Jo Malone: fragrance designer
Jo Malone: fragrance designer
A view from Jo Malone

Jo Malone: 'Creating fragrances is what makes life worth living for me'

Fragrance designer Jo Malone shares what she's learned on her journey from home-based entrepreneur to working with her husband to fulfil her business dream for a second time.

Lightning can strike twice. I suppose I’ve lived most people’s dreams; building a company from your kitchen sink then having a big corporation come knocking on your door to buy it. At the time when I was selling Jo Malone to Estée Lauder, I never dreamed I would be anywhere else. But having cancer changed the destiny of where I was going. That was the point that I realised that something wasn’t there for me any more in Jo Malone. Now, however, eight years on, I’m sitting here fulfilling a dream for the second time with Jo Loves.

Build your business on integrity. Be truthful, honest and don’t try to be something you are not. If I’ve made a mistake, I will say so, but I’ll also celebrate my successes.

Disadvantages can be an advantage. I’m dyslexic and left school very young with no qualifications. I can’t tell my left from my right, I can’t swim, and I find it really difficult driving a car. I couldn’t tell the time until I was 15 years old. However, if someone said to me that I could live my life again but without all that, I would say: "No, thank you." My lack of education and dyslexia have been my two best friends as they’ve always caused me to look for another answer.

Play to your strengths. My husband has this great expression: "Run like Jesse Owens." Run on the track you can run fastest on. Creating fragrances is what makes life worth living for me. I’m not doing it just to have a job or a career. I couldn’t walk through a cosmetics floor for two years after leaving Jo Malone as I would start to cry; I missed it so much.

If it feels right to take work into the home. My husband of 28 years is my business partner and I would never ever be in business with anyone other than him. Each relationship is different but, for us, we love the challenge, so talking about business doesn’t feel like a chore. I’m not good at switching off – I wouldn’t know how to. My son, who is only 12, is helping me create the theatre that will happen in the Jo Loves store.

Failure can be the first step to success. In the medical industry and research, success is based on failure and the elimination of things. Sometimes, learning the way not to do something is more valuable than learning how to do something right. Taking risks is part of success; they go hand-in-hand. The most successful people are those who have gone out and taken risks.

Build bridges, don’t destroy them. The Lauders are an amazing family. It was important to me that they knew my plans for Jo Loves. You poke me with a stick and I will bite, but life’s too short. Relationships are important to me. I don’t like falling out with people. I don’t like the way it makes you feel.

DIY works. I love Americans because they welcome innovation and inspiration. It’s an attitude built by people who walked into that country with nothing in their pockets, but with great ideas. I don’t think Americans feel that life owes them something; they’re prepared to get up and do it. So many times when people are mentored they expect you to light the fire and fan the flames.

Inspire, inspire, inspire. It’s not just about creating inspirational product. Be an inspirational leader, create an inspirational company and create an environment where people want to thrive.