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Authors: Michelle Mone

My Fight to the Top

BOOK: My Fight to the Top
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Michelle Mone

MY FIGHT TO THE TOP

Michelle Mone
MY FIGHT TO THE TOP

WITH RUTH KELLY

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I
would like to thank Mum and Dad for making me believe in my dreams and for bringing me up to respect everyone with manners; my three wonderful kids – Rebecca, Declan and Bethany – who have given me the determination to be a success; and my late Gran Philips for encouraging me everyday.

I would also like to thank my friends, including Bernard and Eileen Dunn and family; Nigel and Andrea Kelly; John Caudwell; Denise O’Leary; AP and Chanelle McCoy; Elena Ambrosiadou; John and Andrea Barnes; Peter and Teresa Løvenkrands, and to everyone else who has been by my side through everything – I can’t fit everyone in but you know who you are!

Thanks too to my business associates Ted Anders, Sir Tom Hunter, Rob Templeman, Ian Grabiner, David Kaye, Mark Hollingshead, David Dinsmore, Claire Powell, Don McCarthy and all my speaking agents.

I would also like to thank Prince Charles and the Prince’s Trust, the Ultimo Team, Deshamanya Mahesh Dayalal Amalean and the MAS Board.

Michelle Mone,
January 2015

CONTENTS

PREFACE

1 – SHOOTING FOR THE STARS

2 – PASSION AND DETERMINATION

3 – BE YOURSELF

4 – IF YOU PUT IN MORE, YOU GET TEN TIMES BACK

5 – BECAUSE YOU LOVED ME

6 – ALWAYS DO THE THINGS YOU ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT

7 – THE BIGGEST BRA LAUNCH IN HISTORY

8 – RAGS TO RICHES

9 – COMFORT EATING

10 – BRINK OF BANKRUPTCY

11 – SAVED BY THE BELL

12 – WAKE-UP CALL

13 – RACHEL STEALS PENNY’S PANTS

14 – CHOKING ON MY PROFITS

15 – BREAKING POINT

16 – MY ‘MONICA’ MOMENT

17 – TOO BIG FOR THEIR BOOTS

18 – DIVA BEHAVIOUR

19 – OBE

20 – TAKING THE PLUNGE

21 – CARING AND SHARING

22 – CAUGHT RED-HANDED

23 – WAR OF THE ROSES

24 – BRA WARS

25 – CLEAN SLATE

26 – LIKE MOTHER LIKE DAUGHTER

EPILOGUE

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

PHOTOS

PREFACE

M
aybe it was all that bullying and heartache that drove me to success.

My childhood was dominated by struggle and tragedy. I slept in the bedroom cupboard in my parents’ bedroom in Glasgow’s rough East End; I was bullied, rushed to hospital after being beaten by a gang of ten and cried myself to sleep every night after my father became paralysed from the waist down.

I became a young mum at 20 and almost lost my second child when he was born four weeks premature. The pressure of trying to build a business and be a good mother brought my marriage, and my health, to the edge. At my lowest point, I ballooned to size 22 and contemplated suicide.

I swung from the extremes of being on the brink of bankruptcy, to having millions in the bank. I revelled in the highs of driving flash cars and dining out with some of the world’s most famous icons, such as the Clintons. I almost drowned in the lows of the very public breakdown of my marriage. My name was dragged through the tabloids as it was revealed that my husband was having an affair with my chief designer. And I then had to battle to win back the business I started from scratch.

I have been on a journey, which on the face of it looks very glamorous – walking down red carpets and appearing on the pages of
Hello
magazine. But the reality has been a tough ride, blighted by pain and hardship.

That’s why my story is different: my story will offer inspiration and hope – whether you’d like to learn how to get ahead in business, or simply learn how to hold yourself up through life’s challenges. My pain, my life, my business: this is
My Fight to the Top.

1
SHOOTING FOR THE STARS

Allow yourself to be a beginner.
No one starts off being excellent.

T
here is no doubt in my mind that I’ve got to where I am today because of where I grew up. My drive came from looking around me and wanting more.

It doesn’t matter how much money I’ve got in the bank or how many deals I’ve done the day before – I still wake up every morning with the fear of failure. It feels like someone has pulled my insides into a knot and I can’t breathe. I think about what my ex-husband, Michael, used to say to me:

‘One day, you’ll be back in the ghetto.’

To call the East End of Glasgow ‘the ghetto’ is awful, because the people who live there are some of the nicest you will ever meet. They are caring, they are generous and they will give you their last drop of milk even if it leaves them short. I love the people I grew up with but I just don’t want the life my mum and dad had – always struggling. My biggest fear is that one day I’ll be in the same situation I was in as I was being brought up. So that’s why I never give up. No matter what challenges life throws at me, I’ll still pull myself out of bed the next morning, and get on with it. That’s what I had to do when I was growing up and that’s what I do to this day.

When I look back on my childhood I feel very grateful to my mum and dad for looking after me and always making me feel loved, especially as I know it wasn’t easy for them. I was born in the Gallowgate, the heart of the East End, in 1971. It was where the working class lived. My mum and dad will swear we weren’t poor because people in the East End never complained. They accepted the hand they were dealt and just got on with it.

But the truth is, we were poor. We did struggle. My mum worked two jobs to keep our heads above water – she stitched coats and dresses at the Singer sewing machine factory and worked at the fruit and veg shop over the weekend. My dad worked in a factory as well, making ink for newspaper printing. He used to get up at 5.30 am and come home long after it got dark. Never, ever, would they think of having a sick day. If either of them had the flu they would still fight their way to work. Their work ethic of ‘You must work hard for your money’ quickly rubbed off on me.

My first memories are of living in Dennistoun in Glasgow when I was between five and six. Our home was at 25 Bathgate Street and I remember my mum explaining we had to move there after our previous home in a block of flats was condemned due to a rat infestation. We settled in a traditional tenement building. To get to our flat you had to climb a cold, concrete stairwell that smelt of damp.

Inside, there was only one bedroom and a tiny kitchen in the lounge. Mum hung a bead curtain to separate the two areas. The ceilings were really high, something that made the rooms seem spooky when the lights were turned out. There was a cupboard off my mum and dad’s bedroom and that was my room. It was so small there wasn’t even enough space to fit my bed until my dad shortened it by a foot.

I was a real daddy’s girl; he would do anything for me. He came home one night carrying a big block of wood and he used that to lower the ceiling. We then stuck sparkly stickers all over it so I could pretend I was gazing up at the stars – I was reaching for the stars, even back then. Mine was the tiniest room, but the best. I felt safe curled up in my den, listening to my parents breathe in the bedroom next to me.

We didn’t have a bath or a shower in our tiny, wee bathroom, just a toilet. Once a week, my mum would take me to Whitevale Baths to get washed. The pools were by the high-rise flats that towered over the rest of the estate and looked like something out of a horror film. Mum warned me never to go near them or I wouldn’t be coming back.

It cost ten pence to enter the red-brick Baths building and I would get my own cubicle with a big iron bath. I could see under and over the wooden doorframe and I would stay in there for as long as I could before I’d get chapped out. I’d hear a rat-a-tat-tat on the door. ‘Oi, hurry up, next person in,’ I’d be told. I’d leap out onto the cold tiles, dry myself and throw my clothes back on.

We would often stop by the steamy whilst we were down there. The steamy is what you would probably now call the launderette. I’d help Mum carry the bundles of sheets and Mum would scrub them over a big block of wood in the industrial sinks. Her fingers looked like shrivelled prunes by the end of it. I used to help my mum put the sheets through the big iron rollers to squish out the excess.

We used to have traditional East End food like mince and potatoes for supper. Nothing fancy. If we had fillet steak, it would be at Christmas. On Fridays I would go down the chippy. I’d get fish for mum and dad and I’d get myself a sausage supper, which came with chips and onion gravy. I’d run there and run back and we’d eat off our knees in front of the TV. But supper at our house was gourmet compared to what my granny used to serve up. I used to go to Granny Allan’s house in the school holidays because my mum and dad were working full-time and couldn’t look after me. My granny, my dad’s mum, was a tough woman, Glaswegian through and through. She lived in the really rough part of the East End, in Haghill.

Granny made me eat chicken liver and onions, or tripe. She used to boil tripe in milk. Oh, my god! ‘Please, Granny, don’t make me eat that,’ I’d whimper.

‘Do you know how much that cost?’ Granny would shove it back it under my nose. ‘You eat to survive.’ Even now, when I go to Michelin-starred restaurants and see liver on the menu, I almost want to puke. I used to sneak to Coia’s Cafe on Duke Street for an ice cream. You would have to bring your own glass bowl and they would fill it up with a couple of scoops.

My dad’s escape was to go to the pub on the corner. It was called the Dog and Rabbit but all the locals called it the Dug. Mum would send me there on my bike to get him to come home for dinner. ‘I’m about to put his bloody dinner in the bin,’ she’d yell, so I’d get on my bike and peddle to the Dug as fast as I could. I’d stand on my tiptoes and try and beckon him through the window. If that didn’t work, I’d snake my way through the doors and plead with him to come home.

‘Please, Dad, don’t spend all the wages,’ I’d beg. I didn’t like it when he drank a lot because he would fight with Mum. Mum could shout really loudly and I would sometimes hold my hands over my ears. But that’s the way it was for most couples. That was the East End life – you worked hard and you went to the bingo or the bookies to see if you could get that extra bit of cash. It would always be, ‘Oh, my god, Jimmie won on the horses,’ or ‘Oh, my god, Isabel won at the bingo,’ and then everyone would go around their house to get a free drink and celebrate.

We didn’t have much, but what we did have, was a community. You never used to lock your door. If you wanted something, you would go and bang on someone’s door. ‘Shops are shut. Can I have some of your sugar?’ And they would give you their last bit of sugar, even if it would leave them short. If you knocked on the door of an apartment in Mayfair in London they would phone the police!

This sense of community meant it was also a very happy time, because some of the best parties could be found in the East End. They would be at my aunties’, my uncle’s and at my flat. Probably after someone had won on the horses or at the bingo. I remember one party in our flat because they were playing Rod Stewart music loud enough for the whole of the estate to hear. I shouted up at my mum from our backyard.

‘Mum, I’m starving, can you throw me a piece of bread and jam?’

She popped her head out the window, disappeared and a few minutes later a jam sandwich, wrapped in foil, came hurtling down. I gobbled it up and then carried on playing with my friends from the neighbourhood. I was dancing around, pretending to be like the grown-ups. I was very tall and skinny for my age with long, dark-blonde hair. When everyone had left I sat on my mum’s knee and cuddled into her. Her warmth would spread over me like a blanket.

That was one of my last happy memories.

I was seven when Dad started limping. Family and friends used to think he was drunk but I knew immediately that something was seriously wrong. The doctors thought Dad had cancer and he had to go back and forth to the hospital to have tumours removed. Every time Dad came home his limp was worse and he looked in even more pain. He tried to hide his suffering from me, but the agony was etched into his face. Mum would cry all the time and I would listen to her sobbing from my little bedroom. I felt utterly helpless. Every night I would hug my pillow and quietly cry myself to sleep, thinking my dad wouldn’t be alive in the morning. Some nights I would lie awake for hours, craning my ear against the door to listen out for my dad’s breathing.

BOOK: My Fight to the Top
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