Six Things Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Denise Coates





There are dozens of inspirational stories out there about entrepreneurs who turned a small idea or a struggling family business into a multi million dollar success story. But Denise Coates’ journey has it all.

The woman behind one of the world’s leading online betting companies started out working from a portable cabin stationed in the parking lot beside her father’s traditional betting shop.




Made of money

Today, she is the richest woman in the UK, with an estimated net worth in the region of $12 billion. As a woman operating in what is still a male-dominated industry, and one who bore the early burden of the “boss’s daughter” tag when she was starting out, her life is packed with incredible stories. Here, we have distilled six lessons that any entrepreneur would do well to take to heart.

Sometimes you’ve got to gamble


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It sounds trite given the sector in which Bet365 operates, but the fact is the business would not exist today if Denise had not taken an enormous gamble. In 2000, the internet was just starting to take shape. Denise was 33 years old and had been Managing Director of Provincial Racing, a bookmaker business owned by her father, for five years.

She was convinced that online betting represented the future and that investing then and there would pay dividends, so she bought the domain name and took out a £10 million loan to get the business off the ground, using the entire chain of betting shops as collateral. She later acknowledged: “we were the ultimate gamblers,” but the bet paid off. In taking out that loan, and registering that domain, Denise Coates took the first steps in creating one of the largest online gambling companies in the UK.

Family matters

We’ve mentioned that Denise was the boss’s daughter. Her father, Peter, was a self-made entrepreneur, albeit on a smaller scale than his daughter would become and was himself from humble beginnings. He was one of 14 children and his father was a miner who struggled to keep his family above the poverty line.

Peter flirted with a career as a professional soccer player, turning out a handful of times for local team Stoke City. However, his entrepreneurial flair was stronger than his athletic ability. He set up a succession of businesses, including a catering company, a radio station and, of course, that chain of betting shops that would be so pivotal later.




It pays to study

Denise left school with an average set of qualifications. She was capable, but she was no academic genius. After school, she started working in one of her father’s betting shops, processing customer wagers. That could so easily have been the end of the story.

However, Denise wanted to be able to take a more active role in the family business, so she enrolled at nearby Sheffield University and spent the next three years studying for a degree in econometrics. It meant that when she graduated, she was able to help direct the overall strategic direction the business was taking. Her father was not the sort of man to give his daughter special treatment, but it soon became obvious that she was one of the brightest people on the team, and by the age of 28 she was Managing Director.



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Show your passion

Stoke City has always been pivotal to Denise Coates’ life, and that of her family. In fact, three generations have grown up watching the team, and Denise’s own children make a fourth. In 2006, Bet 365 purchased the club, and the ground where they play is now known as Bet 365 Stadium.

Make no mistake, this was no vanity project. It also helped establish Bet 365 as a real tangible company, one that is actively involved in the real world and that shares its customers’ passions. That’s an important thing to achieve, and is not always easy in today’s online world.

You’ve got to put in the hours

Every entrepreneur knows that it takes hard work and long hours to make a business work. But when Denise Coates shifted the focus away from physical storefronts and bet everything on cyberspace, that fact came into sharp focus. In the online world, time operates differently. There is no place for traditional office hours for staff, and customers expect you to be open for business and responsive 24/7. Denise learned that the hard way and spent long days and nights in that tiny mobile office.

There’s no place like home

Let’s not romanticize it, Stoke of Trent is neither the most salubrious nor the wealthiest place in the UK. The former industrial town still shows plenty of clues as to its past, but its future is less clear.




Yet for Denise Coates, Stoke is home, and she still lives just outside the city to this day. Her father Peter is chairman of Stoke City, and her husband Richard is the club’s Director. Denise is also closely involved in a number of philanthropic projects in the local area.

Life Design

Denise could easily move to Monte Carlo or the Hollywood Hills, and live surrounded by other billionaire families. But Stoke was instrumental in making her father a success story and in her becoming the most successful businesswoman in the country. Wanting to give something back is one thing, but also ask yourself this – why break a winning formula? We can’t wait to see what the next Coates generation will achieve!