Speaker dinner- Michell Mone – Monday the 14th of November 2011
Michelle Mone, 37, 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, 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 yrs 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, more innovative, more attractive and more 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 Ultimo was catapulted into the media limelight when Hollywood actress Julia Roberts wore an Ultimo plunge-bra to enhance her cleavage in Erin Brockovich. Later that year Michelle won the coveted ‘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 Ultimo D-G Cup, Ultimo Black Label, Ultimo Shapewear, Ultimo Swimwear and partner lines including Diamond Boutique for Tesco, Adore Moi for Debenhams and Michelle for George for Asda, named after her. As well as designing fashion lingerie, Ultimo boasts eight worldwide patented inventions including the Ultimo ‘Miracle’ backless body. 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.
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 and, currently the face and body of Ultimo, Spice Girl Mel B. The past year has been a giant milestone for Michelle professionally; not only was Ultimo the first UK lingerie brand to debut on the catwalk at New York Fashion Week, but she opened 20 ‘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 with Sir Alan Sugar.
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’.