Interview with Jo Malone: How to stage a comeback

Jo Malone MBE
By Andrew Harbison, CA Today

12 July 2016

Jo Malone MBE talks to Andrew Harbison about building a business empire from the ground up, walking away from it, and starting all over again, ahead of her appearance at the ICAS Conference.

“I feel so honoured,” says Jo, speaking about winning 'Entrepreneur of the Year' at the Evening Standard Business Awards.

“All that hard work and the world is suddenly realising we’re very much back on the scene.” 

That last statement may have left some of you slightly puzzled. 

You might be thinking ‘Back on the scene? When was she ever off the scene?’

Although Jo Malone fragrance stores have been a feature of UK high streets for over two decades, Jo Malone herself hasn’t been involved in the business for 10 years. 

Jo sold her fragrance empire to Estee Lauder in 1999, initially staying on as creative director until walking away completely in 2006.    

“Selling to Estee lauder was the best thing I did and I’d do it again in a second,” she says with absolute conviction. “But how I sold, I would do it differently.”

When I look back on it, I’m so glad that I made that journey. As hard as it was I’m so glad I didn’t quit.

After leaving the business, Jo was contractually locked out of the fragrance industry for the next five years.

“I was utterly miserable for those five years. I thought I could walk away and shut the door but I couldn’t.”

For Jo, fragrance is more than just a business, she says it’s part of her “identity”.

During those five years the entrepreneur in Jo craved a project, a task, something to keep her mind occupied. She sat on a number of boards, visited schools to talk to the pupils about the benefits of starting a business and she had her own TV show called High Street Dreams where she helped budding entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground.

Career history

  • 1994: Jo Malone is founded.
  • 1999: Jo sells Jo Malone to cosmetics company Estee Lauder.
  • 2006: Jo leaves Jo Malone, starting a five year lock out clause from the fragrance industry.
  • 2008: Jo is honoured with an MBE for her services to the beauty industry.
  • 2010: The ‘High Street Dreams’ television show sees Jo helping budding entrepreneurs start a business.
  • 2011: With the five-year lockout over, Jo announces her new business Jo Loves.
  • 2013: The first Jo Loves store opens on Elizabeth Street, London.
  • 2016: Jo Loves signs a deal with Net-A-Porter, bring the brand to the global marketplace.

Jo Malone

It was while filming the show, as she was working with a family hoping to launch their own range of chilli sauce, that something stirred inside of Jo.

“I was in their garden filling bottles of chilli sauce and the passion to go back and start another business was so great within me that I just thought, if I don’t do this I’m going to regret it.”

When she announced her new businesses Jo Loves in 2011, she knew that she had a fight ahead of her to re-establish her fragrances as the best in the market.

The first Jo Loves store was opened on London’s Elizabeth Street, the same where Jo had her first job in a florist when she was 16.

Her new range of scents, candles and body care products are inspired by the moments in her life that she loves.  

“I had to earn my right to be able to stand there again. The first two years were excruciatingly painful and I nearly quit so many times.”

It was the “tenacity of an entrepreneur” and the love of what she does that kept her going.

“When I look back on it I’m so glad that I made that journey. As hard as it was I’m so glad I didn’t quit.”

Getting the balance right

Many studies have shown that people put a good work/life balance ahead of salary as the most important part of job satisfaction.

This is a sentiment that Jo shares.

“We are in charge of our own lives. I love what I do when I’m working and I’m 100% in that moment and I love when I’m at home and I’m 100% in that moment. I give it my best shot every single day.”

No matter how long the day has been, she stresses the importance of setting aside quality time for family.

“I’m a big believer of sitting round a table and having a meal together and talking.

“I work to make my life and my family’s life better but what’s the point if I’m never at home to enjoy it?”

What’s next for Jo?

Making the Jo Loves brand global was always the plan. Jo has just signed a deal with the online fashion retailer Net-a-Porter, which will sell the Jo Loves debut collection worldwide.

“We’ve got a book launching,” she adds excitedly.

“I’ve just finished the manuscript, it’s on the pages and ready to go for 6th October.”

The book will tell the story of an “entrepreneurial journey and how you come back a second time and do it again”.

Jo Malone MBE will be speaking at the ICAS Conference on 29 September 2016.

ICAS is delighted to welcome Investec Wealth & Investment as our first ever principal partner for The ICAS Conference. The ICAS Conference takes place at the EICC on Thursday 29 September 2016. Early bird discount extended for a limited time only.


  • CA life

Previous Page