Tuesday 14 August 2018

'I faced being told that I wasn’t going to survive it... my body was to the wall' - Perfumer Jo Malone on devastating diagnosis

Successful businesswoman Jo, who sold her perfume company to Estee Lauder in 1999, says she loves success much more than money
Successful businesswoman Jo, who sold her perfume company to Estee Lauder in 1999, says she loves success much more than money
Jo Malone reveals a compelling rags-to-riches story in her autobiography
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

“I faced being told that I wasn’t going to survive it. I was a young mum.”

“It’s life changing for anyone… Cancer changed me as a person… I did surgery after surgery, chemo, intensive care. I mean my body just was to the wall. But I won. I came through it. And every day I never take that for granted.”

When perfumer Jo Malone sits down for a one-on-one with Independent.ie, she, like her fragrances funnily enough, is a breath of fresh air. Open and frank, the businesswoman glides from topic to topic offering gold nugget advice on what life has taught her.

Behind the success, she contends, is a resilience. A resilience built up at the negotiating table, in motherhood, and in 2003, when she was dealt the blow that she had breast cancer.

Her inimitable talent for mixing fragrances made her a success. But resilience got her through cancer, and it helped her pick up the pieces after any less than favourable business decisions.

However, she explains: “Bad decisions and wrong decisions don’t dictate your life. Learn from them, and then look at it and use that energy that you feel… I shed a few tears and wiped my eyes… and then I sat back and thought, how are you really? Are you really that entrepreneur that can do it again and again? Or was it one lucky break? Now prove to yourself who you really are.”

“And I think I’m on the way to proving that I am the person that has definitely got that entrepreneurial spirit. And I would never be doing the things I’d be doing if I hadn’t left Jo Malone. If I had of stayed, I’d be on a very different journey. I’d like to say I’d still be happy because that’s who I am. But now I’m doing things I could never have dreamed of, and my life is about to take a turn any second.”

New plans and projects are afoot. On these future projects, Malone is tight-lipped however. It’s past lessons that she’s happy to share.

“I think I spent a long time in my life, the minute I was succeeding in something, I was on to the next and the next. You know what, I should have just sat back and enjoyed it a bit longer and I think that’s one of my big lessons for me, is I don’t appreciate the moment.”

“The times I get anxious, and I go through terrible anxiety, is when I really worried what other people think. And you know what, ultimately you’re not going to spend your life with that group of people, and they’re tiny. They’re tiny, compared to the 98pc of people in my life that are fruitful and wonderful. I don’t want to spend time around those people who don’t make me happy. What makes me happy is being fulfilled and being relevant and being in the moment.”

“Resilience is a powerful ingredient in our fight to make our world a better place, and I think entrepreneurs are always used to picking up pieces that were on the floor and making something of it, and it’s that resilience that teaches you that.”

She cites author Malcolm Gladwell’s idea of David and Goliath.

“Sometimes you have to find, in these big giants… you have to look at them and think 'you’ve a weakness, what are my strengths. My strength is I know how to do that…'”

“Just because you’re small doesn’t mean you’re not as powerful, and it doesn’t mean you can’t win. You just have to think with your entrepreneurial spirit.”

Jo Malone was in Dublin recently to judge The Pitch, which was launched by Samsung Ireland, and to eventually award Jennifer Rock, founder and CEO of The Skin Nerd, the €100,000 prize.

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