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LONDON — On the last day of filming her upcoming television show, Jo Malone meant business, and only a chirping cuckoo clock could have put the beauty industry veteran off her stride.
Standing in a vast furniture and interior design store here last month, Malone laughed heartily after the offending timepiece interrupted a monologue about the early days of the fragrance business she founded.
“Was it hard work? Absolutely,” she asserted, referring to the fragrance and treatment brand she sold to the Estée Lauder Cos. in 1999.
And she is not shirking away from applying elbow grease to her latest project, either. Making “High Street Dreams,” a four-part TV series that follows budding entrepreneurs as they endeavor to bring their brands to market on a grand scale with the help of high-profile mentors, involved a grueling, sometimes 16-hour-a-day film schedule.
“You have someone’s dream in your hands,” she said, adding embarking on a TV career removed her from her comfort zone. “It’s such a privilege and therefore a very emotional process.”
Malone hopes the show will inspire small British businesses to think big.
“I want this country to think, I could do that,” she said during a break in filming. “I love the underdog. I’ve been the underdog. I had no education, dyslexia and no money. This is about dreams and aspirations. If you aim really high and you don’t achieve what you set out to do, I can guarantee you’ll go higher than if you never had that dream in the first place.”
The show, which starts airing in the U.K. today on BBC 1, involved a plethora of business hopefuls pitching products to Malone and property tycoon Nick Leslau. The people behind eight products were paired with mentors who are experts in their field. Jewelry designer Stephen Webster and Pringle creative director Clare Waight Keller offered advice and guidance to two accessories designers, for instance. (Other categories include food and drink, children’s goods and products for the home. Malone opted to eschew a beauty-related category since she feared she would be too hands-on.)
Anyone suggesting the current economic climate could make life more difficult for today’s wannabe moguls might want to avoid bemoaning arid credit conditions to Malone.
“I wanted a 100 pound [approximately $150] overdraft when I was 19 or 20 to buy linen sheets for my business and my bank refused me,” she recalled. “So I pawned a ring to buy them. I bought the ring back and it reminds me of how far I’ve come.”
Malone may have come quite a distance from when she started out blending products in her kitchen, but that’s not to say she’s relinquished her scrappy entrepreneurial spirit. To wit, a new project is on the horizon.
“Is there another chapter for me and fragrance? I hope so,” said Malone, adding she has already set up an office in her dining room to work on a fragrance project unconnected with the original Jo Malone brand.
“I’ve gone all the way back to basics and am running a business from home again. The bathroom is the only place I can go that’s uncluttered,” she said with a chuckle. “I love the fact that I’m starting from scratch and watching the pennies again.”