The life and times of entrepreneur Michelle Mone

Michelle Mone is one of Scotland’s top entrepreneurs.

She built up her lingerie business, Ultimo, which she sold in 2014, and tells Scottish Field of her childhood ambition, obsessive compulsive disorder and why she loves the Borders and Gleneagles.

She was awarded an OBE in the 2010 New Year honours, before becoming Baroness Mone of Mayfair, in the City of Westminster, in 2015.

Since I was a wee girl all I wanted to do was run a business. I started my first business when I was 10. It was a paper round in the east end of Glasgow. So it’s what I’ve always, always wanted to do. I never wanted to be a pop star, actress or model, I just always wanted a business.

I’ve been inspired by a few business people. John Caudwell sold his business (Phones4U) and last year he committed to give his money away to charity when he dies. I just think that’s quite amazing. He has really inspired me.

I would say my greatest achievement is inspiring people. I started my business with the help of the Prince’s Trust, and Ultimo supports lots of other businesses as well. I mentor people in terms of their career, their business, their fitness, their weight. I’m not an expert, just a mentor, and I love doing that. It’s nice when you can try to give something back and help others to change their lives – but I’m not changing them, they’re changing themselves.

I think one of my main strengths is that I never ever give up, not even when people say it’s over. I never give up, never have. In business I’m a go-getter. I can’t think of anything in my whole life that I’ve ever given up on. But in saying that, in my personal life, I don’t really have much confidence, though it has got better over the years. I’m always looking for a challenge too.

For example, I’ve just started training with David Haye, the boxer. He said, ‘Why do you want to train with me?’ I said, ‘Because the last few years I’ve been trying to get fit and I’ve always had this ambition to train like an athlete, to eat like an athlete.’ So I’m now training two hours a day, seven days a week for 12 weeks. It’s really hard but I think you’ve got to push yourself to see how far you can go.

If you were to ask me what I don’t like about myself I would say I can’t relax and I’m a perfectionist. I can’t deal with the cushion zips being the wrong way up – if I see a cushion that’s not straight, my OCD kicks in! I got home from South Korea recently and I was exhausted. My son’s dishes were in the sink – and the rest – so I stayed up to make sure the place was perfect before I went to bed. I really wish I could relax. But on the other side, I would say I’m caring, work hard and like building teams and companies and brands. I’m not scared of a challenge. I’m a nightmare in one half and all right in the other!

Family is really important to me. I’m very generous with my friends and family and love to have family time – it’s really important. I’ve had a really bad, bad two years with my divorce but I suppose it shows how you can turn it round. And as my mum says, ‘It’s not as bad as some people have it’ – children dying of leukaemia, or not being able to feed your kids. It’s all relative, isn’t it? But those were the worst two years of my life, particularly as it all played out in the public eye.

Another love is music – all sorts. If I’m working out, I like Flo Rida and Usher, and all of the chart music. And if I’m designing, I’d probably listen to Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion. The only thing I really, really don’t like is jazz. I can’t listen to it – it puts me in a bad mood! One of my favourite records is Celine Dion Because You Love Me. When my wee boy was born he was premature and he’d been given the last rites and he was dying in Yorkhill (Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow) – he was tiny. I played it all the time as I sat with him for a month. Now he’s 6ft 5in.

And I love Scotland. My favourite place is a toss-up between the Borders and Gleneagles. I have so many memories from Gleneagles – I’ve been there a few times for Christmas and it’s just gorgeous. I love scenery and openness, which is what I love about the Borders. Obviously I was born and brought up in Glasgow – I’ve still got two homes there – and there are places in Glasgow I love. The café I used to go to in the east end of the city holds many memories for me. But if I was going away for a nice relaxing weekend, I would visit the Borders or Gleneagles.

Michelle Mone’s book, My Fight to the Top, is still available.

(This feature was originally published in 2015)