Lady Michelle Mone started out as a bra designer and now is one of the most celebrated tycoons in the United Kingdom. She was awarded the role of Start-Up Business Tsar by former Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015. In that same year, she was appointed a life peerage as Baroness Mone of Mayfair OBE in the House of Lords. These are seriously impressive achievements, especially for a girl from Glasgow that left school without any qualifications.
When Lady Mone was just 15-years-old her father fell ill and became wheelchair-bound. Her family struggled to cope financially and she was forced to leave school and seek full-time employment.
Lady Mone revealed frankly, “I grew up in a working class family where you needed to work to survive. We never had much money and I knew that if I wanted to get anywhere in life I couldn’t take a sick day. I had to get up and get on.”
At just 22-years-old she became the youngest ever Head of Sales and Marketing for Labatts Brewers but two years later Lady Mone was made redundant. Just 6-weeks after this devastating blow, she was at an event and was unhappy with the uncomfortable bra she was wearing, this sparked an idea that would change her life forever.
Lady Mone saw a gap in the market for a better product and the world famous Ultimo bra was born. Little did she know that this idea would turn into one of the UK’s lingerie powerhouses for over two decades.
She recalled, “My life used to revolve around the business, I was chained to my desk for 14 hour days without any life.I realise now that I was feeding a monster with Ultimo. It simply got bigger and bigger and sucked me in, it took over my life.”
She added, “A distributor once ran off with £1.4m of my money, I knew everything was crashing down and I was wondering how I was going to save it. I was getting divorced during this time too and it was one of the hardest times in my life. I’m not sure how I managed to survive, but you just have to get on with it.”
Newspapers all over the world caught wind of Lady Mone’s high-profile divorce and had a field day when they discovered that her then-husband was in a relationship with the woman that Lady Mone had appointed Head of Design for Ultimo.
Lady Mone confessed, “I’ve been through hell with the press. They’ve been my best friend and my worst enemy, but I really don’t regret anything. The same goes for social media, always remain calm and don’t lose your temper. I think simply walking away is the strongest thing you can do.”
She added retrospectively, “I wish I could have told myself to stop worrying so much, and to stop being so stressed. My weight also had a lot to do with the way I was feeling, which was extremely down and depressed but I put in a lot of hard work to turn it around.”
Lady Mone would later sell her multi-million pound empire to MAS Holdings, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of intimates.
She revealed, “Since I sold the business I transferred my focus to my family, my friends and to myself. Now I love my life, I’ve been there, I’ve done it and I’ve got the t-shirt.”
She added, “I’ve been working full-time since I was 15-years-old. Lots of people take a year out or go travelling, that was never really ‘me’, so I suppose I’m living my life backwards now.”
Lady Mone is now happily remarried to fellow entrepreneur Doug Barrowman and hasn’t looked back.
She said, “Doug and I work a lot on the Barrowman Foundation which helps underprivileged kids. When we work, it is powerful work but I think I was stressed every day, from when I was 15 until I sold the business.”
Lady Mone is a shining example that with vision, hard work and determination, you can achieve anything, no guts, no glory. When she was younger, she revealed that she was often told that she wouldn’t amount to anything.
She said seriously, “The harder you work, the luckier you become. Never let anyone tell you that you won’t amount to anything, particularly not when it’s motivated by the colour of your skin, your religion, because of where you’re from or the way you speak.”
She continued, “Never let anyone tell you that that is who you’re going to be and that’s it. It’s down to you. You only live once, you’ve got to give it your best shot.”
They say that you shouldn’t meet your heroes, they haven’t met Lady Michelle Mone.