In episode 18 of Micro Entrepreneur: the magic of thinking small, I had a great time speaking with millionaire Karen Darby, Serial Entrepreneur and Pioneer .

This week’s guest

Karen is the founder of the exciting crowd funding site Crowd Mission which help social and ethical businesses get crowd funding for their new business. It’s a really exciting way to get initial finance for your business… to see how their crowd funding works, check out one of Crowd Mission’s current crowd funding projects Big Blue Cuddle here.

At the age of just 22, Karen became a young entrepreneur. She set up one of the country’s first telemarketing companies, the Decisions Group, now part of Sitel. Within seven years the company had more than 200 staff and sales in excess of £4m.

By 1990, she had decided it was time for a new challenge.  She sold her share of the company and set up her second business, a firm providing training for call-centre staff; Karen Darby Direct. With two young sons and working from home, Karen became a “mumpreneur”. She personally trained hundreds of people in the call centre industry and for many it was a life changing experience. In fact, many champions were raised in ‘Karen’s Stable’, several of whom have gone on to set up their own highly successful businesses.

In 2003, Karen launched her third and most successful venture, SimplySwitch, a price comparison service. She secured venture capital funding from Bridges Community Ventures, which was subject to the business meeting certain social criteria such as being based in one of the most deprived areas of the UK. Initially launched as Simply Energy Ltd offering consumers a free and impartial switching service for gas and electricity, it quickly extended its portfolio of products to include home phone, mobile, broadband and a range of financial products and was re-branded SimplySwitch. The company created over 100 jobs and helped thousands of consumers save over £20m on their household bills. In August 2006 Karen sold SimplySwitch to the Daily Mail for £22m.

What we covered in the show:

Karen’s entrepreneurial journey including –

  • How she sees the trends and rides the wave, rather than swimming against the tide
  • How putting a proposition together that’s easy to understand and addressing a specific need is a no-brainer
  • Why selling is simply giving the people an opportunity to buy what they need, and why selling is a noble art and an essential skill
  • Why you need to be able to embrace failure as a business owner and get out of your comfort zone
  • Why clients need to hear you ‘passion’ not your ‘technique’
  • How being a success is about living it on ‘your own terms’
  • Her experience of VC’s and why you need to be careful who you partner with and how much control you give over
  • Her latest venture Crowd Mission – creating a financial and social return that benefits society

Great Quote

‘Our future life is in the hands of entrepreneurs, scientists and game changers and if you aren’t one of those for goodness sake back someone who is!”



SKY – Crowd Box TV (see exciting pitches from entrepreneurs)

Contact Karen

About the Podcast

The Micro Entrepreneur Podcast is your place to come and hear me talk about all things business for the micro business owner.  I speak with experts, authors and other micro business owners and what they are doing to build and grow a successful micro business.

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