British lingerie tycoon Michelle Mone, 43,is the poster child for entrepreneurship and inspirational women in business.
So much so, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday named Mone as the country’s entrepreneurship tsar, which means she will help people get people back into work in areas of high unemployment.
They probably couldn’t have picked a better person. Her life may look glamorous now, but it hasn’t been plain sailing.
The Scottish founder of the British brand Ultimo, launched in 1996, grew up in an impoverished part of Glasgow, left school at 15 with no qualifications, and got pregnant at 18.
Troubles followed Mone into her later life. She was mugged and assaulted outside her office, her husband left her on Christmas Day 2011, and her messy divorce cost her nearly half her wealth.
Mone has charted her journey from jobless teen to creating one of the world’s most iconic lingerie brands in her new book, “My Fight to the Top.” The entrepreneur now has an estimated net worth of £20 million ($US30 million).
Here is her story, sourced from her book, her interview with Business Insider, as well as official pictures from her website, and several social media accounts.
Mone was bullied at school because she was 'terrible' academically, according to her new book, 'Michelle Mone: My Fight to The Top.'
Mone left school at age 15 with no qualifications. She became a model to help out her parents financially after her father was left in a wheelchair after a rare degenerative spinal disorder, which left him unable to work.
She then converted to Catholicism for Michael and got married at 19. She said she wasn't content being a housewife and wanted 'to make something' of her life.
Within two years, she had become the head of Labatt's Scottish sales and marketing team. But she was laid off by 24. By then, she had two children, Rebecca and Declan.
Michelle decided to set up her own company with the money she got from her redundancy while her husband became her 'financial adviser.'
In 1993, she decided to focus on bras after wearing a particularly uncomfortable cleavage-enhancing item at a dinner dance. Here are some of the results of her efforts.
While on holiday in Florida, Michelle read about a new silicon product that could help in her quest to make a new type of bra that was more flexible and natural looking. She then obtained a European licence to make bras from it and brought it back to Britain.
In November 1996, she founded MJM International Ltd., and the Ultimo brand was born. Her husband joined the company three years later.
She said Ultimo was then worth £50 million. Her net worth is currently around £20 million ($30 million).
She said in a press statement at the time: 'I'd go to photo shoots all the time and see gorgeous models in bras and knickers and they'd have beautiful bodies. I'd feel fat and ugly standing beside them.'
But is hasn't been plain sailing for Michelle and her company. Within the first few years of the company's existence, a distributor ran away with £1.8 million of Ultimo's money. 'I could have had a nervous breakdown at that point but I didn't let that happen,' Mone said.
In 2003, she was mugged outside her office on Brand Street in Govan, the ship-building district of Glasgow.
She was repeatedly punched and kicked by her attacker. A number of her prototype bra samples were stolen, and the attacker drove off in her car.
Her marriage also suffered. On Christmas Day 2011, Michael walked out on her. Two days later, they announced the separation.
'Working harder won't make you feel more loved. It never happened for me. It was the opposite,' Michelle said in her book.
She told the Sunday Times in 2012: 'I wish I was that woman who relied on her husband to do things for her. I don't think a lot of men like independent women. I just became too strong. I wish sometimes I wasn't me. If I was a housewife, I'd probably still be married to Michael.'
She said her dramatic weight loss was to blame for her marital troubles. 'This was the first time I'd ever gone against my husband,' she said to the Sunday Times.
Initially, despite being separated, Michelle and Michael still had to live in the same house -- their Thorntonhall mansion in Lanarkshire, in the Central Lowlands of Scotland.
Rumours circulated that Michael's relationship with Ultimo's head designer, Samantha Bunn, was the cause of the separation. Bunn was also living with the couple at the time. Michael denied an affair.
Mone hired a private detective who allegedly took pictures of 'Michael snogging Sam at the airport and of her going back to his hotel room.'
'After texting Michael to tell him that he had been caught red-handed, I grabbed a knife and went to town on his beloved Porsche, scratching it to shreds,' she said in her book.
'Then I charged round to the guesthouse where Sam was living -- thanks to the kindness which she had betrayed -- and threw all of her possessions into the garden, the dressing table along with them. I was like a banshee,' she added.
Michael apparently still refused to leave the mansion (maybe it was because the house had an in-house bar) or sell his half of the business to Michelle.
'I put laxatives in his coffee on the day that he and Sam were going to a wedding,' she said in her book. Here is Michael and Sam in a picture uploaded to Facebook in October last year. Eventually, in January 2013, Michelle and Michael divorced after 19 years of marriage.
'I can still hear my ex-husband's voice: 'You're gonna end up back in the ghetto, where I rescued you from.' And I think: 'No I'm not.' Anyway, where I grew up in Glasgow wasn't the ghetto. People were poor, but they were incredible,' she says in her book.
He said, however, he would be setting up a rival firm, Pendulum Apparel Ltd., which aims to sell swimwear and lingerie.
In December 2013, Mone's MJM International, parent company of Ultimo, ceased trading after registering major liabilities. The Sri Lanka-based lingerie and sportswear group MAS Holdings took a majority stake in the newly formed group when MJM's assets were then moved into Ultimo Brands International.
In November 2014, Michelle sold 80% of her stake in Ultimo to MAS Holdings. She now sits on the board and does only four meetings a month as a shareholder and director at Ultimo.
She has stopped drinking after her divorce led her to drink 'two bottles of wine a night.' She is the 'happiest and healthiest' she has ever been and is quick to quash any media insinuations that she is 'sad and lonely.'
She's a fitness fanatic. 'When you're in the zone and looking after your body, it really does have an impact on everything you do. I can't actually believe that I wasted 10 years of my life eating and drinking crap, and being 8 stone overweight. It was disgusting,' she said in her book.
Mone also 'let go of her bitterness' and congratulated her ex-husband Michael on his engagement to Samantha Bunn.
And travelling the world and spending time with her children. Here she is with Bethany and two friends.
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