EVERY mother will feel Sara Murray’s anxiety when she says: “I was at a supermarket checkout, I turned round for a moment and when I turned back my daughter was gone. I spoke to security and while they searched the store they told me to stand by the exit of the car park and check the back of the cars. I was horrified. ”
Luckily, Murray’s daughter had not gone far, but the terror she felt sparked an idea: “I thought with so much technology these days, why can’t there be a way to help me find her when she’s too young to explain where she is.”
So she took the idea and turned it into a business called Buddi in 2004. The company makes and markets GPS tracking devices that are small and simple enough for a child or an elderly person to handle. There are even plans to use it to monitor criminals doing work in the community as an alternative to prison.
The concept has faced some criticism, but Murray explains: “It’s more Big Mother than Big Brother. It actually gives young and vulnerable people more independence because it puts the carer’s mind at ease.” It’s proving lucrative. The company currently boasts an annual turnover of £12m.
This isn’t the first time Murray has been entrepreneurial though. She has set up four companies, using £200,000 of the profits from her last business to jump-start Buddi.
After studying psychology, physiology and philosophy at Oxford, Murray went into consultancy in the City. But it wasn’t long before she set off to do her own thing. “I wasn’t bored at my City job, I just have this compulsion to try to do things people say can’t be done.” Her first challenge was a computer software company, which got started somewhat by chance when she landed herself a client. “It was luck. Entrepreneurs always think their success is down to their business plan and product – most of the time it is just luck.”
Her most well known venture, Confused.com, got started when she was working on her second venture, a marketing company. “I was working for a client when I realised that insurance websites were really complicated and that there needed to be a way to compare prices more easily.” To get the idea off the ground she managed to secure the support of five insurance companies, “that was essential to the success of the project,” she explains.
Murray sold Confused.com to Admiral in 2001 for an amount of money she refuses to disclose. But it was enough to retire at 30 had she wanted to.
So what has made Murray a serial success? “Well it’s luck – and setting yourself up so that luck comes your way,” she suggests. “But I suppose I’ve always had an ability to see what is needed in a market and how it will fit. I’ve heard other people struggle with it, so maybe it’s an skill unique to me.”