Who is feisty, tenacious, and has a never-give-up spirit? Jo Malone, famous for her fragrance line Jo Malone London (now operated and owned by Estee Lauder).
I bought her book, Jo Malone: My Story (Simon & Schuster, 2016), for a friend but soon realized I needed a copy for myself.
I love reading about other women and how they grow their businesses. This personal account is particularly poignant and kind of magical. You won’t believe what her beginnings were like in London: poor, cold because of broken windows in her bedroom, a poor student in school because she was dyslexic but undiagnosed, a gambling father, a hard-working but unstable mother, her parents difficult marriage, and a pesky sister. Lots of chaos and uncertainty.
When I’d see her first fragrance line (she now has another called Jo Loves) on display at Neiman-Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue I only imagined the glamorous life of the actual Jo Malone. Packaging is everything, right? So to read her story was humbling. Her book is written as if she’s speaking right to you, sharing all the nitty gritty stories and all the side roads that led her to her amazing line. I thought, “Wow, if she can do that with the challenges she had, others with challenges less severe then hers could certainly make it, too.”
I want to share with you some quotes from her book that made me think immediately of how stylists, fashion consultants, and image consultants can meet challenges and move forward. I hope you can see some of the connections from her experience to yours.
Stare at obstacles long enough and they will only appear bigger. See through and around them and they only diminish.
The only rival for any entrepreneur should be the rival within – the person you are, pushing you to be better, week in, week out.
When she decided to get back into the business of fragrance, she’d been out of it for five years due to the non-compete clause in her contract with Estee Lauder. Actually, at the time she sold her line she really thought she was done. She didn’t need to work. Hers was a rags to riches story. She was going to stay home with her son and her husband but she started to get the urge to go back to her first love, fragrance. It wasn’t as easy as one might think it would be.
If we were to succeed again, I had to stay focused, so I sat down with that blank page and asked myself the three fundamental questions that each of us should ask ourselves when standing at a crossroads, whether you’re an entrepreneur with a kernel of an idea, or someone who has lost a job or gone through a divorce, looking for a new direction. Those questions are: Who am I? How can I reinvent myself? Where do I begin?
My answers helped bring me clarity. First: I may no longer own my old brand but I remained Jo Malone the person; that’s who I am, a creator of fragrance. I had sold my name, not my instinct, my nose, my creativity, or the future. Second: I reinvent myself by tapping into the creativity that served me before. I was a different person now and that difference will be reflected in the product I make. Change. Keep evolving. Trust in the one thing you’re good at. As to where I begin, that was easy: today, right now – you seize the moment and physically get to work. And I knew what we had to do – we had to get back to the basics.
She dealt with a lot of fear. Don’t we all? Here’s what she has to say about facing fear.
I can’t pretend that I was consistently gung-ho and charging ahead, but I believe fear is sometimes healthy. Because once I’ve exhausted the emotion of fear, I tend to come back fighting. Fear represents that inner voice that dares to say, ‘you can’t do this’, and that breeds an even stronger resolve within me.
Ultimately, I was determined to find a way – the motto that should be seared into every entrepreneur’s mindset. It shouldn’t matter if doors are slammed shut in your face or the legal obstacles seem too high. Find a ladder. Or find a way to climb over the wall. Or dig a tunnel. Just find a way.
I had a stern word with myself that weekend. ‘If you really want this, you’ve got to prove to life that you want it. Time to dig deep and put into practice all you’ve ever known, gal.’
Engaging her nose again and creating new fragrances proved to be as she said “painfully slow” but she tried not to get stressed about it. Here she discusses the creative process.
Even when I drew a blank, I still persevered, as all creatives must. Dad sat there with a blank canvas and brushes to hand. Writers face an empty screen and play with words until a paragraph strings together. Likewise, I still worked my nose, even when nothing stirred. Pursue creativity in its absence. Invite inspiration. Keep the door open. Eventually, creativity will manifest itself and whisper to you in the most unexpected forms. Which is what happened to me on that morning when I took my walk.
And for the rest of the story, you’ll have to read her book! I certainly recommend it.