Credit: Dave Eastbury

'I'm dyslexic, but they thought I was lazy' - Jo Malone

The cosmetics entrepreneur left school with no qualifications but enjoyed subjects she could visualise.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 18 Aug 2016

Name: Jo Malone, founder Jo Loves and founder of Jo Malone London

Age: 51

What grades did you get? I never took any. I had to leave school at 15 without qualifications to look after my mum, who was very sick. I did whatever was needed to put dinner on the table every night, from working in a flower shop to washing up after other people’s dinner parties. That was when I learned I was a really hardworking person.

What was the worst thing a teacher said about you? I’m dyslexic, but they thought I was lazy. I’d stare at the words on the blackboard and by the time I understood what it said the lesson had moved on, so I was always playing catch up. I used to panic like mad in tests. When I’m stressed, words move around the page and numbers turn the wrong way round. I’d look at all the other kids scribbling away and feel very stupid, which I’m not. If my dyslexia had been recognised I probably would have been fine, but it wasn’t anyone’s fault and it didn’t stop me from succeeding.

What was your favourite subject? I hated maths and especially English, but loved history and religious studies, because I could visualise the stories. I also liked biology and chemistry, which came in handy when I started working with scents.

What advice would you give your teenage self? Learn languages – I always had an ear for French. Also stand up and say when you don’t understand something, and seek out inspiration wherever you can find it. I found a hunger for life in things other than education. Not all of us are academic, but every person has something amazing about them and it’s up to you to discover what it is.

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