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 "mumtreneur".
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