'At 14, I was headhunted by the sweet shop over the road'

Michelle Mone is the owner and founder of Ultimo, the underwear company famous for the push-up bra ( ultimo.co.uk).

What did you want to be as a child?

I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I used to play with my wee shops and dream about having my own business.

Why was that?

Because every Christmas was horrible, waiting to find out who had been laid off in the family. I wanted to employ people, and I wanted them to enjoy it.

What did you realistically think you'd end up doing?

I really believed I'd be an entrepreneur. At 10, I delivered papers; at 11, it was papers and rolls; and at 12 I worked in a fruit shop. At 14, I was headhunted by the sweet shop across the road, and I signed up for Avon, forging my mum's signature. At 15, I left school, worked as a catalogue model in Glasgow, and then joined Labatt, the brewers. I started as an office junior and ended up running the sales and marketing team.

How did you work your way up?

When people above me were asked to do something, like cover a nightclub promotion, they said no. I always volunteered – "I'll do it!" I kept a book on where I wanted to be next month, next year.

When did you get the idea for the bra?

At 24, I was made redundant. One night soon after, I was at a dinner dance with my husband. I'd been searching for months for a bra to go with my dress, and thought there must be a way to create cleavage without pain. My husband said: "What do you know about bras? You only know about beer." I was so naive; just researching and developing the bra took the next three years of my life. I got into debt, I lost money to distributors. Now we are the biggest design brand in the country, and I have my own brand with Asda. Things are fantastic, but I've been to hell and back several times.

Do you consider yourself successful?

I haven't made it yet.

When will you know you have?

I don't know. I do know you can be a mother, wife and have a successful career; it just takes organisation.

What are your interview tips?

Do your homework first, and research the company. Dress smartly, give a firm handshake, turn your mobile off, sit up straight and make eye contact with your interviewer. Practise all this first in front of a friend.

And your CV tips?

Check spelling and grammar; include a brief personal profile and even a picture; include a copy of your references; and don't lie.

What motivates you?

It's not money; it's someone saying: "You can't do that." I love the challenge.

How do I get to be where you are?

There's no secret to it – work really, really hard and don't give up. A degree in your back pocket can be useful, but if you are not from a good area, like me, or if you can't afford to get a degree, it doesn't mean that life is over.

What's the best perk of your job?

Going into new shops and seeing Ultimo customers with smiles on their faces, saying: "I can wear that dress now!" A bra changes a woman's whole attitude, her posture and the way she looks.