Jo Fairley

Jo Fairley

23rd May 2022 by Lindsay Toone

Back to Jo Fairley

Jo Fairley is one of the UK’s leading female entrepreneurs. She co-founded Green & Black’s chocolate, founded Judges Bakery, an organic and natural food store and bakery and The Wellington Centre, a boutique nine-room wellbeing centre, both in her home town of Hastings, co-wrote The Beauty Bible with Sarah Stacey and, most recently, founded The Perfume Society.

Tell us about your Women of the Year Alumnae talk

Particularly in the early days of Green and Black’s, when I would take myself off to hear somebody else speak, it was like plugging in my batteries. It helped me to believe that I wasn’t just this little lone salmon swimming upstream, that I was actually part of a shoal, all moving in the same direction. It makes you realise that other people have the same challenges and problems that you do and they can be overcome. So if I can do that for somebody else, that’s amazing.

I’ve always been passionate about the things I’ve done, and I like doing things that nobody has done before. All my ventures have a little bit of self-interest in them, but that’s what helps me drive them forward. And I love being able to help and inspire other people. I hope that’s what my talk did.

What does community mean to you?

I live in a small town by the sea where you bump into your neighbours and friends and you talk to them on a daily basis and you look out for them. You’re not meant to live not knowing who you live next to. We’re built for human interaction. We should look out for and care for each other. So community is about that for me. The other version of community is what I’ve created through The Perfume Society. I’ve built a real community of perfume lovers and now people get together. Social media has turned into actual socialising.
Who are the women who have most influenced you in your life?

Anita Roddick was my big mentor and role model rolled into one. I first met her when I was sent on a writing assignment. I thought she was going to be about seven feet tall and absolutely terrifying and bless her, she was way smaller than me and she kind of bowled through the airport losing bits along the way. She managed to lose her passport about five times between check-in and the departure gate! I loved the way she always spoke her mind and was utterly authentic and that’s something I’ve always aspired to. She was amazingly supportive of what I did. Her death is one of the great tragedies of our time. Having made all that money, I’d love to have seen the mischief she would have got up to getting rid of it again which was her avowed intent.

The other person I’ve always admired is Coco Chanel. She was such a ground-breaker. Look at all the things she did that women didn’t do in those days. She broke down all sorts of barriers whether it was getting rid of women’s corsets or just being a woman in business. She created herself.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt from another woman in your life?

Probably that thing from Anita – to be authentic. I think a lot of women think they have to be something different to what they are, that they have to play a role or behave in a certain way because it’s expected of them. I believe in being comfortable in my skin, warts and all. And calling a spade a spade whenever I can. It saves a lot of time and angst.

What advice would you give young women starting out in their lives and careers now?

Try and find a mentor. Almost any successful woman I know is happy to mentor other people because most of us have been mentored. It’s got to be somebody you admire, but make it someone whose experience and little black book are relevant to what you’re doing. You want to get the most out of the mentor/mentee relationship. You want them to say “right, I can introduce you to this person” or “when I was doing what you’re doing, I did x”. So somebody within your industry or sphere is going to be the most valuable.


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