Entrepreneurship And Innovation Michelle Mone Cultural Studies Essay

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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 and the fact that majority succeed is the reason why some consider them "superheroes" (Burns, 2007). Who then is an entrepreneur? 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" (pg 12). This definition is quiet suitable as a description of Michelle Mone, whose entrepreneur life is almost too good to be true, more like a fairy tale story. But if dug dipper it will be discovered that the life of Michelle Mone has been full of ups and downs. However despite all the odds she manages to succeed in a very competitive industry.

Michelle Mone has shown an entrepreneurial flair and organizational skill even at a tender age of ten when she organise her friends into providing hot rolls and newspapers delivery service (Renshaw, 2010). Destiny has planned a different thing in Michelle life, which is good because it can be argued that these experiences have prepared her for future challenges. One of these experiences started when her father became paralyse due to an illness and Michelle at fifteen had to take the responsibility of the breadwinner of the family. So, when her age groups are going to school and having a normal life, Michelle was modelling in order to cope with family responsibility. But Michelle has mentioned that she has always wanted her own business and noted that successful people like Richard Branson are her role model with his posters on her wall unlike her friends who have Duran Duran (motivationalwomen.co.uk).

At the age of twenty Michelle quit her modelling job and decided 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 family life, especially after the birth of her daughter (cityspeakers international). Within two years of working with Labatt, Michelle has move up the ladder from an office junior to become the marketing and sales manager (Cragg, 2010). 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 because the company was acquired by another company and Michelle was made redundant in1996. Burns have (2007) noted that unemployment and in particular redundancy is a strong catalyst on the zeal to become self-employed. Michelle described what she thinks of her redundancy now

Michelle was not deterred by her husband remarks; she went further to start planning her dream (Stevenson, 2009). It is worthy to note that 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. She understood that there is a problem hitherto that needs to be solved with other lingerie products and she decides to do that. Michelle took this opportunity to heart and put in all of her energy and determination into it, especially when she realizes that her chances of getting a new job is slim considering the level of her qualification. Below the business model for entrepreneurial process will capture the idea generation, opportunity recognition and exploitation of Michelle.

After having the entrepreneurial idea and opportunity recognition, Michelle committed herself to do entrepreneurial journey by registering her company MJM International in 1996 the same year she was made redundant. However she is yet to have her product on ground, she therefore marshalled all the resources and energy into pursuing her opportunity in a process referred to as product development in which the product is created (Baron and Shane, 2005). There is a debate that 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 through an incremental innovation (Lockett, 2010). This project took her to Germany where she team up with a scientist who is knowledgeable about brassieres. In her own words Michelle recalls the journey;

"It took me three years to invent the bra" The Telegraph (2009)

Baron and Shane (2005) have recognise that ideas are not just created rather they are made up of combination of elements that already exist. The product that Michelle came up with is not any different from other of its kind but something new has been added to it which makes it improved and comfortable compare to others of its kind. The innovative process has seen the addition silicone gel into a normal bra but which cannot be found in other brassieres and so in essence making this product very different. The diagram below explain it,

Source: Lockett (2010)

Finally Michelle has achieved her dream of creating the most comfortable bra- called ULTIMO, but one cannot but wonder what consumers define as a comfortable bra. How sure is Michelle that her product is comfortable? Will women buy it? The taste and 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 amount of money to finance the project worth £410,000, secured against equity to her 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 will yield no fruit?


After successful creating the product, what remains is bringing it into the market. This is quite the most critical aspect of Michelle entrepreneurship journey, the process of creating awareness among people of her product. The ultimo, for example, is certainly different among its type but nobody knows about it. This is where entrepreneurs are distinguish, the ability to develop a business strategy that will make them successful (Baron and Shane, 2005).

One of the characteristics of entrepreneurs is recognising their strength and weakness. Michelle realizes that her business is likely not to be successful if she is to sell her bra in her own shop, and opening a shop 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 show her product prototype to some clothing stores. A major feature of an entrepreneur life is convincing investors to believe in their idea, but in her case Michelle task is convincing stores to stock and sell her product. Selfridges store a fashion giant store loved Michelle product (Stevenson, 2009), they decided to launch ULTIMO in order to create awareness of the product to consumers. A lot of effort and resources went into launching of ULTIMO; Michelle saw this is as the moment of truth where her fate will be decided. Bolouri (2009) described the launching day

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

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 launching 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 (motivationalwomen.co.uk). Business was good as ultimo has been received with open hands; the ultimo brand image was further boosted when the famous actress Julia Roberts wore the bra in her Oscar winning awards film Erin Brokavich.

To further explain the entrepreneurial process and strategy of Michelle business, the Opportunity Business Model (OBM) is employ. A business model is simply a representation of how a new business can plan and manage the whole elements of the business. The OBM explains and capture the entrepreneur business idea, the table gives an analysis of Michelle business using the OBM elements of the dimension and drivers.



The proposition was to provide a comfortable cleavage enhancing bra where none exist in the market.


Michelle is the founder and creator of Ultimo and her husband is the MD of their company.

Michelle idea was turned into reality by scientist who has the knowledge on brassieres.

A company with the cleavage enhancing patent gave Michelle a license.

The staff of the company including the models signed to endorse the product made the whole idea successful.


The industry is very competitive and initially MJM is a small player.

Selfridges is the major store that started selling ultimo, others have since been joined by others.

MJM online store allows easy access to consumers


The structure of the company is set in such a way that Michelle and her husband manage, control.

Models are hired to promote and endorse the products

MJM will have to continuously promote their product in a series of processes.

Also MJM has a process in place that ensures that they get their money as soon as a customer buys their product from the major stores that stock their bra to ensure cash flow.


The business is profitable and worth £45million and because the business is a personal (ltd), there are no publicly mention investors.

Some of the cost may involve of license fee.




Globalization has led to the exploitation of cheaper labour by manufacturing firms.

Relaxing of laws that allow free trade and easy access to international business, this has seen the exportation of ULTIMO in many countries.


Patent have to be legally protected, and because the silicone gel bra is the first of its kind it applies here too.

There are different laws guiding organization of sole proprietorship.


The internet has been central to the success of business; MJM has utilised it as a promotional channel and selling channel.

Technology has also been utilised to handle the transactions and administration process.

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. Michelle was tested when a Canadian distributor of ULTIMO escaped with about £600,000 of the business money putting the company in debt with HSBC bank; subsequently they were given 2 weeks ultimatum to pay their debt (Stevenson, 2009). At that period MJM international Michelle Company is growing and is an employer of several people. The worst thing is the business is not in debt because of lack of sales rather it is doing exceptionally well when the problem occurred, unfortunately it is either they pay the debt or close the business. 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 (Stevenson, 2009), 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 directed at the person of Michelle when she was attack and hurt by a thief, he drove away with her car and money.

Social capital has played an important part 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 have feeling of kinship with her, as such she is considered to be a local celebrity in the UK. The Timmons model will now be used as a tool to analyse the whole of the Michelle entrepreneurial journey.




Business plan

Ambiguity Fits and gaps exogenous forces

TEAM (3)


Uncertainty Capital market context


TIMMONS MODEL SOURCE: http://blacksgonegeek.org/Documents/Timmons%20Modelv3.pdf




The Timmons Model consider the founder as the most important pillar, as a leader Michelle is strong, passionate, determine and capable of juggling the business opportunity


Central to the whole process is an idea/opportunity. The entrepreneurial process is wholly dependent on making the opportunity feasible.

Michelle idea is quite grand but the chances of an investor funding her business will have been slim because an investor will be thinking that a bra is not new.


Resources allows the opportunity to be developed, Michelle was able to use her redundancy money and loans to finance her project.


With her experience Michelle was able to create a good team and in the early stage of the business her husband experience counts a lot.


Michelle marketing experiences has influenced some of her decisions, the strategy of using celebrities as ambassadors of the ULTIMO brand has been successful in creating awareness, increasing sales of the product and finally in generating free publicity for the product. The diagram below gives a representation of MJM marketing strategy for selling ULTIMO.

Michelle has been described as a person who always takes advantage of every opportunity to promote her product; in her interview with Cragg (2010) Michelle described herself.

"I'm driven by a passion and determination to give customer's products that they couldn't find anywhere else."

As the Chairman of her company Michelle has set a leadership style by being very honest and upfront with her staff and also leading by example too. For example Michelle admitted that she has always been organised and also expect same from her team. Her team are made up of people she respect and who are good in their jobs.


Michelle as a person is hardworking and as an entrepreneur she is successful, there are several awards and accolades to prove her success. She has taken the bra industry by surprise and has created a niche for her product in a very competitive industry. Her company is worth nearly £50 million and even if her success is attributed to luck then one can agree that Michelle deserve to be called a true entrepreneur because she is able to find luck when others with better idea and opportunity than her own cannot find it.