Michelle Mone to lead startup review

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Scottish entrepreneur Michelle Mone has been appointed by the government to lead a review into how best to support startups in areas of high unemployment.

Ms Mone is best known for setting up the lingerie business Ultimo. She has recently sold her 80 per cent stake in order to buy fake tan company UTan.

Despite leaving school at 15 with no qualifications and having her first child at 18, Ms Mone went on to set up Ultimo’s parent company MJM International  in 1996 with her former husband Michael. In 2011, the company had an annual turnover of £11 million.

In light of her new position, Ms Mone has been keen to emphasise how she "started from nothing in the East End of Glasgow... a deprived area and against all the odds [she] started a business."

Speaking to the Scotsman, she explained: “My philosophy is that it does not matter where you are from, what education you have, or if you are from an affluent background or not, you can make it if you work hard, set your goals and never give up.

“I’ll be travelling across the UK to talk to and listen to people and groups from all backgrounds. I want to learn about the barriers they are facing and what changes are needed.”

“A truly modern and successful economy needs to be able to unleash the entrepreneurial energy or skills of everyone in society.

“It cannot tolerate a situation where people are held back from achieving dreams of working for themselves and creating jobs for others, simply because of where they are from, or because they have had a really tough time growing up, or because they are a lone parent.”

Ms Mone has also been named as a likely candidate for the House of Lords when the next round of peerages are announced, even though she has had little previous political involvement.

However, she did become involved with the Better Together campaign, which backed a No vote in last year’s Scottish independence referendum.

She claims to have moved away from Scotland as a result of the backlash that this stance caused.

She received an OBE in 2010 for her contribution to business in the UK, and holds an honorary doctorate from Paisley University.

This rapid progression has been the cause of criticism from some, such as SNP MP for Glasgow South Stewart McDonald. He said that being handed such substantial political power without being an elected official was a dangerous precedent.

According to the Scotsman, the appointment came about as a result of a meeting with work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith in Whitehall last week.

In response to her acceptance of the role, Mr Duncan Smith said: “We used to be known as a nation of shopkeepers.

“I want Michelle to report back to me on how we can encourage people of all backgrounds to take up this entrepreneurial spirit.”
He added that he could not think of a better person to lead the task force, given her personal experiences of overcoming adversity and a disadvantaged background.

By Victoria McDonnell

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