British multi-millionaire and entrepreneur Michelle Mone may look like she has it all. She’s incredibly successful, beautiful, wealthy, has luxury homes dotted around the UK, and has raised three children.
In Mone’s new autobiography, the aptly titled “My Fight to the Top,” the 43-year-old details how she went from being a 15-year-old school dropout to building her own £50 million ($US70 million) lingerie empire Ultimo and a line of self-tanning products, UTan.
She also details the lows of her life, from being assaulted in 2003, to being robbed by an unnamed distributor for £1.8 million ($US2.7 million), and how her husband walked out her on Christmas day.
“I had to battle with my ex-husband who ended up having an affair with my designer,” Mone said. “It drove me to drinking around two bottles of wine a night.”
Fast forward to 2015 and Mone has a wealth of new opportunities on the horizon. She sat down with Business Insider for an exclusive interview from her penthouse London apartment to discuss how she turned things around and what it takes to succeed.
“When I mentor, I tell people that don’t have to look like a supermodel but you have have got to feel your best, look your best, and be confident,” she said.
One thing is clear: She doesn’t plan to retire from the spotlight any time soon.
Business Insider: Your book is incredibly frank and details your career but also your personal life in a lot of depth. Why did you decide to do this?
Michelle Mone: It was a big, big decision to make. I have always shouted from the rooftops about my businesses but I had never ever spoken about my personal life. But for the first time ever, I felt that the two were so connected that I had to [write this book].
What happened in my personal life affected my career too. I am not perfect and I have made a lot of mistakes and hopefully this will inspire people who read the book. Being an entrepreneur is incredibly lonely. There were many hurdles along the way. From starting out, to making it, and almost losing it, to fighting back, to nearly losing it all again. There have been extreme highs and extreme lows.
BI: You’ve been assaulted before outside your office in Glasgow and you’ve had £1.8 million stolen from a distributor, what was the lowest point in your life?
MM: I had to battle with my ex-husband (who Mone divorced in 2013) who ended up having an affair with my designer (Samantha Bunn). I fought to save the company (she bought out Michael’s share for £24 million) but that year was pure hell. It drove me to drinking around two bottles of wine a night.
BI: Do you find your honesty and openness in talking about your personal life has led to a lot of unwanted tabloid attention? For example, there were rumours about you hooking up with (Britain’s former X Factor singer) Shayne Ward!
MM: The thing is with the media, I have a love hate relationship with [them]. [Journalists] are only do their job and you can’t get your own way all the time. It doesn’t [work] like that.
Sometimes they get it badly wrong and I suppose, [the focus on me] is who is “she going out with?”.
I am just not ready [to date yet]. My life are my kids (she has Rebecca, 22, Declan 18, and Bethany, 14) and my businesses.
[In terms of the rumours of her dating singer Shayne Ward] He left the apartment at 8 that evening, my son was with me the whole time. Shayne is a great guy but there’s nothing there.
BI: Speaking of honesty, your anti-Scottish independence views caused a barrage of criticism on social media last year, do you still believe in Scotland staying within the union?
MM: I’m very passionate about my opinions.
The problem was, if you were against the referendum you were criticised for not being passionate about Scotland. That’s why I spoke out. I thought not being part of the union was a bad idea. We are better together.
It was dangerous for business as there were no [concrete] plans around the currency or the economy.
BI: Another opinionated business woman out there is Katie Hopkins (
The Sun columnist that gained fame for her outspoken views since leaving the reality show The Apprentice). Have your views changed about her since you gave her a dressing down seven years ago?
MM: Quite frankly, she’s a pain in the arse.
When it comes to Hopkins, I just think if you say “black,” she’ll say “white.” Her whole aim is to be outspoken to get attention. She needs to slag off kids’ names or [make fun of] whether they are ginger to get attention and notoriety.
We are very different. I am passionate about business and have a few businesses. She’s all about opening her mouth and letting her belly rumble. She really should shut up and get a life. When I met her on The Apprentice, I knew she would be a pain in the arse.
She’s a bad advert for women in business. She’s not even a real business woman. Money and a posh accent can’t buy you class.
BI: Back to business and, now in 2015, do you feel like life has changed dramatically?
MM: I am the happiest and healthiest I have ever been. [Mone dropped eight stone in weight since 2010]. When I started to lose weight and look more glamorous, doors started to open, it sounds horrible but it’s true.
You have to love yourself, not in an egotistical way but if you love yourself, everyone else will love you. Yes, some people will say you get successful obese business people. But are they happy? Probably not.
I never started off as a professional speaker but now I speak at events around the world. I absolutely love it. I also do personal mentoring to around 105 people and I am developing programmes with companies to help both men and women become better business people.
I am not a professional coach but I believe being healthy inside and out and cleansing your demons, helps you perform better in business and become a more positive person.
When I mentor, I tell people that don’t have to look like a supermodel but you have have got to feel your best, look your best, and be confident.
BI: What would you say is the secret to success in business and life in general?
MM: The secret is to try and do 75% of the things you’re really passionate about and maybe 25% doing the shitty jobs that have to be done. For instance, I hate doing the finance side but it’s got to be done. Don’t try and be all things to all men. Admit your weaknesses and celebrate your strengths.
BI: What inspires and drives you?
MM: I wake up every morning fearing I am going to fail. But I love a challenge, big or small. There’s so much I want to do. I only sleep four hours a night.
I love the water, it inspires me, even if it is dirty London water that I look at. I have always wanted to be next to the Thames. I only moved in [eight] weeks’ ago (into her Cheval Three Quays building in London, which overlooks the Tower of London, the Thames and Tower Bridge) but long may it continue. As Rafiki (the cartoon baboon royal adviser) said in the Lion King, it’s the circle of life. This isn’t going to last forever.
Every day is a school day, I learn something new every day, and I never know what’s going to happen next.
BI: What is one of the biggest mistakes you have made?
I never wanted to be a model or actress, I wanted to be a business woman. I don’t regret anything because I learn from my mistakes. I suppose one of my biggest mistakes was letting my husband join the business (three years after it started). I think if we had ground rules from the start then it would have been fine but, you know, when you go into business with family or friends, it won’t work unless you have those rules.
We took a lot of business home and it did affect the whole marriage. He was good at finance. I was good at marketing, design and PR. But we just became business partners.
BI: Will you ever just retire and live the life of luxury on a beach somewhere?
MM: No! I will do that when I am six foot under. I’ve just been offered 20 company board positions, I won’t take them all of course, but I want to do exciting things and I love a challenge.
I have delivered £1 billion in press for Ultimo, which I now only sit on the board of and do meetings with only 4 days a month, Ultimo is opening 40 more shops this year, I’ve had offers to write five more books, and UTan is doing really well. I want to develop more skincare products and I am going around the world doing speaking events and mentoring. Never say never but there are not enough hours in the day!
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