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Kevin Oakes

Born in Congleton, Cheshire, Kevin attended Biddulph High School before becoming a Member of the Institute of Personnel Management following his studies at North Staffordshire Polytechnic, now Staffordshire University.

In 1977 Kevin joined Royal Doulton in Stoke-on-Trent which became Steelite International in 1983. He was appointed Chief Executive in 2006 following a secondary management buy-out. Steelite manufactures and supplies tabletop ranges for the hospitality industry, and is one of the most modern and efficient factories in the world. Ware is exported to over 140 countries generating sales of £89 million in 2013.

He oversaw a new £12m factory extension and the creation of jobs to keep up with increasing demand from world markets. In 2012 the company acquired Royal Crown Derby, producer of fine bone china. In 2016, he stepped down as CEO of Steelite to focus on the subsidiary business of Royal Crown Derby.

He is honoured to be President of the European Federation for Table and Ornamentalware and a board member of both the British Ceramic Confederation and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.  He is also Chairman of the British Pottery Manufacturers Federation (Trustee) Ltd. 

In 2012 Kevin received the Ernst and Young Midlands Entrepreneur of the Year Award. In 2013 Steelite International’s outstanding achievement was recognised by The Queen’s Award for Enterprise for International Trade, and in the same year the company also secured the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association’s Award for Midlands’ Community and Environmental Action in recognition of its social responsibility agenda.

Kevin is passionate about ‘Made in England, Made for Life’ a celebratory campaign launched in 2010.  He boldly lay beneath a seven tonne bus resting upon four robust Steelite mugs to demonstrate the message. He has lobbied the government to improve legislation governing country of origin markings on ware, and has contributed to Stoke-on-Trent’s retail and visitor experience agendas.

Kevin regularly contributes to Staffordshire University’s annual focus on Global Entrepreneurship, delivering motivational speeches and proffering valuable advice to individuals setting-up new businesses.

The award of Honorary Doctor of the University is bestowed upon Kevin in recognition of his distinguished career with Steelite International, and his championing of the ceramics industry and UK manufacturing.  It further acknowledges his investment in staff development, his work with the University on a new Foundation Degree in Leadership and Management, and founding the Steelite Study Bursary.

Photo of Kevin Oakes

Kevin Oakes was bestowed the award in 2014

I have spent my entire career with Steelite and am proud of the links we have with the University. My nomination was a shock, but more importantly, receiving this award is an honour.

Kevin Oakes