An Evening with Jo Malone: Creativity, resilience and her Jo Loves comebac
Jo Malone built a multi-million pound business from her kitchen sink. Using her remarkable sense of smell (she claims she can smell when it's about to rain), Jo has curated the world's most distinctive (and delicious) fragrances. After selling Jo Malone to Estee Lauder in 1999 and leaving Jo Malone for good in 2006, Jo watched on for almost a decade as her home-grown empire reached new heights without her. After a tremendously difficult few years battling an aggressive form of breast cancer, Jo Malone is back with a new venture: Jo Loves.
I was lucky enough to spend an evening with the fragrance magnate, thanks to my best friend Graihagh and her wonderful mum, Sue (thanks Sue!), who booked us tickets to the Times+ event 'An Evening with Jo Malone'. The conference was held at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel in Chelsea and as soon as I turned up I felt extremely underdressed in my Joni Jeans and H&M Jumper. My friend and I quickly noticed the homogeneousness of the Jo Malone audience: middle-aged, middle class women adorned in expensive-looking fur coats, Russell and Bromley kitten heels and strings of pearls.
Nevertheless, it soon became clear that the majority of the us were there because we loved Jo Malone (the brand). We overheard strangers exchanging their undying love for Nutmeg & Ginger - "none of the school mums had smelt anything like it" - and remarking about the beauty of the "subtle nodes" in Pomegranate Noir. Undeniably, Jo's rags-to-riches journey from council estate to a fragrance counter in Selfridges - a tension that remained unresolved during the talk- also stimulated interest. What's her magic ingredient? How did she do it?
After a short delay, Jo was introduced onto a small stage by Sunday Times Beauty Editor, Sarah Jossel. Clutching her newly launched book, Jo Malone: The Story, Jo emanated confidence, authenticity and a kind of wiseness that captivated my friend and I. Honestly speaking, before the interview began, I was skeptical of Jo's new project. Was Jo Loves another money-motivated venture? Was it a regurgitation of Jo Malone - an attempt to win back the customer base she fought so hard to build? To my surprise, through her honesty, modesty and sense of humour, Jo completely dispelled my skepticism.
Although I'd love to tell her story for her, Jo has just launched her first autobiography Jo Malone: The Story. Instead, I thought I'd share five life lessons I learnt from Jo Malone this evening.
1) Live in the moment
Given that the dominant demographic of Jo's audience were 'prospective' business women, Jo spoke a lot about the so-called dichotomy between motherhood and entrepreneurship. Is it possible to be a mum and a business woman? Or in my case...is it possible to balance relationships, hobbies (blogging) and a serious dedication to my full time job? Speaking from experience of raising a family alongside a multimillion pound global fragrance company, Jo stated that you have to 'live in the moment'. If you're at work, focus all your energy on your job. When you're at home, separate yourself from your work.
2) Don't be afraid of failure
Most successful entrepreneurs will tell you that they experienced a multitude of failure before their idea kicked off - Jo Malone is no different. She spoke of hilarious mishaps (involving terrible miscalculations and genital stimulators [don't ask]), as well as mental blocks and low moments. Jo claims that she would not be where she is now if she had been afraid of failing. Using this advice, I'm going to be bolder in my career and promise not to beat myself up if things don't go my way.
3) Creativity, passion and resilience are key ingredients for the entrepreneur
According to Jo, the key ingredients to successful entrepreneurship are creativity, passion and resilience. Creativity is about developing ideas, becoming inspired and creating a platform to become the inspirer. Using these ideas, you need passion to ignite into action, as well as the resilience to get you through the tough times. It was so refreshing to hear a successful business woman talking about creativity. In business, despite the occasional 'creative thinking' rhetoric, I don't think creativity is something that is truly valued as much as 'linear thinking', 'qualitative analysis' or 'problem solving'.
4) Don't regret
Throughout Jo's interview, many women asked whether she regretted selling Jo Malone to Estee Lauder. This, I think, was the one question that Jo looked uncomfortable answering. On the one hand, Jo admitted that she became deeply unhappy when she gave away the company and refused to comment on the direction Lauder were taking her empire. However, Jo was also adamant that she did not regret the decision. She said that every time she walks past a Jo Malone store, she only feels a sense of pride and achievement. This, after all, was the business she built with a couple of measuring jugs from her kitchen sink.
5) Run on the track you run the fastest run
Finally, whilst talking about the realities of running a business, Jo declared that you have to 'run on the track that you run the fastest on'. Over the years, Jo claimed that she tried to dabble in the financial aspect of her business, or give her opinions about the latest type of marketing. Ultimately, however, her skill, talent and purpose within her business is creativity. Jo may not be able to accurately forecast market trends using economic theorem, but she can visualise images, scenes and memories and convert them into beautiful, unusual fragrance. This was the most powerful life lesson for me from this talk. I've recently been thinking about my long term goals for my own career. I know I want to be in business - particularly in the creative industries (music, entertainment, retail, maybe even government and (I'm not afraid to say it) I want to make lots of money. However, the track I run the fastest on is using my creativity to write, form wacky ideas and build relationships with people - not creating algorithms or writing M language Excel queries.
An evening with Jo Malone, as you can probably tell from the length of this blogpost, was inspiring, comforting, powerful and motivating. And if Jo Malone - an ordinary woman born on a council estate in South London - can create an international, market-leading fragrance company from her kitchen sink, twice, you can too!
Have you tried out Jo Loves yet? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!
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Blog header image taken from joloves.com