Call Britannia, the call-centre business which Darby launched after selling the price comparison site SimplySwitch to the Daily Mail and General Trust for £22m, is based in deprived neighbourhoods employing the long-term unemployed.
Call Britannia burst into the spotlight a year ago after securing £1m, with the Bridges Social Entrepreneurs Fund investing £500,000, Big Issue Invest (BII) giving £350,000 and Call Britannia management, led by Darby, invested £150,000, and setting itself an ambitious target of creating 10,000, six-month jobs in 10 UK centres in seven years.
However Darby lost the backing of the Call Britannia board and investors and was asked to step down from her role as CEO, although not from the business completely, before Bridges and Big Issue Invest would release the next lot of cash.
However, Darby says she feels both ‘angry’ and ‘betrayed’.
‘If it was just an ordinary business and it was being taken away that’s bad enough, but this was all about being a role model. I left school at 16, grew up in a council estate, free school meals and the rest of it.
Call Britannia chair Sarah Anderson, who has also held board positions on other social enterprises such as the Hoxton Apprentice, said that the majority of the board came to the conclusion that the company would work better without Darby’s involvement.
‘A decision was made by the majority of the board that this was best course of action to be a sustainable business on an ongoing basis with the social mission where it started from,’ said Anderson.
Call Britannia recently won a contract with HomeServe, Britain’s home emergency repair experts.