- 25 July 2006
This article is from 2006.
As part of the Politics festival, politicians will pitch their visions for the Scottish economy to three Scottish millionaire entrepreneurs, including the inventor of the Ultimo bra, Michelle Mone. David Pollock tells the uplifting story of Mone's success.
Often praised for its widespread coverage in the press, it's difficult to see why MJM International has made the leap from the business pages to the front end of most daily tabloids. After all, the real story is not what's in the copy, but the large accompanying picture of the latest supermodel to appear wearing one of the company's internationally successful Ultimo bras.
In a very real sense, the story is also Michelle Mone. Mone launched the gel-filled Ultimo bra in 1999 after three years of research and development with the fledgling MJM, following her uncomfortable experience at a dinner party wearing what can only be described as another leading cleavage-enhancing bra. Since then, Mone has been as much the face of the product - not to mention the breasts, given her former career as a model and the plunging necklines she sports in publicity shots - as celebrity endorsers like Rachel Hunter, Penny Lancaster and Helena Christensen.
This holds particularly true in Scotland, where Mone's local girl turned international success story is manna for the red tops. And rightly so. Brought up in modest circumstances in the East End of Glasgow, Mone's biography tells of her having posters of Richard Branson on her walls instead of Duran Duran, a tale which might be taken with a pinch of salt. Yet, she did show an aptitude for making money from an early age, when her father contracted a crippling illness, forcing her to leave school at fifteen to help support the family.
At the age of twenty she married her husband Michael, also her partner in MJM; the couple had three children, the last being born the month before Ultimo's launch. Such a rags-to-riches, working mum story seems a fairytale, yet an altogether more inspirational lesson in hard work and dedication overcoming adversity lies beyond the headlines.
In 2002, apparently, MJM was fifteen minutes from going bankrupt, until a loan from benefactor Sir Tom Farmer and the staking of the Mone home kept the creditors from the door, while Mone resolved to move her business from its Govan base after being attacked and carjacked outside it in 2003.
Yet, here she is three years down the line with a globally-recognised brand that's stronger than ever and an array of awards for entrepreneurship on her mantelpiece. Were we to be flippant we might say, thank God for that ill-fitting bra. But, as with most real success stories, a moment of inspiration is just the beginning.
All Festival of Politics events take place at the Scottish Parliament. Tickets for free events can only be reserved at Parliament on the day of the talk. For paid events, book tickets online at www.festivalofpolitics.org.uk or telephone 0131 473 2000.