Celebrating Women’s History Month this year, we’ve been lucky enough to sit down (virtually) with an incredible range of inspiring, powerful women across the retail and eCommerce industry. Today, we’re feeling inspired after our chat with Jacqueline Gold, CEO at Ann Summers.
Where did your career with Ann Summers begin?
I did work experience at Ann Summers from the age of 19, a predominately male business, and was paid less than the tea lady! It was the late 70s at that time, sex was a taboo subject, especially for women. I couldn’t understand why it was acceptable for men to talk freely about sex or visit sex shops and not women. You couldn’t buy sexy underwear back then and women were too embarrassed to go into a sex shop. I just knew something needed to change. I was invited to a Tupperware style party where I saw the potential to use a similar concept to introduce sexy lingerie and sex toys to women in the comfort of their own home. This is how Party Plan was born.
How did you make the leap from employee to business owner?
I took the idea for Party Plan and presented my concept to an all-male board. I was just 21 and had no business training! I was met with some resistance, with one man telling me “it’s never going to work, women aren’t even interested in sex!” but somehow I managed to persuade them to invest £40k – I’m sure most if not all those board members expected me to fail! It was an instant success, with women in their droves signing up to be Ambassadors or wanting to attend an Ann Summers Party. With this success, I was fortunate to climb the ranks at Ann Summers, and really shape the brands reputation for empowering all women in the bedroom. I was appointed CEO in 1987.
Who is a woman who inspires you?
I admire so many women; Jo Malone who built a fantastic brand, sold and then started up again with Jo Loves; Sheryl Sandberg, a great advocate for small business and future generations, and Kamala Harris because she’s an iconic inspiration for all women.
What milestone are you most proud of?
My proudest moment must be when I received a CBE in 2015 from the Queen in recognition for my services to women in business, social enterprise and entrepreneurship. I took my daughter Scarlett with me to receive the award as it’s important we inspire our children to believe that they can achieve anything they want to.
What’s the riskiest move you’ve taken in your business?
There have been many; I’ve been arrested twice, received a bullet through the post and taken the government to court, and all I ever wanted to do was empower women in the bedroom.
What 3 traits do you think are most important when running a successful business?
It actually all starts with courage and a passion for your idea. Running a business comes with its challenges having resilience and standing up for what you believe in are really important. Make sure you have a USP and put your stake firmly in the ground.
What’s the best business advice you have ever received?
In the early days I experienced perfidious competition. At risk of losing my Party Ambassadors, my father said to me, ‘There’s nothing more to fear than fear itself’. I picked myself up and focused on being the best we could be.
Any advice to future entrepreneurs?
Find a good mentor, someone you admire who has been there and worn the t-shirt. Their advice will be invaluable.