“IF YOU HAVE A DREAM AND YOU WANT THINGS TO HAPPEN, THEY REALLY CAN HAPPEN IF YOU WORK HARD, STAY COMMITTED AND NEVER GIVE UP” A BEAMING MICHELLE MONE, FOUNDER OF LEADING UNDERWEAR COMPANY, ULTIMO, TOLD HIS & HERS.
When the His & Hers team arrived at the Liverpool ONE Debenhams store to meet leading entrepreneur, Michelle Mone, at the launch of the new Ultimo concession, an eager crowd of photographers had already gathered. As Michelle strode through the store, the photographers sprang into action, capturing Michelle’s warm and friendly encounters with the customers who’d queued to meet her. After smilingly agreeing to all requests for pictures, Michelle ushered the His & Hers team into a quiet area for our interview.
Having left the crowd of well wishers behind her, Michelle smiled as she confessed: “Liverpool has always been a key city for us. I’ve always wanted shops in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester and Liverpool and this year we’re opening in all of these cities.”
Celebrating the success of Ultimo, which has become one of the UK’s best-loved lingerie brands, Michelle looked relaxed and confident and her eyes shone as she discusses the challenges of launching her business. However, as anyone who has read Michelle’s bestselling book, ‘Fight to the Top’ will know, her success has not come without significant challenges.
Born into near poverty in the east end of Glasgow, Michelle left school at just 15, launching Ultimo when she was just 20. Michelle told His & Hers that it would have been very easy to have written “the usual business book”, focusing on a rags to riches success story. However, the usually cheerful entrepreneur looked very serious for a moment as she told us that she had felt a sense of responsibility not simply to write about her triumphs. Michelle admitted that it had been a brave step to be utterly candid when writing her book, but added that if her honesty inspired women to start up a business or to turn their lives around, the gamble of laying her life bare on the page would all have been worthwhile.
Michelle said: “I’ve been offered a book deal for the past six years (but when it came down to it) I had a tough time writing the book. I was opening up a lot of old wounds. I was drinking a lot (while writing the book).” However, having written about her darkest moments, from the highs and lows of running her own business to surviving a high-profile divorce following her husband’s infidelity with a trusted employee, Michelle has emerged stronger and happier. Michelle said: “I don’t regret any of it. It’s a powerful book and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I wanted the book to inspire people and to be really open and candid.” Adding: “I have lost just under eight stone. I’m running four 10Ks for charity and I couldn’t walk to the local store without getting out of breath before. The lower you fall, the higher you fly when you come back up!”
Confessing that she’d been through “absolute hell” for two years at the time of her separation from her ex husband, who she ultimately bought out of the business, Michelle said: “Ultimo is doing incredibly well. I’ve just been offered three more book deals, so will be writing another one this year. It’s beyond my wildest dreams!”
Michelle exudes positivity, but like many who’ve experienced challenges in their own lives, she takes extra care to take time to speak kindly and encouragingly to everyone she meets, including slightly startstruck shoppers. She appears to realise intuitively just how much a few thoughtful words or a simple compliment can make when someone’s having a bad day.
The entrepreneur’s natural empathy and rare candour make her an incredibly easy interview, but perhaps our location helped, too. Michelle declared: “Liverpool people are a lot like people from Glasgow. I’m here quite a lot… and I love the city!” We end our interview by asking what sets an Ultimo bra apart from the crowd. Michelle replies: “an Ultimo bra gives you confidence”, then as if to illustrate her point, light heartedly revealed that she’d be going out in London that evening (wearing her best-selling Ultimo harness as outer-wear), perhaps to meet a lucky man.
We’re sure that Michelle and her confidenceboosting fashion will be making a big impression on the men and women of London and beyond and are very much looking forward to the next chapter of her inspiring story.
His & Hers met with expert bra fitters, Rachel Booth & Hayley Youngman and we’d highly recommend enlisting their fitting services at the Ultimo concession within Debenhams, Liverpool ONE. Confidence (and cleavage) boosting comes as standard:
Related feature: Gina Tucci’s Success Secrets.