Entrepreneur and Baroness of Mayfair, Lady Michelle Mone, told enterprise students from The University of Manchester that business success isn’t about applying a formula; it’s about finding your own motivation and using your own story.
Michelle was the first guest speaker of Entrepreneurs@Manchester 2015/16, Manchester Enterprise Centre’s speaker series which is sponsored by a2e venture capitalists. Speaking to over 300 students, along with a selected business audience, she told the story of where she came from, what she has achieved and what she’s learned along the way.
In conversation with business writer, public speaker and author Rachel Bridge, Michelle told students that she’s loved business since being a six year old, playing with a toy Post Office with her cousins. She said, “I just always wanted to start a business – and you need that. If you have fire in your belly and have a determination to prove people wrong, then you can succeed as an entrepreneur. But if you don’t have that deep inside you, then don’t start a business.”
Her words came as she told the audience how starting a business and life as an entrepreneur means a lot of sacrifice and that it’s not easy. Having seen her Ultimo empire on the brink of collapse on a number of occasions, she told the audience that she used her last £500 for a PR stunt in Selfridges. It paid off, providing £54million in press coverage overnight and resulting in six months of stock selling out in five hours. She said, “You have to be creative and think outside the box. The less money you have, the more creative you have to be.”
After making “one of the hardest decisions of her life” to sell Ultimo, Michelle said she realised you should never be scared of change, as change is courage. Explaining her decision to sell, she said she felt she needed to go out and help others. Working with the Government to produce a report into start-ups and entrepreneurs, she now wants to inspire as many people as she can. With no intentions of producing the report sat at her desk, she said that the only way to find out what start-ups and entrepreneurs need is to get out and speak to them. Being only eight weeks into the process, Michelle wasn’t able to go into details of what she’s found so far, but she did tell students that they need to help each other more and use places like Manchester Enterprise Centre as a resource. She told them that confidence and networking are vitally important, as was ensuring that mentoring and funding are offered and that those two things had to come together.
Asked what was next, she admitted that she’s planning more businesses and has already designed a number of new products and product ranges. Ending the conversation as frankly as she’d started it, she said, “I honestly don’t feel I’ve made it yet. The day I do, I’ll probably stop completely.”