gates, inventor and founder of Doctor Cook cookware, for a wonderful presentation that was based around the story of her life and her tortuous road to success.

Before sharing her path, Celia asked some of the audience what their greatest difficulties had been running their businesses, as she felt that our best learning sources are the problems we run into and struggle with.

Celia has always been an entrepreneur, since her early time at school, where she sold flowers, jewellery and t-shirts, and at university, where, in between part-time jobs and arranging ski trips for fellow students, she achieved her degree in Industrial Design and specialised in Ergonomics.

Eight months after the beginning of her working career, her first difficulty: Celia was sacked! But of course for Celia successes and learning always come from failures and so she found herself quite happy, as she started working as a designer, along with the opportunity to embrace her entrepreneurial side once more.

Along with being fired came another struggle; problems don’t often come alone… Celia had broken her ankle and being an active person she found it very frustrating not being able to move. However Celia always finds a way of making success out of failure and so not being able to move meant that she had enough time with her computer to come up with a business plan for the idea that originated with her granny not being able to hold a pan. As a result, Doctor Cook was founded!

Celia is not a person with boundaries and that is maybe why she was happy to be sacked from her first job and left the one after, running a hotel / restaurant in the mountains, because she knew that the number of rooms or tables was a fixed limit to her capabilities. She kept on pursuing her dream of creating a business.

Our inventor then went on to what she considers to be the fundamental steps, and the ones she actually took, for someone who wants to create something new, as she did with her cookware invention.

First of all ideas should be judged by others and so she took her idea to the British Inventors Show and won the “British Consumer Invention of the Year” award. Then investment had to be made in order to extract the value of the business idea, so she sold a house she had bought and put all the money into her “baby”.

After starting production in the Far East she had to find routes to market, and did so by going mostly to big shows and street markets, which then led to many business opportunities. She started selling to quite a few distributors and retailers and ended up winning the “European Female Designer of the Year” award, and a world of opportunities opened up from there.

The presentation then went on with Celia explaining in more detail how she ran her business and how she had to move her production from Malaysia to China. Today, she has a successful “virtual company”: she only develops the company’s strategy, designs the pans and promotes the company. Everything else, from graphic design to sourcing, logistics, import and sales is outsourced to other companies or individuals.

The audience then were able to ask Celia about herself and her business and get as much advice as they could from this great energetic entrepreneur.

It was an enjoyable presentation, very useful for any entrepreneur who wants to start a business to hear this woman, who at a very early age took a big step and had to learn everything the hard way, but always managed to turn things to her advantage!

Celia is also the author of the book From Inventor to Entrepreneur which is, as she says: “The newest and most innovative book about invention and how to be a successful entrepreneur.”

Report by Iuri Cortez Dos Santos (BBE first year student)