Karen Birch

Over the past 12 months I have interviewed some amazing and inspiring women and with the huge changes here at the3rdi Magazine I’ve been asked to tell you a bit about myself, share my journey as an entrepreneur and tell you something about my vision for the future.

As well as being MD at the3rdi Magazine, I am a gallery artist, selling sculptures and paintings across Scotland, I teach yoga and meditation, though not as much as I would like to these days, and I’m a volunteer befriender and relief care worker at a community for adults with learning difficulties.

I have a wonderful teenage son and live on the edge of the Scottish Highlands.

My biggest challenge at the moment is that I am a lifelong supporter of Liverpool F.C. Enough said!

I’m often asked to speak at meetings and conferences about my entrepreneurial journey; partly as it hasn’t been a straightforward career path, more crazy paving as a colleague once observed. These life lessons can be found here, and serve as advice and inspiration to other entrepreneurs.
I often hear entrepreneurs telling stories of how they knew they were going to be entrepreneurs; you know the kind of thing – they sold sweets to their pals in the playground or charged them to listen to their record collection but it wasn’t really like that for me – and I suspect that it isn’t that way for most people. These individual who claim early enterprise are sometimes driven from an early age but more often are guilty of re-writing their own history to suit their current circumstances.

After school I went to University of Sheffield to stuudy Zoology. I worked as a medical microbiologist, water treatment engineer, marketing manager and became a board member of a multi-national pharmaceutical company by the time I was 29. While working I studied for an MBA – two nights a week for three years. Hard work but, if asked, I always recommend that people study management while they are doing management rather than tacking a post graduate management degree onto the end of their student life.

As a marketing manager in a medical company I’d commissioned advertising and promotional material from a number of large agencies. What I’d found is that I ended up doing most of the work and paying them! They didn’t understand the medical terms. They were good at selling bread or beer or bathrooms but were clueless when it came to medical equipment. So, I established a highly successful marketing agency to cater for the needs of the emerging biotechnology sector; most notably being involved from the first with PPL Therapeutics of Dolly The Sheep fame.  I took a place on the board  of the Scottish Biomedical Association, later being appointed as Director General.  In this role I took the association from one struggling to survive on grants from central and local government sources to a thriving, vibrant member driven organisation.

At the same time I was working with a partner developing software, specifically database driven applications. Following a trip to the USA, where it became clear that the internet  presented a great opportunity, I decided to join my partner full-time and launched an internet retail company which very quickly grew to become Scotland’s leading Internet retailer, selling Scottish goods world-wide and winning many awards along the way! I also advised the Scottish Parliament on their e-commerce strategy at this time.
I retired from e-commerce in 2006 to concentrate on my artwork and now sell my work in galleries across the country. I make sculptures out of clay that look like lizards emerging from driftwood.

As you can see they are very distinctive! I quickly became known as “The Lizard Lady!”
In 2009 a new venture was suggested and I joined my broher Phil to launch the3rdi magazine. The3rdi magazine looks at business issues from a woman’s perspective. It has, from the start, been a collaborative project with contributions from some of the UK’s leading business men and women. I am committed to the idea that much more can be achieved by co-operation than by competition and have structured the magazine as a co-operative to reflect this.

I am also a Female Entrepreneurship Ambassadors (UKFEA), one of 50 dynamic enterprising women from across the UK who are working alongside women and girls to encourage them to consider, start and grow businesses.

I am a signatory to the Women’s Enterprise Policy document aimed at persuading government to do more to support enterprise, particularly women-led businesses.

I worked with the Inspiring Leaders Foundation to create a forum for senior women leaders, launched in Edinburgh in June 2011, and continue to work on focus groups that were formed specifically to improve diversity in the boardroom and to promote young enterprise.

I am a board member at Glasgow Women’s Aid and work to improve the lives of women who have suffered domestic violence.

I have recently taken on a position on the board of Glasgow Women’s Library and look forward to supporting the library in this the anniversary year.



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