Does adland have a female entrepreneur to match Jo Malone?

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Our Marketing executive Daisy-May Kent is inspired by the Jo Loves founder – and argues we need more women like her working in the advertising industry

When I discovered that my CEO, James Connelly, the founder of Fetch, was set to host an ‘intimate’ chat with Jo Malone CBE, founder and creative director, Jo Loves, as part of an event series focused on re-invention, entrepreneurship and brand building in a digital world, my excitement was tinged with disappointment. How damning that Fetch’s founder (a male entrepreneur, I might add) had to look outside of the ad industry in order to find such an inspirational speaker.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike Malone. Like many, I love her product and that automatically means that I love her too and I don’t need to know her to be absolutely certain of that. Reading her autobiography, I didn’t expect to be even remotely bothered and yet I was; plainly because it’s a classic rags-to-riches tale but without the cliché.

The daughter of working class parents (one of which was a serial gambler) she grew up on a council estate and recounts memories of having to hide from the council rent man as well as prising the ‘housekeeping money’ from her father on a weekly basis.

She keeps it real

Like the alchemy that can be found in her products, Malone’s very essence can be found on every page. From being a magician’s assistant to whipping up lotions and potions in her family kitchen from the tender age of eleven, it’s clear that her childhood shaped her work ethic and spirit; something which I love yet hate for her all at the same time.

When Jo first began to speak, it became instantly clear that the thing that you have to realise about her is that she is still the woman who was the magician’s assistant, the florist, the shopkeeper; because she realises it too. She’s never forgotten who she is and where she’s from and brings it up constantly; she’s not going to let you forget it.

One of the UK’s greatest entrepreneurial exports, it’s clear that Malone knows her stuff. She’s just as comfortable chatting on the sofa with ITV’s Lorraine as she is fighting the education system to encourage young people at schools to learn entrepreneurship.

Having worked alongside her own mother in the beauty business from a young age, she’s also done the same with her son and has taught him about every aspect of Jo Loves. And Malone recognises the flaws in today’s education system.

Just because someone doesn’t excel in exams, doesn’t mean that they aren’t educated in other ways and she agrees. “People can play the piano, or paint, or do sport or know Pi. They are all just as smart as one another, yet in different ways”.

She champions those many wouldn’t

Malone’s latest endeavour wants to see the subject taught from ages eight to sixteen. Jo was upfront and honest about her dyslexia and opened up about the fact that she can neither drive nor swim due to the condition.

Ultimately proving that you don’t need to be academic to be a success, Jo’s speech moved the crowd (shout out to the woman who put her hand up and admitted to wanting to quit her boring corporate job in order to do her own thing) and was a brilliant example of ripping up the rule book because one size doesn’t fit all.

She’s already began to trial teaching her entrepreneurial initiative in schools and in her words, allow “those who are less academic to fly”.

She’s down with flexible working

Openly admitting to hating the ritual of the corporate 9-5, my heart sang as I began to resonate with her even further. Here was one of the UK’s most successful exports, agreeing with me and my belief that the formula behind the 9-5 is wrong. In France, they work a 35-hour week and often spend summers hopping around the Mediterranean, ‘working from home’ and generally enjoying a healthy work/life balance.

I’m unsure why the UK can’t seem to relax a bit more, but with Brexit, Russia and seemingly everything else hanging in the air like limp laundry that can’t seem to dry, I agree with Malone and feel that we are due a bit of break. Her feelings towards the topic also went down a storm with the older women in the room.

In a world where brilliant, female advertising role models exist (I’m looking at you Cilla Snowball, Tess Alps and Karen Blackett), it seems strange that they are seen as slaves to the wage whereas men like Sorrell and Saatchi are the ones who scrape all the glory.

She’s a champion for creativity

In her book, Malone makes time for herself before anyone else; an expression of self-care that we’re not used to seeing to in the age of consumption and always being switched on. When asked about the notion of ripping it up and starting again, she said ‘rip it up and start again? I do that every week, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t take the fragments in your hands and use them’.

An entrepreneur made in the time of analogue yet booming in the digital economy, Malone has used (and will continue to use) every trick in the book to make her business a success. Ever heard of walking the dogs? Neither had we until Malone explained her tongue in cheek reference. She needed to make it big in the US but didn’t have enough budget or product to do so.

Thinking outside of the box, she and her husband Gary persuaded fifty people to walk around New York City with empty shopping bags emblazoned with her name. This kind of guerrilla marketing worked and meant that when she eventually opened her New York store, the desire and hunger for her products was already there.

…an innovative approach to customer relationships

Clever and full of wit, Malone also looks to the allurement of that first kiss and is adamant that brands need to ‘kiss’ their customers.

Believing in making every customer interaction feel like the natural spell we’ve all fallen for at the most innocent stage of life, Malone trusts her gut and just knows that being intuitive and thinking one, two or even three steps ahead of your customers is the way forward. She’s not afraid to break the rules when necessary; such as the time when she refused to use Berdorf Goodman packaging when working on a crucial business deal with them.

Malone stood her ground and was ultimately able to stock her products in her signature packaging and not Berdorf’s. Did she cause uproar? Absolutely. Was it worth it? ‘Hell yes’, she says.

Standing absolutely firm on conjuring her own enchantments, Malone believes in the 5i’s. Standing for Inspiration, Innovation, Integrity, Ignition and Instinct, these signatures are something that she has used to build her incredibly successful businesses. Not afraid to be bold, think big and make mistakes, it’s this bravery that makes her a hit with both millennial and analogue audiences alike.

It’s abundantly clear that we need more women like Malone within the ad industry, but acceptance isn’t enough. We have make our demands, champion our women and actively accelerate the movement forward.

Am I inspired to become an entrepreneur after listening to Malone? Absolutely. Do I think that I’ll make it happen in this industry? I’m unsure. In a time of radical change for women in all sectors, here’s hoping that advertising is ready for a much-needed surge of female spirit.

This article by Daisy-May Kent appeared in Mediatel News on 10th July 2018