Karen Emanuel, CEO Key Production Group


Believe in yourself, follow your passion, know your numbers.

Karen is the CEO of Key Production which she started in 1990. Through several acquisitions, Key has become the largest agency in the UK specialising in manufacturing vinyl records and CDs, bespoke packaging, global sourcing, and project management for both music and other industries.

Karen also has a property company, and whilst on holiday in Nicaragua, bought an island on which she built a sustainable hotel. www.jicarolodge.com.

In between watching football, cooking up a storm, travelling and going to concerts, Karen also mentors in the music industry, at her old university and at local schools.

Karen has recently won the 2018 NatWest Everywoman award, as well as Enterprising Women 2014 Women of the year and a commendation for the Music Industry Women in Music.

Top tips

  • There is never a wrong question to ask. Keep asking questions to gain knowledge and understanding. Keep learning, not only is knowledge powerful but it keeps you nourished. Passion and determination drove me at the start and still drive me now.
  • It can be lonely at the top – friends and family support is very important
  • Whilst sometimes failing can feel like the end of the world, learn from it and it makes you stronger and more able to deal with it in the future
  • Networking is what initially built my business and helped me become successful. The business revolves around trust and building then maintaining relationships.
  • Always be true to yourself – go with your gut instinct.
  • Always know your numbers. I have built up a great relationship with my accountant who I use as a soundboard and an advisor along with my lawyer. I’ve built a business with little financial help so I have never relied on loans/overdrafts which meant being very careful and always aware of where we are financially. Budgeting and cash flow, worst case scenarios are all important so that you know what might happen if…
  • The people who ensure the success of my business are my teams who work in the business. Be a good and fair leader, don’t micromanage, trust in your teams.
  • I love how we are encouraged to have role models and mentors – something that wasn’t so encouraged/available when I started out which makes me want to give back the knowledge that I have learnt over my years in business. My parents were my role models in life, they taught me to question, to be honest, and truthful, be myself, be independent and outgoing, put myself in someone else’s shoes, that it was ok to fail as long as I tried my best and to reach for the stars.


the most valuable piece of advice SOMEONE HAS GIVEN YOU

Believe in yourself.

Your key piece advice to someone looking to progress

The only person truly responsible for your career is you.

Burning questions and advice I would give myself

I’m not sure I had any burning questions – when I started, I was so young, I had nothing to lose so just went with what I knew I was good at and thought if it wasn’t successful. I’d just get a job!

Advice I would give myself today (but probably not take)

Try not to get too emotionally involved with your staff – this is so hard not to do when you are young and a tight-knit team. It makes it very difficult to lead when the company has grown, and you have to try to distance yourself professionally.