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Karin Sode

Female Founder Spotlight: Karin Sode

7 March 2021|Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder

IWD Inspirational Female Founders Spotlight: Karin Sode
IWD Inspirational Female Founders Spotlight: Karin Sode

Karin Sode is the CEO and co-founder of People’s Energy Company, which was formed in 2017. She runs the company with her husband, David Pike. People’s Energy is committed to ending fuel poverty in the UK, and is set up as a Community Interest Company to help achieve this. The company has experienced enormous growth, growing by 300% in 2020 alone. Before founding People’s Energy, Karin owned a consulting business where she worked with some of the world’s leading brands before making the switch from consulting to the energy business.

What would you love to share to encourage other women to start their own company?

When I was younger I never thought I would end up the co-founder and leader of a £300m business – a Community Interest Company, with over 400 employees. And an energy supply business at that, as I knew very little about energy (other than High School physics and setting the timer on our home boiler!). However, I have learnt that it is possible to learn a lot in a short space of time!

I wasn’t overtly driven or ambitious when younger – although, looking back, I have always had a strong internal drive for excellence, and a degree of competitiveness. I couldn’t not study, just in case I could do better… In addition, my desire to have a positive impact in the world and in my community has grown exponentially. While my drive was quite hidden, also to myself, others around me expressed their beliefs in my capabilities and that spurred me on, beyond what I thought I might be capable of, and beyond what I had even thought of as possibilities… 

To succeed, however, it has been vital for me to have a few, supportive people around me who knew me really well, including my strengths but also vulnerabilities. Not sycophants, but people who were willing to be authentically supportive and remind me of my capabilities when self-doubt and overwhelm crept in, but who also had the courage to challenge me.

It’s a cliché, but I couldn’t – and wouldn’t – want to do this on my own.

What are your 5 top tips for entrepreneurial success?

Go for it. Figure out what really matters to you, what your strengths are, and the impact      you would like to have. Then go for it. Don’t wait for others to invite you.

Learn the commercial aspects of the business early and never let it out of your sight.      Whatever else you are trying to achieve, it is only possible if your venture is run very tightly and commercially.

Be agile. Identify the core elements that will make or break the business and be prepared to      move really fast if any of those elements are even the slightest off balance. A key reason People’s Energy has succeeded when 15 suppliers have gone under since 2019, and with much less cash to start with, is that we have moved extremely fast, spotting possible problems early and taken action very quickly to sort the problems.

Get a few ‘fans’ around you to support you, both when it’s fun and adrenaline filled, and when it’s a long, hard slog… Not people pleasers, but honest people who know you well and will tell you the truth

Appoint strong leaders and let go. Starting up a business can make us feel like super-women      at times – but no-one is. To create a sustainable business beyond the      early start up, it is essential to have others around us we can trust, and our task then is to let go… Much easier said than done when the business is our baby.

Who are the 5 women who inspire you the most?

One of our People’s Energy managers – she has encountered challenges throughout her life, from an early start, and have fought her way through it with immense grit and determination. Despite all this, she is also one of the best representatives of the People’s Energy value, Human-to-Human – she cares deeply about others but is able to combine this is a driven, no-nonsense approach. 

My daughter. She has suffered from health issues from when she was eight and was bed ridden for several years and not in school for years, missing out on some of her primary and most of her secondary education. She has fought back, got herself an HND and is now a first-year architecture student and getting ‘top of the class’ reviews for her work. Needless to say I am proud of her, but also full of admiration for her determination

Nicola – A trans-woman in her sixties who had a traditional family and children, before she transitioned and faced a lot of challenge as a result. She is beautifully herself and courageous!

Liz – A close friend, also in her sixties, who is one of the fiercest but also most empathetic and emotionally connected people I know

My grandmother – she had four children, including twins, in short succession and lived and worked on a farm, alongside with running a B&B to get extra money for the family. Despite all the hard work, she never complained, and she always remembered to ask how others were, caring about their wellbeing.

What is your favourite saying/inspirational quote?

‘What’s your thinking behind that?’

I always want to understand what lies behind things, to make sure we don’t make decisions based on assumptions, and that we seek out the evidence, identify the core issue rather than what we think is the issue… This will help us create better solutions and be more effective decision makers.