Jo Malone: My Story, by Jo Malone in my own estimation is one of the best business related biographies you can read because it is unbelievably honest. Jo Malone is a British fragrance entrepreneur who has succeeded in building two successful brands. Her first business Jo Malone of London which produces perfumes and other fragrance related products was sold to Estee Lauder. Her current business which is her second is called Jo Loves. If you read London’s free Evening Standard newspaper then you will come across Jo’s business column in the Monday issue. Jo is not your typical entrepreneur, but her story teaches us that if you have a skill that you can sell to people, with hard work, focus and the right partnerships you can build a world class a business.
Jo was born as Joanne Malone in 1963 to Eileen and Andy Malone at St Stephen’s hospital now Westminster and Chelsea. She was the first of two girls. Her sisters name is Tracey. Her’s wasn’t a happy family as her parents were constantly in conflict because of money issues and later she would become totally estranged from her family. Sadly this lasted till both her parents and sister passed away. Jo does not hid how painful this is for her, but does say that despite all those set backs successful business leaders have to march on. And a lot of set backs she did have. When she was young, a bout of chicken pox damaged one of her eyes permanently. Also she was dyslexic which meant education was very difficult for her, hence she left school with no qualifications and started working.
Before she was 10 Jo was already learning skills that would serve her well in business. She became a magician’s assistant to her dad and also sold art with him at a Saturday market. During the same time she also worked at her mother’s partnership business with Madam Lubatti from whom she learnt a lot of things that prove very useful for her in setting up her business. Jo proved her business prowess when on her 16th birthday her dad gave her a gift of £100. Jo invested £80 of the money into buying plain t-shirts, penning a design on them and selling them. She made a profit of £40, bought two skirts and saved the rest of the money. Not what you would expect from a lot of 16 year old girls.
Jo was diagnosed with cancer in 2003, she would fight it for 18 months receiving treatment in New York. The cancer would lead to her getting a mastectomy on both of her breasts. It would be a severe challenging period for Jo affecting her self-confidence and disrupting her life, but with the help of her husband, friends and good medical practitioners she would pull through it. When she finished her treatment, she decided to totally step away from running Jo Malone which at the time was under Estee Lauder. The people at Estee Lauder who had a good relationship with her didn’t want her to leave, but she insisted on doing do. A decision she would later regret because part of the legal agreements of parting with Estee Lauder was not to set up any fragrant related business for 5 years after the separation. The good part to this was it gave her time to bond with her son, Josh.
What Jo came to realise during those five years was that she was best when she was creating things and for her that meant creating fragrances. While she was frustrated during those periods when she couldn’t create fragrances, she did get involved in some interesting projects such as speaking at schools and being part of a business related TV programme, and to her surprise she was also awarded an MBE. Jo is now back in business doing what she loves, creating fragrances. Her story is an inspiration which encourages us not to see our own personal abilities or gifts as useless and to use them as best as we can. Also we must not let our challenges put us down to the point where we stop functioning.
I definitely recommend this book and as a reminder of some of the things I learnt from the book, I will be writing a three-point lesson summary and group session. Look out for that.