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Top businesswomen share the secrets of their success

Some of the UK’s most successful businesswomen share the secrets of their success

Now with almost 50 UK high-street boutiques, it’s hard to believe that Jo Malone started her eponymous fragrance business from home in 1988.

Jo left school at 13 to look after her beautician mother who had suffered a stroke. Some years later, “severely dyslexic” Malone was earning money by providing facials, giving customers self-made bath oils as a thank you. Orders soon flooded in and Malone opened her first London store in 1994.

Passion, resilience and creativity

Five years later, Estée Lauder bought the business, retaining Malone as creative director. In 2003, aged 37, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but after winning that battle she left Jo Malone London in 2006. She launched her new fragrance company, Jo Loves, in 2011.

Malone says: “The ingredients every entrepreneur needs to succeed are passion, resilience and creativity”. She prefers to ask “What if?” rather than accept boundaries, while her passion never diminishes. Malone believes she brings inspiration, innovation, ignition, instinct and integrity (the “Five Is”) to her work and ignores naysayers”).

Ambition, determination and commitment

Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish launched popular online gift marketplace in 2006, originally another kitchen table enterprise (made possible, partly, by a £30,000 HSBC loan).

Speaking to the Financial Times, Tucker said: “I really care about how things are done; I don’t accept ‘no’ for an answer; I’m never satisfied and never look back.” Equally determined to prove doubters wrong, when trying to attract investment early on she recalls pitching “countless times to grey-haired men who had written us off before we even spoke” because of what she sarcastically describes as “being two blonde women who ran a shopping site selling ‘crafts’”.

Providing her business tips to, Cornish said: “It’s easy to look at established entrepreneurs and think they have some magic recipe or single answer. Women feel that until they have that answer they can’t start, it holds them back. [But] I’ve learnt that no one has the answers, a successful business means learning and making mistakes.”

Optimism and willingness to learn

Author, healthy food blogger and entrepreneur, Ella Woodward of Deliciously Ella fame recently won the Rising Star gong at the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. Blogging on her success, she writes: “A lot of it is luck; a lot of it is a willingness to do whatever it takes and never take no [for] an answer.” Other key reasons include remaining optimistic, “losing your ego” and being prepared to “learn, learn, learn”, while not shying away from constructive criticism.

Rather than go to university, 18-year-old Rachael Flanagan from Pontarddulais started her own cleaning business in 2005, with just a mop, bucket and £20 for flyers. Flanagan’s company, Mrs Bucket, has since grown to a full-service cleaning company with offices in Swansea, Cardiff, Newport and Bristol, 300 employees and 250 clients”, turning over more than £3m.

Commenting on her success to Wales Online Flanagan said: “I like to surround myself with people who are more successful than me, so I can learn. I’m very much about the future and goal planning, and I really do think that if you put your mind to something, you can do it, it’s just having guts to do it.”

Confidence to succeed

Martha Lane Fox founded with Brett Hoberman in 1998. Just seven years later the business was acquired for a reported £577m, with Lane Fox’s own shares worth £13m. Lords crossbencher Baroness Lane Fox of Soho sits on Twitter’s board. So, what has she learned about business?

Speaking to the Accelerating Change Network (which “encourages women to excel in business”) she says: “Everyone battles inner demons and confidence can be one of these. I might appear confident, but I just wake up and switch my brain on to confident daily. There has been many times where I’ve been in a room, and there will be many women in the same position, it is important that you do not get overwhelmed by nerves and that you realise, whether it be a boardroom full of men, that you have every right to be there, you have the right to be heard and have a voice. Always be forthright and don’t apologise for speaking your mind.”

Read more:

Q&A: Lindsay Loxley of the Women In Business Network

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