Karen Darby is one of those tell-it-honest entrepreneurs who admits that, on the path to mega-success, she encountered failures along with a helping of boredom.
How did that lead to a highly profitable company turning over more than £6 million a year? Rebecca Harding tells the tale.
When you walk into the large, open-plan office space in West Croydon, you hear nothing but the low hum of voices accompanied by tap-dancing fingers on computer keyboards. Around 40 people wearing headphones are encouraging consumers to switch to lower-cost suppliers. The atmosphere is calm, casual and friendly but also industrious and focused. This is a workplace with a purpose.
“Welcome to SimplySwitch!” says a voice from behind one of the computer screens at the back of the office. “It’s so nice to see you. How are you?” Rather than the expected personal assistant in a smart suit ready to accompany you to the CEO’s offices, you find that the voice is the CEO, working at a computer station along with all the others. This is Karen Darby, the CEO and founder of SimplySwitch, the price comparison and switching service that helps consumers save money on their household bills. In late summer 2006, Darby’s company was acquired by the Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) Group for £22 million.
Karen Darby explains why SimplySwitch became such an entrepreneurial wonder. Customers use their service for free; the company generates its revenue by receiving a small, fixed fee from the energy company it switches a customer to. The person who leads the company is a rather large source of energy herself.