Celia Sawyer is a self-made millionaire who has earned her fortune through property investment and an interior design business with a particular focus on sourcing, buying and selling collectible beautiful objects for the sporting personalities, celebrities and entrepreneurs who are her clients.
“There are too many people in the world who want to see you fail. I steer clear of those people, at all times!”
The success story of Celia Sawyer is largely attributable to the unflappable but passionate, tough and fiercely focused approach that’s familiar to viewers of Channel Four’s collectibles bidding show Four Rooms, and of the Sawyer-hosted BBC programme Your Home In Their Hands. Bolstering her business acumen is an ultra-modern, sleek, stylish take on business fashion that has also made her a style icon.
Incredibly, this accomplished, confident entrepreneur left school at 15 with few qualifications. Up to 20 years ago admits that she was uncertain about what she wanted to do. That was when Celia Sawyer took charge of her destiny.
It’s said that prior to her involvement with Four Rooms, when she saw a Channel Four advert for viewers to submit photos of antiques that could be used on the programme, she emailed the producers her own photograph, and pitched Celia Sawyer as a curious collectible.
This is indicative of the eagle-eyed judgement for opportunity which was evident even when Celia Sawyer set up her first business, a photographer’s agency. Eventually she was lining up her clients lucrative campaigns for elite agencies such as Saatchi & Saatchi.
It was when she moved into property investment, purchasing, renovating and selling for profit, that Celia Sawyer found an outlet for her extraordinarily creative and uncanny sense of interior design, which led to a succession of commissions, before the big breakthrough came when she successfully pitched to work her magic on a famous footballer’s home.
Celia Sawyer Luxury Interiors is now a lucrative global business, decorating Celia’s client’s dwellings (which include luxury mansions, penthouses, beach villas, and show homes), hotels and bars, and sourcing and buying rare and collectible pieces to fit their private collections.
She also has a strong philanthropic focus, devoting her time and resources to a large number of charities every year, and is currently getting set to introduce I Am Limitless, a one-to-one mentoring programme for anyone looking to move forward in life, whether in business, health or personal development.
On a train journey during a recent busy working day, Celia Sawyer spoke to AGENT about her business story to date. She also filled us in on such curios as the most recent thing that she ‘Googled’, revealed what screen saver picture is on her phone, and disclosed how she achieves work-life balance. Clue: her day starts early!
11 Questions for Celia Sawyer
1. Briefly tell us how you first got into business, and describe your business goals.
I was at a time in my life when I didn’t know what to do. I thought about what I knew a little about, and the fact that I had met a lot of people, and decided to go into my first business, which was a photography agency. I rented a room in a house, and all I had was a phone line and a typewriter! I realised that I was driven by getting deals and making money. I enjoyed the process, so I wanted to go it alone and get out and see as many advertising agents as I could. I spent months visiting agencies, showing a photographer’s work (I only had one at the time), but it eventually paid off — I got a big campaign and never looked back!
2. What age were you when you realised you wanted to run your own business?
Probably around my late 20s. That was when I started to feel the “need” to be in charge of my own destiny, and control what was going to happen for the future.
3. Who are your business icons and inspirations?
I read a lot of books. I do love reading about Richard Branson. I also went to see Tony Robbins some time ago, and that was a real life-changer for me. All of us are different, but I love being with positive, focused people who will pat you on the shoulder when you are doing well. There are too many people in the world who want to see you fail. I steer clear of those people, at all times!
4. What has been your biggest challenge in business, and how did you surmount it?
Business is always challenging. Just when you think it’s all running smoothly, a nasty big boulder rolls into your path. I have had many ups and downs, but you have to keep talking to people and thinking of ways to reinvent yourself and make things work. Now is a tough time in the UK. We have Brexit, uncertainty in the country, and high stamp duty, which has lost the UK a great deal of their wealthy people, as it has become too expensive… So you have to keep looking at other ways to keep your head above water and carry on. I also think diversifying what you do helps. Sometimes, when things slow down on one side, the other side balances it out by becoming busier.
5. Work-Life balance: is it possible? How do you achieve it?
Yes, but it is really hard. I get up at 5am to go running, even in Winter. I have two children who are now teenagers, so it’s a bit easier than it was when they were smaller, but I never had a full-time nanny, so I have always tried to be so well organised that I can do it all!
6. What is the first thing you do every day?
Go for a five-mile run. I hate running, and am not a natural, but I reckoned that if I do something every day that I hate so much, I could do anything!
7. What screen saver picture is currently on your phone?
A picture of the beach outside my house in Barbados. My cold tub is in the shot, and the turquoise sea keeps me inspired to work hard, so that I can get back there soon.
8. What is the most important app on your mobile phone, and why?
There are a few. One is my Linkedin account, as it’s a great way of networking across the World. I’ve made some seriously good business associates with this. The other is my Harvey Nicholls app — it’s a good place for a quick lunch, and to run in to get any new clothes for either TV or business meetings. It’s probably my favourite store in London… apart from Tom Ford!
9. What is the last thing you Googled?
Who was the person who said “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary”!
10. What item do you never leave the house without, and why?
My phone, as I have my own business. I really cannot go anywhere without my phone. I need to make sure that everything is running on track and that I am contactable should anyone need me, whatever the time or day.
11. What advice would you give to your younger self starting out in business?
Start your own business as early as you can but make sure you have some supporting people around you, it can be a lonely journey if not, but an extremely fulfilling one if you do.
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