Michelle Mone creator of Ultimo is an accomplished speaker and in great demand by organizations keen to hear her story and to mimic her incredible success. Her presentations like her bras are an “uplifting” experience. A straight talker who speaks passionately about her struggle to succeed against all odds, shares funny anecdotes and provides practical advice to budding entrepreneurs.
Michelle Mone OBE is the co-owner of MJM International and the creator of Ultimo, the UK’s leading designer lingerie brand. Listed as one of the top 3 female entrepreneurs in the UK, and recently voted as the number one woman in business by Glamour Magazine, 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.
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.
Over the years Michelle’s business has gone from strength-to-strength, developing beyond the original umbrella of Ultimo lingerie to encompass Miss Ultimo, Ultimo Shapewear, Ultimo Swimwear and partner lines including Diamond Boutique for Tesco, Adore Moi by Ultimo 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 Selfridges, 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, Mel B, Kelly Brook and Raica Olivearia.
The company continues to go from strength-to-strength; in 2009 Ultimo was the first UK lingerie brand to debut on the catwalk at New York Fashion Week and in the past 24 months Michelle has opened 23 ‘shop in shops’ within Debenhams, in key cities throughout the UK. Michelle has also diversified into womenswear with the launch of Ultimo Couture, with Beauty and Bridal collections also planned for 2011.
Michelle was awarded an Honorary Degree, Doctor of the University, by Paisley University in 2002. In May 2003 Management Today voted Michelle one of the top three woman entrepreneurs in the UK. Michelle also won ‘Best Newcomer’ at the British Apparel Export Awards, 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. Also in 2005, Michelle presented BBC’s Mind Your Own Business, advising business owners on what they are doing right and where they are going wrong, and offering straightforward suggestions on how to improve their businesses.
In January 2010, Michelle was awarded an OBE by the Queen for her contribution to business.
Michelle has achieved a remarkable level of success to date, juggling the demands of her business together with motherhood – as well as a soaring media profile and TV career, having appeared on shows including The Apprentice: You’re Fired, Comic Relief Does the Apprentice and ITV’s 71 Degrees North.