Debra Searle MVO, MBE


As a serial entrepreneur, adventurer, activist and World Rowing Championship gold medalist, Debra Searle is becoming one of the most motivating role models in the after-dinner speaking circuit. Her expertise in a range of disciplines makes her an extremely versatile speaker who can offer compelling stories from her adventures, tips on how to achieve peak performance in sports and offer advice on how to become a successful entrepreneur. With over sixteen years of experience as a speaker, she is one of the most sought-after female speakers on our roster and has proven to be highly effective in making revolutionary changes to her audiences.

Born alongside her twin sister Hayley Barnard in Plymouth, the twins were given up for adoption at birth. Debra attended Stover School and discovered her love of expeditions from an early age. She successfully participated in The Duke Of Edinburgh Award and the Ten Tors, an annual challenge to the teenagers of the South West of England, but otherwise had quite a low performance throughout her junior education. She managed to achieve a First-Class Hons degree in Outdoor Adventure Education from De Montfort University in Leicester whilst she was representing England in tennis, netball and lacrosse.

Her professional sporting career began when she was selected as part of the British Dragon Boat Racing in the 1998 European Rowing Championships before coming away from the 1999 World Championships with three medals.

Taking her love of outdoor activities to the next level, Debra and her husband set out to compete in the Atlantic Rowing Race in 2001. Having already attracted the media’s attention as the first couple to attempt the challenge, Searle became a sensation when she completed 111 days at sea rowing solo due to her husband suffering from extreme anxiety. She has since completed a whole host of adventures including a traverse of Baffin Island in the Arctic Circle, taking part in the Yukon River Quest and sailing around Antarctica.

As a serial entrepreneur, Searle has founded many successful businesses that also capture her passion for sport, adventure and making a difference to society. She first launched Shoal Projects Limited in 2002 with the aim of completing more expeditions in order to write books and create TV programmes in order to teach others the lessons learnt along the way. She has regularly featured on BBC and has published Rowing It Alone and The Journey: How to Achieve Against the Odds along with contributions to British Newspapers.

By 2014, Debra has launched another business. MIX Diversity Developers Ltd is a consultancy that aims to educate corporations on diversity, inclusion, unconscious bias and cultural change. As a keen advocate for diversity, Searle is also a founding member of The Business Women’s Network Forum based in Buckingham Palace and works with female leaders to create a gender balance best practice in the workplace.

Debra Searle was awarded an MBE in the 2002 Birthday Honors and later received an MVO in 2014 due to her efforts as the only female and youngest board member of The Duke Of Edinburgh Award. One of the most inspiring women on our roster, Debra is a sure bet for a variety of events. As a leader in sports and the business world, she has the ability to cover a range of topics and is guaranteed to leave a lasting impact on your audience.

To book Debra Searle MVO, MBE as the peak performance speaker for your corporate event, function or conference, simply contact the Champions Speakers agency using the contact details below.

When she’s at corporate events, Debra is known to cover the following topics:

  • Choose Your Attitude! It’s not magic: it’s mindset
  • Teamwork & Positive Relationships
  • Strategies for not just coping but excelling during times of change
  • Leading through change

Watch Debra delivering a speech for the audience of TEDxSalford, here:

“Debra not only has a great story to tell, but she uses her experiences to support real business situations and bring alive those everyday moments faced by leaders. She clearly understood our organisation and within an hour had totally transformed the mindset of some of the most ‘fixed’ people in this intimate audience.” – Anthony, TMF Group

“There are good speakers, there are great speakers and then there is Debra Searle. I’ve never seen an audience so engaged, inspired and in touch with the messages that she shared.” – Matt, Auto Trader UK.

“I thought she was fantastic and brought in some really useful tools to use when choosing your mindset and facing challenges. She has such an inspirational story, great to hear all the details first hand. We’ve been getting great feedback all day, she was very well received.” – Yee, Deloitte

“‘I cannot thank you enough for the fantastic session you delivered at IFS today. You left me feeling incredibly empowered and motivated and you are an incredible role model for professional women (and men) across the globe. It was so refreshing to see a human presentation filled with compassion, honesty and humour.
You are an inspiration and your messages resonated with me loud and clear.
Thank you so much, I’m excited to tell my colleagues about you and share your message.
IFS, Institute for Fiscal Studies