This is Wales. This is innovation and entrepreneurship working together

As the founder and former CEO of financial services comparison website Go Compare, Hayley Parsons OBE is known as one of the UK’s most successful businesswomen. Famously launching Go Compare from her kitchen table, she worked tirelessly to make her vision her reality before selling the company for £190M just eight years later. Having previously been involved with a Welsh Government entrepreneurship panel, she’s now relishing her role with REAP and through BE THE SPARK, expects the programme to start a movement of entrepreneurship across Wales.

For someone who has enjoyed so much success, Hayley Parsons’ early years were remarkably normal. Raised in Cwmbran, she left her local comprehensive with a handful of GCSEs and headed straight into full-time work at Cardiff-based car insurance specialist Admiral.

Heading to an office each day, 16-year-old Hayley was exactly where she wanted to be. “Back then it was all about earning my own money and never being dependent on anybody else,” she says.

After thirteen years at Admiral, she played a key role in launching the company’s spin-off comparison site, Confused.com – helping to revolutionise the insurance world in the process. But in true entrepreneurial style, even with a handsome salary and unbounded kudos from her peers, Hayley was getting restless.

With Confused.com in its fifth year, she became unhappy at the direction the comparison site industry was taking. She was convinced things could be done bigger and better – and launched Go Compare to prove it.

REAP is a platform to get Wales moving

Rather than go it completely alone though, she sold her vision to some of her old colleagues and invited them along for the journey. “I didn’t want to leave Wales,” she says. “I had my own team at Confused.com and didn’t want to be without them. It was absolutely the right moment to leave, with the right people. It was just my time.”

Eight years later, when Hayley sold Go Compare for £190M, staff numbered more than 150 and she’d been awarded an OBE for services to the UK economy. It was the adventure of a lifetime.

Although Hayley is now devoting more time to herself and her family, she’s also fully committed to REAP and is looking forward to seeing the programme bring entrepreneurship and innovation together to allow people in Wales to take that first step, realise their potential and create the future that they’ve always wanted.