Jacqueline Gold: 'Now I want to empower women in the boardroom'

YOU LIVE AND YOU LEARN: The Ann Summers boss has been poisoned, arrested and sent a bullet in the post, but nothing matches the pain of losing her son.

by Kate Bassett
Last Updated: 27 Mar 2015

School didn’t suit me. I couldn’t wait to get a job and be financially independent. Back then, women weren’t encouraged to be ambitious. I was mad about design so I figured I’d be a window dresser.

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak. At 13, I was designing crossword puzzles and selling them to a publisher for 50p each. My father had left, my stepfather sexually abused me and my mother had her head stuck in the sand. I could either crawl into a corner or I could create things and earn money.

I started at Ann Summers as an intern when I was 21. When I proposed my party idea to the all-male board, one man said: ‘This isn’t going to work. Women aren’t interested in sex.’ That says more about his sex life than my idea. Our forecasted turnover for this year is more than £140m.

I’ve made tons of mistakes. I started a magazine called Bite and had to close it after a year. It cost me £1m. If you’re passionate about something but the numbers don’t add up, you have to be brave and cut the cord.

I’ve been arrested twice. I’ve been poisoned. I’ve been taken to court numerous times. I was sent a bullet in the post when we opened a store in Dublin. I’ve had some horrendous experiences but nothing beats losing my son at eight months old. We think about Alfie every day; the grieving never stops.

I’m incredibly organised and disciplined. I have a list for my lists. Absolutely everything has to be in my diary, right down to going to the gym. If it’s not scheduled, it won’t get done.

I make every moment with my five-year-old daughter, Scarlett, count, no matter how tired I am. When I get home, my businesswoman hat comes off and my mummy hat goes on – and it stays on until she’s gone to bed. That helps to stop those feelings of guilt that every working mum talks about.

I’m forever in doorways, changing out of flat shoes and into killer heels. My style tips are great handbag, great shoes, great jacket and matching underwear. I like glamour, not grunge. Women shouldn’t try to emulate men.

My mission was to empower women in the bedroom. Now I want to empower them in the boardroom. Women need to stop playing down their qualities.

Meet Jacqueline Gold at our Inspiring Women event this Thursday 20th November. Fellow speakers include Thomas Cook boss Harriet Green, Links of London founder Annoushka Ducas and M&S style director Belinda Earl. Check out the programme and book tickets here at 15% off the full price.

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