Raghav Agarwal is a cookware insider, entrepreneur, and former MBA student who founded FIREUP. In short, FIREUP produces innovative and aesthetic cookware. They are a small team and have just released their first product: the FIREUP Dutch oven. As for funding, FIREUP launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign on 19 October 2021.
What is your background? What made you decide to get involved in supporting entrepreneurs?
I started my professional life at Deloitte but knew early on that I wanted to start a business. I first went into entrepreneurship in India, launching a homeware and cookware equipment manufacturing firm. Equipped with all the practical knowledge and manufacturing expertise, I completed my MBA in Oxford and am now launching FIREUP.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
For me, entrepreneurship is all about identifying opportunities and driving change. When I found out that there had been no real innovation in cast iron cookware in nearly a century, my eyes lit up. Together with Tom Povey, Engineering Science Professor at Oxford University, we started working together to ultimately create value by producing the most aesthetic and innovative cookware on the market.
How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
I knew our idea was good enough to develop when we could back up our claims. We were confident that we could produce cookware that could heat up food more efficiently, but we needed to run tests and calculations to confirm our assumptions. Once we concluded that our products could heat up to 44% faster than conventional cookware, we knew that we were finally ready to develop our innovation.
What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
Put simply, you need ambition, perseverance, and a willingness to learn. Without at least a couple of these skills, you might struggle to make it as an entrepreneur. I think it’s much better being a learn-it-all rather than a know-it-all.
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship is what makes me look forward to Mondays. Every day brings with it a new set of challenges and opportunities, thriving in that environment is what entrepreneurship means to me.
What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
If I had to pick one, I would say Innocent Drinks. Not only do they have a clear company identity, which I love, but they also strive to do good in the world. For instance, they donate some of their profits to those in need and continuously promote sustainability.
If you had 5 minutes with the above individual/ company/organization, what would you want to ask or discuss?
How do you deal with the tradeoff between making a net positive impact whilst also driving company growth and profitability?
What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
As well as helping home chefs around the world cook well, we want to not only cook good but also do good. We are committed to doing good for the environment, be it through the materials we use, where we manufacture, and the energy-saving functionality of the design. We’ve ensured that our products are long-lasting, 100% recyclable, and zero toxic materials. Our product is made in an 80-year-old factory in Belgium using the newest manufacturing technology. The factory is fully compliant with the highest environmental and work standards. It pays fair compensation for workers, complies with global safety procedures and environmental standards. The unique patent lets you save gas each time you cook. In the present times, when gas prices are spiraling out of control, FIREUP might just have a solution for everyday cooking by enabling savings in your day-to-day life.
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
Getting the very first license signed with the University of Oxford after months of negotiations and technical product changes was an interesting breakthrough. Having our first prototype from the design board to the factory mould was the first step. Proving that there was both customer demand and product viability, was key. We then built our team from the ground up and secured initial funding for sample development.
Bootstrapping came with its challenges of fund scarcity and extended personal liability risks. Having gone through all these startup cycles, we are now ready to launch. All in all, persistence pays off.
How have you funded your ideas?
I mostly bootstrapped but also received some financial support from Oxford University Innovation. We are now exploring external forms of financing to expand our operations and research to the next level. For instance, we have just launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign on 19 October 2021 which offers customers an exclusive opportunity to purchase our unique cookware whilst also hopefully raising enough funds to finance the company’s growth. This is especially exciting for us since we are the first Oxford University Innovation company to finance our enterprise this way.
Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
As previously mentioned, we received financial support from Oxford University Innovation. We are also now raising funds through our Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign.
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
Personally, I love being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire. You are surrounded by some of the brightest minds in the world. It’s also a bonus that Oxford is such a beautiful city. Nonetheless, it’s expensive and office space appears to be rather limited.
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
There are various entrepreneurship resources available. For us specifically, Oxford University Innovation helped us out the most. However, I’d also point new entrepreneurs or startups towards the Skoll Centre, Oxford Innovation Centre, Oxford Foundry and Enterprising Oxfordshire.
Any last words of advice?
Persistence is key. There will be fires burning everywhere, everyday brings with it a new set of problems. Your job is to constantly put them out. Prioritizing based on risk-returns is another skill that will help you better solve everyday problems. And of course, humour and compassion go a long way in building and managing great teams.