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Jazz Shaper: Sir Charles Dunstone

Posted on 17 February 2023

Aged 25, Sir Charles Dunstone set up Carphone Warehouse with £6,000 of his personal savings and began selling mobile phones out of his flat in Marylebone

Since then, the businessman has led Carphone Warehouse’s expansion across the UK, Europe, and beyond, including launching TalkTalk through the acquisition of Opal Telecom. Charles received a Knighthood for services to the telecommunications industry and his charitable work, and then a Royal Victorian Order (CVO) for his work with The Prince’s Trust. 

Charles has indirectly and directly invested in some of Britain’s fastest growing consumer brands, including, Boxpark, ME+EM, Strike and Five Guys Europe. He also entered into a joint venture to bring Five Guys to the UK in 2013, helping it to grow to over 130 locations and expand in Germany, France and Spain. 


It was an interesting feeling that we were sort of pioneering people that could do things differently.

You could be little and you could challenge the big people. There was a subtle shift, I really felt, in the public whereby probably ten years previously, you’d only go to big companies. You trusted Marks & Spencer’s, 

People were losing faith in big institutions and were prepared to give the sort of enthusiastic, cheeky startup their money and their time in a way I don’t think they would have done previously.

If you have some success, you can be more prepared to have some failure, you know. You've made some money so if you lose some money, you haven’t lost everything. 

I tried really hard to make the people that worked in the middle understand they were only there to support the people in the front line.

I think sadly as you get older, you get more prepared to accept compromise and things not being perfect, whereas in your twenties, you fight that. You just have that zeal and belief.

You don’t ever relax, you don’t ever sit back and think “phew, great, we did it, we made it”. There’s always the next thing

I think when the licences were first given, the Government who were licencing them, thought that there'd only ever be 400,000 mobile phone users in the UK. 

I’m a good door opener and I have a slightly rebellious imagination.

I love having something which is a really ridiculously audacious claim in business. We will sell your house for free. No quibble. No nothing. People are like “what?”.

I quite like upsetting the establishment of an industry.

You’ve got have a point of difference. You’ve got to have a reason why your thing is better than someone else’s.

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