A Case Study Of Michelle Mone Management Essay

The entrepreneur life of Michelle Mone is almost too good to be true, more like a fairy tale story. But if one digs dipper he will find that the life of Michelle Mone has been full of up and downs. However despite all the odds she manages succeed in a very competitive industry. In a world where everybody aspire to be successful and also where industries are very competitive, entrepreneurs inevitably break the ice and succeed. It might be because of their courage in venturing into a competitive or existing industry, that and the fact that they succeed in this business that some consider them to be “superheroes” (Burns, 2007). Who then is an entrepreneur? Many definitions exist that describe an entrepreneur and there are some differences, but the similarities are more. In citing Shapero (1985) Burns (2007) define an entrepreneur as one who has the “judgement ability to identify probable opportunities depending on two critical antecedents-perceptions of desirability and feasibility from both personal and social viewpoints”. This definition is quiet suitable as a description of Michelle Mone entrepreneurial characteristics but in other to understand her better we will further discuss her, therefore this paper is poised to unravel the entrepreneurial life of Michelle. It will look at her biography and how it has contributed to her success; most importantly it will discuss what made her business opportunities unique and breakthrough. Furthermore


The personal characteristics, life experiences and the environment of an entrepreneur appears to play a significant role in shaping his entrepreneur life and this must be why Barringer and Ireland (2008) disagreed with the myth that “entrepreneurs are born, not made”. But they went further to contend that some entrepreneurs do show some intelligent characteristics at a young age.

Michelle Mone has shown an entrepreneurial flair and organizational skill even at a tender age of ten, she was able to organise her friends into providing breakfast with newspapers. However in her case she did not have a normal youth when circumstances force her to quit school at the age of fifteen so as to support her parent due to an illness that made her father paralyse. So when at fifteen her age groups are thinking of normal things like shopping, Michelle was modelling in order to cope with family responsibility. Destiny has planned a different thing in Michelle life, which is good because it can be argued that it has shape her life for future challenges.

Soon afterwards she quit her job in modelling and decides to start a career in a more conventional and business system; she got a job with Labatt Breweries. At almost the same time she got married and was juggling career and a family life especially after the birth of her daughter. Within two years of working with Labatt Michelle has move up the ladder from an office junior to become the senior marketing and sales manager, this can be attributed to the fact that she is very hardworking and always has a passion for her job and life. Unfortunately working in Labatt’s did not last long as the company was acquired by another company and Michelle was made redundant in1996. One will certainly assume that if she was not made redundant her life will have been different, however because some situations change a person life. Burns have (2007) noted unemployment seems to have a strong catalyst on the zeal to become self-employed. Michelle described what she thinks of her redundancy now

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“For me, as one door shut, another opened.”

Bolouri (2009)

Many things in Michelle life can be said to have contributed to her entrepreneurial journey and we will further see the impact it has made on the choice she made. This essay will discuss the entrepreneurial life of Michelle using the elements of the entrepreneurial roadmap (Lockett, 2010) which are depicted in the diagram below.






We have described a bit of Michelle Background that gives an insight into how she became a leader, however in order to understand her better there is need to look at how she is able to spot an opportunity and start her business.


Michelle did not recognise an opportunity after doing research or investigation as some entrepreneurs are known to do and is usually refer to as externally stimulated opportunity (Barringer and Ireland, 2008). Rather it was more like an inspiration after an uncomfortable experience while attending a dinner party, Michelle describe it as

“I was wearing a low-cut dress with a wonderbra beneath which was hurting and very uncomfortable. Then the idea just popped out of my brain, I got it!!! I knew what I was going to do- invent the perfect bra”

Begg and Ward (2007)

And that was what Michelle did; in order for one to appreciate and understand the risk that Michelle took, then a look at the lingerie industry will provide an insight. The history of brassieres date back to the period before Christ (BC) where the ancient Greeks women are reported to have worn it, additionally the history of modern bra is said to have started in the year 1907. So when Michelle was having her inspiration the bra industry is nearly a century old, furthermore it is also a competitive and saturated industry with all kinds of small and big players. With all this one can assume there is nothing new to discover or add to the modern bra. However Michelle Mone took it upon herself to invent the perfect bra with no prior knowledge about brassieres, the words of her husband when she told him about her idea eloquently describe the risk Michelle took. His response was

“For God’s sake what do you know about bras?”‘

(Begg and Ward, 2007)

Michelle was not deterred by her husband response and she went further to start planning. This is a true entrepreneur spirit, an entrepreneur is somebody who can spot or create an opportunity and is able to take action that will fill that opportunity gap, but in doing so takes a risk. Michelle took this opportunity to heart and put in all of her energy and determination into it, especially when she realizes that she does not have the qualification to get another job. She also understood that there is a problem hitherto that needs to be solved and she decides to do that. Using the business model for entrepreneurial process will capture the journey of Michelle mone,

Idea is to invent the perfect bra.

Recognise a niche for selling a very comfortable cleavage bra

The Invention and Launching of silicone gel bra

This saw the birth of one of the successful lingerie company in the world called MJM International own by Michelle and her partner (husband) Michael. It is quite surprising to note that all this happened in the same year she was made redundant, the process of idea recognition and the registering of the company occurred between October and November 1996.

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After having the entrepreneurial idea and opportunity recognition, Michelle committed herself to do entrepreneurial journey by registering her company. However she is yet to have her product on ground, she therefore marshalled all the resources and energy into research and development for three whole years in order to come up with the revolutionalizing product in a process one will term the innovation process. There is a debate that the true entrepreneurs are those who invent something new, however very few agree with this thought. Barringer and Ireland (2008) have observed that the impactful innovations are those who will solve a problem or satisfy a new need. In her own unique way Michelle has tried to solve the problem of uncomfortable cleavage bra, this process took her to Germany where she team up with a scientist who is knowledgeable about brassieres. The quality of a good entrepreneur is somebody who knows when to look for the right people that are likely to the job better than the entrepreneur. In her own words Michelle recalls the journey.

“It took me three years to invent the bra and we ended up remortgaging the house three times,”

The Telegraph (2009)

At the end Michelle and the scientist were able to create the first ever silicone gel bra, this is indeed an achievement because it is first of its kind, what is unique about her product its versatility because the gel allows and mimic the movement of the breast. In reality the product is just like other lingerie brands but because an innovative process has seen the addition of something new, that is silicone gel which cannot be found in other brassieres and so in essence is very different. Michelle has set out to create the most comfortable bra, this saw the creation of a bra called ULTIMO.

Finally Michelle has achieved her dream of creating the most comfortable bra, but one cannot but wonder what is a generally acceptable definition of a comfortable bra is to consumers. The taste, preferences of consumers varies and what one considers to be comfortable might not be the case for another. Moreover the process was not without its risk, as Michelle has to borrow significant of money to finance the project worth £410,000, secured against equity in the house and a series of unsecured loans through family borrowings and credit card (Stevenson, 2009).And so the next phase of Michelle journey begins, was she successful or not? Has she taken a risk that will consume her and her family and which will yield no fruit?


After successful creating the product, what remains is for her to launch it into market. Her product is certainly the best among its type but nobody know about it. One of the characteristics of entrepreneurs is recognising their strength and weakness. Michelle realizes that she will not be able to sell her bra if she opens her own shop, because it will involve a lot of resources. Additionally she understood that having a good distribution channel will be key to her success, therefore she took a very wise decision to have her products sold in some establish stores by taking her prototype to fashion giant Selfridge (Stevenson,2009). A major feature of an entrepreneur is to convincing investors to believe in their idea, in her case Michelle task is in convincing stores to sell her product that it is worth the effort. Selfridges accepted her offer and what remains is the launching of ULTIMO. However before the ultimo’s debut Michelle described how scared she was because the moment of truth has come, it is all or nothing, furthermore she has just given birth to her daughter. She recalls

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On August 20, 1999, Michelle was in London, shaking in her shoes and about to launch the ultimo cleavage brain inside Selfridges.

(Bolouri, 2009)

She need not have been scared because the launching of ultimo bra was reputed to have been the biggest and successful bra launch in the UK as more than 5O photographers attended the occasion which saw the broadcasting of the occasion all over UK, US and Europe, but most importantly the store sold 6 weeks stock of ultimo within 24 hours (motivational,). Business was good as ultimo has been received with open hands and the ultimo brand image was further boosted when the famous actress Julia Roberts wore the bra in her Oscar winning awards film Erin Brokavich. Michelle marketing and sales experience has been critical to her success because she

But as is normal to any growing business there are some critical incidents that can test the strength of the business and tenacity of an entrepreneur. In her own case a Canadian distributor has run away with about a £600,000 of the business money making the business in debt with the bank, subsequently they were given 2 weeks ultimatum to pay their debt (Stevenson, 2009). Michelle recollects the moment in their office when her partner and husband Michael had ask her

“Are you going out there to tell our staff that they’re out of a job?” Tears running down my face, I answered no, lifted the phone to – BEG”.

(Stevenson, 2009)

Michelle was only able to save MJM International from bankruptcy 15 minutes away from deadline, the role of social networking played a critical role. Her brief meeting and contact with the chairman HSBC global earlier on in a lunch meeting was providence. Michelle was able to convince Sir Tom Farmer to refinance MJM International (Edinburgh festival, 2007). Another incident was more directed at the person of Michelle when she was attack and hurt by a thief, he drove away with her car.

Social capital has played a big role in Michelle life, because she had the support of her family, friends and the society at large, because of her humble beginning the local people feel some sort of kinship that the local. As such she is considered to be a local celebrity.

Her lack of education is not an issue has not affected her creativity and passion and it’s not important.

Michelle has envisage her dream, created a vision for her and her team making her a successful entrepreneur and leader (Burns, 2007)

Innovation is crucial source of competitive advantage (locket, 2010)




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