INVENTOR Thomas Gostello has set up a base in a unit at Cheethams Mill, Stalybridge, from where he recently began exporting his Glowstone smart mug all over the world.
The 38-year-old, who heads a team of nine at Glowstone, has already dispatched orders to the United States, Australia, Dubai, Taiwan, Iceland, Singapore, Mexico, Denmark and Vietnam.
“Surprisingly there has been more interest overseas than here,” explained Thomas whose smart mug contains electronics that prevent tea and coffee from going cold.
It was back in 2014 that Thomas, who was bored one night, dreamed up the idea that took more than three years and around £750,000 from that initial concept to production.
Iranian-born Thomas said: “I was running through products and thought nobody had produced a mug that keeps tea hot. I ran a Google search and found no sign of anything.
“It took a year for anything to get started as I didn’t have the confidence to commit as it is a life-defining moment whether it is a success or failure.
“It is a huge risk on a personal level as I have put everything into the smart mug. And if it doesn’t succeed, who will employ me?”
Thomas, who is the fourth generation of inventors in his family, has six patents – two for Glowstone products and four medical inventions.
And following on from the smart mug will be a smart torch that is due out in March/April.
Thomas believes the torch, that weighs only 50 grams but shines as bright as the largest on the market, could be more popular than the mug.
He continued: “I don’t want to be known as a mug company, but a technology one.
“I have 12 products in various stages of development and the plan is to launch three or four this year.”
Thomas is also to feature in a forthcoming documentary on ITV in which he and other fledgling entrepreneurs are mentored by Baroness Karren Brady.
And due to this appearance, Thomas added he had to turn down an appearance on Dragons Den.
“Footballers dream of playing in the final of the FA Cup, but mine as an inventor was to appear on Dragons Den,” he said.
“I was invited in last year but had to turn it down because I was involved in the ITV programme.”
Thomas added he spent nine months working with James Haillburton who gained £200,000 investment from Dragons Den for a 25 per cent stake in the company Illume Balloons. He invented Water Buoy, a product that makes keys and other objects float after being submerged in water.
These are exciting times for Thomas who admitted getting the company up and running was both challenging and traumatic.
He also paid tribute to his friend Brett Stradomsky, a shareholder in the
company and an engineer who works on the electronics for the smart mug.
Thomas said: “Without Brett’s support I don’t know whether I would have had the confidence to go through with it.
“Before we got our base in Stalybridge we worked for one year in the living room at my home.
“It is fair to say that the last three years have not been comfortable.
“They have been hard times for Brett and myself and there were months when we weren’t paid.”
Thomas raised £450,000 in exchange for shares in the company and a further £300,000.
It ought to be no surprise that Thomas should be an inventor as the gene runs in the family.
There was a time when Thomas, his father Ben and grandfather Gerald were all employed by Stoves Ltd.
Thomas worked in the drawing office and laboratories, Ben was engineering director and Gerald a consultant.
And Thomas’ great-grandfather Frank worked on the wiring on railway carriages at Wolverton as they changed from gas to electric.
“Other family members have been a massive inspiration for me to follow in their footsteps,” he said.
Thomas explained the benefits of working for Stove, saying: “It was a unique experience as I did a number of different jobs.
“I saw the management so could understand both sides so I would be best placed to make my own products.
“I remember my grandfather saying I should make mistakes with other people’s time and money for the first 10 years of my working life.
“I had spells at 10/11 businesses ranging from heavy duty engineering to micro medical design, and the same principles apply.”
Thomas revealed his inventions are all about convenience and making life easier for the consumer.
He said: “All my life I have tried to invent things. I remember in my teens working on a washing machine that would wash, dry and iron clothes in five minutes.
“It was similar to a car wash. The concept was good, but I had a problem with the pressure and it shredded the clothes.
“Somebody has since done it 20 years later, but it showed I was on the right path, but didn’t have the right things to execute it.”
Ben, 71, also assists Thomas at Glowstone working on the assembly of the smart mug, the electronics for which were designed by Dr Steve Mangan.
The mug retails for £129 and Thomas says that is only the cost of a meal out or box of wine.
“We don’t have an advertising budget so we are getting orders from people recommending the mug to their friends which is better than any advertising,” he said.
In fact Thomas is now developing what he describes as “the most expensive mug in the world” at £1,000. It will be a black bone china, 24ct gold gilded and hand painted heated mug.
Thomas, who describes himself as a “serial inventor”, is looking forward to the future.
He said: “We have had to overcome a number of problems, but am delighted how the company is looking.
“People get sick of pipe dreams, but we have shown we can deliver. And we can now release other products with credibility.”