Michelle Mone OBE
Michelle Mone OBE, is the co-owner of MJM International and creator of Ultimo, the UK’s leading designer lingerie brand. Listed as one of the top three female entrepreneurs in the UK, and this year recognised by the Queen with an OBE honour for her contribution to the lingerie industry, Michelle has built a hugely successful career on an incredibly simple concept: giving today’s women what they want.
Entrepreneurial spirit was prevalent from an early age in Michelle, who grew up in the east end of Glasgow. Michelle left school at 15 with no qualifications to find full-time employment, after her father was struck down by an illness leaving him confined to a wheelchair. To support her family Michelle took on a job at Labatt Brewers’ and quickly climbed the ranks from office junior to senior manager, running the Sales & Marketing team by the time she was just 20 years old.
But it was in 1996 when her idea for Ultimo was born. Whilst attending a dinner dance with her husband Michael, Michelle was wearing a very uncomfortable cleavage-enhancing bra and as a result had a ‘light bulb’ moment; Michelle decided to invent a bra that was more comfortable and cleavage enhancing than any other bra on the market. MJM International was set up in November 1996.
Since launching the business Michelle has established herself as one of Scotland’s biggest exports; in 2000 Michelle won the ‘World Young Business Achiever Award’ at the Epcot Centre, Florida, and then ‘Business Woman of the Year’ at the Corporate Elite Awards in London.
In 2001 Prince Charles invited Michelle to join the Board of Directors for The Princes Scottish Youth Business Trust and more recently his Board of Main Council, confirming her status as one of the UK’s leading female entrepreneurs. Michelle also won ‘Best Newcomer’ at the British Apparel Export Awards, presented by HRH the Princess Royal, adding to her long list of awards, accolades and recognitions.
In October 2005 Michelle attended a speaking engagement with former US president Bill Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev, and went on to support the Sultan of Oman in setting up women’s enterprise in the Middle East. Michelle has since become a high-profile guest at speaking engagements and corporate events all over the world.
Over the years Michelle’s business has gone from strength-to-strength, developing beyond the original umbrella of Ultimo to encompass eight patented inventions and brands including Ultimo Black Label, Ultimo Shapewear, Ultimo Swimwear, Miss Ultimo and partner lines including Diamond Boutique for Tesco, Adore Moi for Debenhams and Michelle for George for Asda, named after her.
In addition to its jointly owned brands, MJM International currently supply Tesco, Debenhams, Asda, Next, Figleaves and Asos.com, along with a number of independent lingerie stores throughout Europe. Michelle has also recently expanded into womenswear with Ultimo Couture – a line of luxury evening dresses.
Since launching, Ultimo has established a huge profile and loyal customer base within the UK and contracts with a string of high-profile models and celebrities, including Penny Lancaster, Rachel Hunter, Helena Christensen, Sarah Harding, Mel B and, currently the face and body of Ultimo, Kelly Brook.
Over recent years Michelle’s success has soared; not only was Ultimo the first UK lingerie brand to debut on the catwalk at New York Fashion Week, but she opened 22 ‘shop in shops’ within Debenhams in key cities throughout the UK and landed a mammoth deal with Tesco clothing to develop, design and manufacture ‘Diamond Boutique’ lingerie. Michelle also appeared as a contestant on Comic Relief Does the Apprentice.
Michelle currently lives on the outskirts of Glasgow with her husband Michael and their three children. Michelle has achieved a remarkable level of success to date, juggling the demands of her business, together with motherhood, but – in her own words – ‘this is only the beginning’.
She was a huge success. Inspirational, funny, natural and friendly. She made the night for us.’ Institute of Directors Jersey - Director Awards - June 2010
‘Michelle you really did steal the show! We have received amazing reviews from delegates’ International Centre for Business Information – Other speakers included Bill Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev
'One word - Awesome! I found your speech completely engaging and invigorating - certainly nothing like the 'usual' motivational 'stuff' I have heard over the years.’ Director of Marketing & Communications - The Prince's Scottish Youth Business Trust