Leaving school at 16 with six ‘O’ Levels, through hard work and determination Jo Fairley went on to become the UK’s youngest-ever magazine editor, setting out on her entrepreneurial journey in 1991 when she co-founded Green & Black’s Chocolate, now approaching a £100 million a year brand.
The success of Green & Black’s has enabled Jo to become a serial entrepreneur, via an award-winning organic and natural food store/bakery (Judges Bakery), The Wellington Centre (a boutique nine-room wellbeing centre) – both in her home town of Hastings – and most recently The Perfume Society, which sets out to help individuals develop their sense of smell via exploration of fragrance and the scented world.
Jo has been involved in the judging of many different awards, bringing her wide experience to the judging process, including the RSPCA Good Business Awards, YOU/Clarins Dynamisante Woman of the Year Awards and the HSBC Business Thinking Awards.
Jo now travels the world speaking to audiences on sustainable business, leadership, women in business, change management and entrepreneurialism.
1. Best piece of advice you’ve been given
Whatever you’re working on each day, do the thing you LEAST want to do and most want to put off, first. It really is the secret to productivity, getting stuff done and feeling good about your work. Tasks we hate doing hang over us and make doing everything else feel like wading through treacle. I honestly can’t remember who first told me about this, but I embraced it and now share it widely. There’s even a productivity book about it, called ‘Eat That Frog.’ A great read and I give it to people often, too!
2. Worst piece of advice you’ve been given
Not sure it was ‘advice’, but an observation that I would never amount to anything in this world – actually that I’d ‘never make so much as a Girl Friday’, when I was 15 years old, in a Careers session. (I’d said I wanted to be a secretary.) It ignited rocket fuel under my hitherto dormant ambitions to prove my careers teacher wrong. I’m still proving her wrong, now!
3. What would you tell your younger self?
That it’s all going to be OK. I used to spend a lot of time worrying; now I embrace change and go with the flow and actually find it all FASCINATING – even this strange, unprecedented time we’re all living through.
4. What excites you most about the future of your industry?
I work across lots of industries – food, wellbeing, beauty and fragrance. What excites me is that I believe we are on the cusp of a real global revolution whereby the values of organisations will be more important to customers than ever – kindness, social and environmental responsibility, care of workers, etc.
5. Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
I continue to be inspired by my late friend and mentor Anita Roddick, who taught me about authenticity, passion for business, and the idea that it’s possible to do good THROUGH doing business. She was incredibly supportive while I was setting up Green & Black’s (and afterwards), introducing me to other people in her circle who might help and support what we were trying to achieve with Green & Black’s. I will always be so grateful to her.