Edwin Bessant, CEO, Ceuta Group

Edwin Bessant: Leading With Courage, Tenacity, and Diligence

Setting up and starting a business sound like an easy task, but even after having a highly successful and lucrative corporate job, it is not a simple feat. It requires one to have a lot of guts and courage to give up on such a job and enter the world of business with a leap of faith. A courageous leader, Edwin Bessant, spotted a gap in the healthcare arena 27 years ago, gave up his high-flying career in consumer healthcare at Pfizer Consumer [Formerly Wyeth], and set up Ceuta Healthcare with his founding partner Annette D’Abreo. Edwin is now serving as the CEO of Ceuta Group. Tenaciously and diligently, Edwin continued to retain a vision on the future, ensuring that Ceuta was always fit for the future and delivering a market need for his client base. Ceuta Group has a strong and trusted global Manufacturing & Private Equity [ Consumer brand acquirers] client base and is a Global leader with first market move advantage.

Pioneering A Unique Vision and Expanding Business Model

Started in 1994 as an omni-channel sales & marketing outsourcing partner, Ceuta Healthcare has now transformed into a Group of twelve companies with access to 114 international markets. Together, Ceuta Group’s businesses deliver the next generation of an industry-unique ‘Integrated Consumer Brand Outsourcing Services’ business – Global services include: Advisory, Digital, Shopper & Category Insights, Creative Design, Data Analytics, Field Marketing Sales & Marketing Execution and Logistics [www.ceutagroup.com].

Edwin and Annette launched brand management specialist Ceuta Healthcare alone, with no clients, from a three-desk office in Bournemouth in 1994. Today Ceuta Group, through Edwin’s pioneering and unique vision, has several offices around the world [ including: New York, Dublin, Amsterdam, Singapore, Bangkok, and Sydney]. Ceuta Group employs more than 400 people, turns over around $140m, and after a whirlwind of acquisitions, comprises 12 distinct companies. Several of these businesses were bought after meticulous planning to logically expand the business model. Edwin predicts that their net income, currently around $13m (EBITDA), will double over the next two – three years.

Leading A Pioneering Initiative

Edwin was working for Pfizer Consumer when he spotted a gap in the market. He’d been with the pharma giant for 18 years, which led to a Director’s role on a European fast track programme. There, he saw a growing demand for “Outsourcing” and “Brand Fostering” – where an organization gives total responsibility for one or more of its brands to a third party. Certainly, he could build a company to meet this untapped market demand, and using all his blue-chip experience, Edwin crafted out a visionary and pioneering business plan, left his highly successful job, and set to work, encouraging Annette D’Abreo to join him as equally, she had a successful role at Pfizer. Annette immediately understood the opportunity and trusted Edwin to lead the pioneering initiative.

“By the end of Year One, Ceuta Healthcare had 30 employees,” Edwin says, to give the impression of how he has never once doubted Ceuta’s ability to become a global powerhouse. He adds, “We made a loss of around £300,000 [ $414,000] in the first two years [in line with the bank’s support]. And in year three we made a profit of £50,000 [ $69,000].” Since then, the growth and investment have been explosive, leading Ceuta to be the ONLY company that can deliver a single point of contact for a company that needs international reach and complete management for their brands.

Being Inspired by Pioneering Innovators and Entrepreneurs

Edwin admires the pioneering innovators and entrepreneurs who have truly taken up the opportunity of spotting a gap in the market, defining and shaping the new way we live and shop with phenomenal success, changing consumer engagement and technological enhancement i.e.: Jeff Bezos – Amazon, Elon Musk – Pay Pal, Tesla, Space-X, Steve Jobs – Apple, Travis Kalanick & Garrett Camp – Uber, Will Shu & Greg Orlowski – Deliveroo & Jack Ma – Alibaba, Larry Page & Sergey Brin – Google, Larry Ellison, Ed Oates, Bob Miner – Oracle.

Edwin expresses that he does not like to plagiarise when reading business books, but of course, he considers it is important to never stop learning, and there is no harm in having a good mentor. He does like reading books that have actually been written or co-written by successful entrepreneurs i.e.: ‘The Alchemist’ by Jim Ratcliffe [ The Ineo Story] and the series of the Blue Ocean Strategy & Blue Ocean Shift by W.Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne.

Accelerating Brand Marketing Development

During the covid period, Ceuta Group has thankfully had a record-breaking year, working within the Health & Personal Care and Food & Drink industries, and having part of its workforce working from the offices and the majority of personnel successfully working from home. Ceuta experienced more challenges with Brexit affecting its Marketing Agencies, as corporations were holding back because of the uncertainty with elections and getting the Brexit bill passed. In the short term, there was a temporary hold on Marketing budgets within some sectors, but overall, it saw a rapid change to brand marketing development which continues to accelerate.

Ensuring Inclusive Work Culture

Further, Edwin opines that culture creation within any organization is key, and this has always been an important mantra for Ceuta. Ceuta Group has four different generations of employees, and they all have different levels of expectations from an employer. Ceuta must deliver to ALL, and the right culture glues its workforce together. In addition to culture creation, it has also engaged with further intent, monitoring, support, and executing for the right reasons such as ‘Diversity, Inclusion and Gender balance [ Ceuta Group is approx. 48% female / 52% male]’. Also, sustainability and environmental protection are key imperative for Ceuta Group.

Supporting Local Community

Ceuta is emersed and engaged through its CSR team and supports a different number of initiatives:

  • Support local charities with financial contributions
  • Organize clean-up events
  • Volunteer in local schools or community projects
  • Local fund-raising events Edwin is a ‘Fellow of the Prince’s Enterprise Trust’ which helps vulnerable young people get their lives back on track. It supports 11 to 30year-olds who are unemployed and those struggling at school and at risk of exclusion. Edwin periodically goes into classrooms to talk to students [from all ethnicities] on business building and the watchouts etc. which he really enjoys.

Expansionary Approach

In a conclusion, Edwin mentions that for the next five years, Ceuta Group’s vision is to continue to build out its Global Digital services. It wants to continue to build out its ‘Marketplace Support Platform’ – USA, Europe, and China. It wants to selectively acquire other Ceuta type organizations worldwide and to acquire Consumer Health & Wellness brands’.

Edwin is also a ‘Life Fellow of The Royal Society of Medicine’