Loading content ...
Michelle Mone is the creator of Ultimo, the UK’s leading designer lingerie brand and co-owner of MJM International. Listed as one of the top three female entrepreneurs in the UK, and recognised by the Queen with an OBE honour for her contribution to the lingerie industry, Michelle has built an enormously successful career on an incredibly simple concept: giving contemporary women what they desire.
Entrepreneurial spirit was prevalent from an early age in Michelle, who grew up in the east end of Glasgow. Michelle left school at age 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.
The idea for Ultimo was envisioned in 1996, while attending a dinner dance with her husband Michael. Michelle was wearing a very uncomfortable cleavage enhancing bra, and as a result had an epiphany; Michelle decided to invent a bra that was more comfortable and cleavage enhancing than any other bra on the market. Consequently, 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. In addition, Michelle 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 gradually increased in success, developing beyond the original umbrella of Ultimo to include eleven patented “Miracle” inventions and brands including Ultimo Shapewear, Ultimo Swimwear, Ultimo Boudoir, 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 Selfridges, Tesco, Debenhams, ASOS, Asda, Next and Figleaves, 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, and bridal wear with Ultimo Couture Bridal, a collection of ‘off the rail’ wedding dresses exclusive to Debenhams.
Over the years, Ultimo has established a large and loyal customer base and contracts with a string of high-profile models and celebrities, including Rachel Hunter, Helena Christensen, Sarah Harding, Mel B, Kelly Brook and Penny Lancaster.
Over recent years Michelle’s success has skyrocketed; not only was Ultimo the first UK lingerie brand to debut on the catwalk at New York Fashion Week in 2009, she has also opened 23 ‘shop in shops’ within Debenhams in key cities throughout the UK and landed a huge deal with Tesco clothing to develop, design and manufacture ‘Diamond Boutique’ lingerie. Having appeared on the likes BBC’s Comic Relief Does the Apprentice, 71 Degrees North and Celebrity MasterChef, Michelle has likewise become a popular media personality.
In March 2015, Michelle released My Fight To the Top, which is an admirable tale of how she overcame near-poverty on the streets of North East Scotland, to ultimately developing the Ultimo brand, one of the UK’s most successful fashion brands.
Michelle currently lives on the outskirts of Glasgow with her husband Michael and their three children. Michelle has reached a remarkable level of success to date, juggling the demands of her business fused with motherhood but – in her own words – ‘this is only the beginning’.