Bra queen’s support

Michelle Mone, the boss of the ultimo lingerie brand. Picture by Dan Kennedy
Michelle Mone, the boss of the ultimo lingerie brand. Picture by Dan Kennedy
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Lingerie supremo Michelle Mone OBE will be telling her inspirational rags to riches story at Sheffield’s entrepreneur festival, MADE 2014 this month.

The Scottish model turned lingerie entrepreneur is one of the top speakers at what is the UK’s biggest event for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

More than 3,000 delegates are expected at the event on September 24 and 25 at Sheffield City Hall and organisers expect Michelle Mone, one of the UK’s top three female entrepreneurs, to be a star attraction.

A frequent speaker in South Yorkshire, she has previously stated she identifies with the people.

“I grew up in the hard East End of Glasgow. Because of what you came from, you were only ever supposed to have low expectations and not to believe you could do anything out of the ordinary. I always wanted to challenge that, “ she said.

When she was 15, life chucked at her a reason to break away from the expected. Her father was suddenly left paralysed by a spinal infection. Her mother was still suffering from depression following the death of Michelle’s brother five years earlier. The teenager needed a job so she could look after the family.

She left school with no qualifications, modelled for a while then ended up in sales at Labatt’s Brewery. Within two years she was running its Scottish sales and marketing division.

An invite to a dinner dance in 1996 set her on the entrepreneurial road. “The bra I had on was so damned uncomfortable I decided to design one that gave ultimate comfort and cleavage,” she said.

Within months, she had set up in business. In 2000 she won the World Young Business Achiever Award’ at the Epcot Centre, Florida, and Business Woman of the Year in London.

Ultimo now has 13 patented ‘Miracle’ inventions and its brands include Ultimo Bridal, Ultimo Swimwear, Ultimo Shapewear and joint venture lines including Adore Moi for Debenhams.

Multi-millionairess Michelle’s view is that if she could do it, anyone can: “It doesn’t matter if you’re from Sheffield or Glasgow, you can do it if you have a fire in your belly and the focus.

“When I started out there was nowhere near as much business support as there is now. These days they teach entrepreneurial skills at school. But there is not enough support given to people once they are a couple of years down the line with their new business.”

n The MADE conference, now in its fifth year, will also hear success stories from Wayne Hemingway MBE, fashion designer and co-founder of the Red or Dead brand, plus Levi Roots, the musician who won Dragons’ Den investment in his Reggae Reggae Sauce products and is now a multi-millionaire. One of the TV show’s ‘dragons’ will also be at MADE. Software businessman Doug Richard already has his entrepreneurial hand in the city; his entrepreneurs’ School For Startups launches courses at Sheffield College this term.