Speaking at Elite Business Live, the Ultimo founder opened up about her body battles, love for journalling and what drives her: a desire to help people
From the way she got department store Selfridges to stock her bras – by tearfully pestering a member of staff until they tried one on – to her decision to model her own underwear line – of which she says “it was just one day but people won’t stop talking about it” – Baroness Michelle Mone has never shied away from injecting her own personality into her business or wearing her heart on her sleeve.
If anything she wishes she had listened to her emotions more, explaining to the audience at Elite Business Live how her intuition kicked in when she first met a distributor and had a nagging feeling that there was something a bit “dodgy” about them. While Mone says her husband overruled her in that instance, her instincts later turned out to be right and the relationship soured. Her personal feelings continue to rule her decisions and determine the projects she takes on. “In business, you have to go with your heart,” she says. That’s perhaps what’s helped her stay on course despite the detractors.
Her incredible business drive – which keeps her buzzing through the day and night on just four and a half hours sleep – has very personal origins. Coming from a desire to help her family after her brother died and her dad was made redundant, this passion motivates Mone to keep moving. While some may be content with going from dreaming up a life as an entrepreneur in a broom cupboard in Glasgow’s East End to rubbing shoulders with peers in the House of Lords, Michelle Mone hasn’t stopped dreaming. In fact, she keeps a black leather journal, in which she jots down 20 goals each month. “Don’t sit on your backside and wait for everyone to come to you,” she advises. “Successful people never give up.”
Having gone through a very public divorce, Mone doesn’t shy away from the hurt the breakup of her marriage caused her or the impact it had on her weight. “I was in a dark, lonely corner,” she recalls. While come CEOs may avoid any mention of unhappiness, Mone speaks frankly about her battle with depression and the moment she hit rock bottom. It was when she was lying on her bathroom floor, feeling overweight in her size 22 clothes and worrying about her ailing business, that an order from her mum to “get up” prompted her to reconnect with a contact she made at a party – who happened to be the head of commercial banking for Europe at HSBC – and breathe new life into her business.
More recently, Mone has been outspoken about issues like the role of women in business and the Scottish referendum, something that ultimately provoked death threats. Does she worry she might be overstepping the mark or going to far by getting involved in politics? Don’t bet on it. Looking back at the negative reaction, she said: “That didn’t bother me, I kept fighting.”
And now it’s time to give back. Since selling Ultimo, she has indulged her desire to help people, having recently launched a two-day business coaching course and making plans for a world tour with motivational speaker to the stars Tony Robbins. She also teased a new venture relating to startup homes, saying there’s a “massive crisis” in Britain’s housing market and that she’s keen to help. With experience in living in somewhat compact spaces herself, she’s once again speaking from the heart.