In the New Year’s honours list, Michelle Mone (creator of the Ultimo Bra) was given an OBE. Mone left school at 15 without any qualifications, but has won numerous business awards and has a hugely successful business. A grand achievement indeed.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of listening to Michelle talk about her journey to building her business. By far, it was one of the most inspiration talks I’ve been to – mostly because she talked about the downs as well as the ups of starting MJM. There was no skirting around the bad bits. There was no brushing it under the carpet with “its really hard work” without any details. She told stories about what she had to do in order to get to where she did – warts and all.
She talked about how there was so much pressure in her marriage (her business partner was her husband) that they would have blazing rows between them: once, she tipped the entire contents of the house bin over the top of her husband’s car. There was another time when no one would buy her bra after months of R&D. So she went down to the offices of a major clothing retailer and refused to leave until she got the store owner (or equivalent of) to try her bra on (which she did and put in an order immediately). Then there was also the time when the bank called her loan in, facing bankruptcy, she didn’t know what to do and called the CEO of a major bank (who she had met at a business awards dinner a few weeks before) in the middle of the night in a flood of tears, begging him to help. He made some calls and arranged for the loan to be transferred over to his bank in the morning and her business survived another day.
These are the ugly tales that no one tells about big successes. After hearing her talk – I don’t think anyone deserves to be honoured any more than she does.