Money can’t buy happiness — but if you’re rich, famous and tired of frittering away your millions on diamonds and champagne, it can buy you a business or two.
From boutiques to beauty lines and restaurants to record labels, wealthy celebrities love nothing more than channelling their cash into self-titled business ventures.
For those born into privilege — from Quality Street heiress Millie Mackintosh to the Ecclestone sisters, Petra and Tamara — it’s a chance to show there’s more to them than designer clothes and A-list parties.
While they may not be known for their business nous or experience of managing staff, with money to burn — or unfettered access to Daddy’s bank account — none of that seems to matter.
And if the empire comes crumbling down, well, a life of luxury is still theirs — and they can always try another job.
Here, we chart the fortunes of some posh girls who have dabbled in business, for richer or poorer . . .
CONFECTIONERY HEIRESS TURNED FASHIONISTA
Millie Mackintosh, 28, whose great-grandfather invented Quality Street, shot to fame as one of the cosseted stars of faux-reality TV series Made In Chelsea in 2011
WHO: Millie Mackintosh, 28, whose great-grandfather invented Quality Street, shot to fame as one of the cosseted stars of faux-reality TV series Made In Chelsea in 2011 — and recently forged a friendship with royal bride-to-be Meghan Markle after they were introduced by mutual pals.
BACKGROUND CHECK: She grew up in a £1.4 million townhouse in Bath, before attending Millfield boarding school in Somerset. During an internship with a lingerie designer, she started making babydoll-style dresses for friends — and went on to work as a make-up artist with the beauty brand Mac.
SALES PITCH: On the back of her TV stardom, Millie — who was married to the rapper Professor Green for three years from 2013 — launched her eponymous fashion range in 2014, selling bohemian-style dresses, tops and skirts via the online fashion retailer Asos.
PROFIT OR LOSS? Loss. Despite — or perhaps because of — the steep price tags (some of her dresses cost £300 and jackets retail for £350), the business was not to be. Her umbrella company, Cammac Trading, made a £182,833 loss in its first year of trading.
FUTURE PROSPECTS: Liquidators were brought in last week to deal with debts of £548,000 owed to her other firm, Cammac Ventures Limited. Millie herself has reportedly lost £178,000 through the company’s collapse, leaving her no choice but to shut it down.
Her clothes — many of them modelled by the heiress herself — are heavily discounted online, with some prices slashed by 75 per cent.
She said it was ‘a very tough decision’ made ‘with great sadness’, adding: ‘The financial climate in the fashion industry has proved immensely challenging and the business is no longer sustainable.’
BLOG STAR WHO TRIED TO DO DELIS
Healthy eating blogger Ella Mills (nee Woodward) — better known as ‘Deliciously Ella’ — hit the headlines as one of the early advocates of ‘clean eating’
WHO: Healthy eating blogger Ella Mills (nee Woodward) — better known as ‘Deliciously Ella’ — hit the headlines as one of the early advocates of ‘clean eating’ (though she says she never used the term herself), the now debunked food trend which encouraged followers to base their diet on raw ingredients and plant products.
BACKGROUND CHECK: Ella, 26, was born into wealth — an estimated £40 million of it. Her father, Shaun Woodward, was in Gordon Brown’s Cabinet, while her mother is Camilla Sainsbury, of the supermarket dynasty. She boarded at Rugby School in Warwickshire and grew up in a £24 million Oxfordshire mansion, with holidays alternating between the family’s £7 million villa in the Hamptons, an apartment in the Alps and a holiday home on the private island of Mustique.
SALES PITCH: Ella started a food blog in 2012 after being struck down by a debilitating illness called postural tachycardia syndrome (an abnormal heart rate resulting in dizziness) while at St Andrews University.
As her online following grew — 1.2 million on Instagram to date — she decided to capitalise on her fame. In 2015, with then-boyfriend Matthew Mills, an ‘ethical financier’ whom she married on a Caribbean beach the following year, Ella set up a delicatessen business, opening three shops across London within 12 months.
Ella started a food blog in 2012 after being struck down by a debilitating illness called postural tachycardia syndrome (an abnormal heart rate resulting in dizziness) while at St Andrews University
PROFIT OR LOSS? The first year of trading saw The Mae Deli Limited (‘Mae’ comes from the couple’s initials) make losses of £723,811 — and two of its delis, in Marylebone and Herne Hill, both in London, were put at risk. A report seen by the Mail from last April says this was due to ‘considerable investment in the business including two new deli sites, a central kitchen, new product development and significant growth in the head office team.’
FUTURE PROSPECTS: Sadly, the investment didn’t pay off and last week Ella announced that the two delis would close (one, in Mayfair, remains open).
She told her followers the axed stores ‘will always have such a special place in the Deliciously Ella journey’. It remains unclear what will become of the staff, estimated to be around 40 people.
Fortunately, this business is separate to her main firm, Deliciously Ella, which covers her two cookbooks and range of healthy snacks. Last year it made a profit of £545,497.
TV FASHION FACE MARKETS MAKE-UP
Trinny Woodall, 54, shot to fame as half of the straight-talking BBC makeover show What Not To Wear, which she presented alongside Susannah Constantine from 2001 to 2006
WHO: Trinny Woodall, 54, shot to fame as half of the straight-talking BBC makeover show What Not To Wear, which she presented alongside Susannah Constantine from 2001 to 2006.
BACKGROUND CHECK: Complicated. Trinny, whose grandfather was a steel baron, grew up in Marylebone, West London, and went to private school. Before TV stardom, she and best friend Susannah racked up reported debts of £10 million when their online clothing store, Ready2Shop.com, shut down in 2000.
In 1999 she married former musician Johnny Elichaoff —and lent him £1.4 million for his oil business. It became mired in debt, and in 2009, nine days before the couple’s divorce was finalised, Johnny was declared bankrupt, saddling Trinny with debts. When he died in 2014, Trinny won a legal fight against her ex-husband’s creditors.
In 1999 she married former musician Johnny Elichaoff —and lent him £1.4 million for his oil business
SALES PITCH: In March 2014, Trinny set up Trinny London, a make-up range of 59 products. With its slick website and glowing reviews, the company seems to be flourishing, though the latest reported figures were less than impressive.
PROFIT OR LOSS? It initially made a profit of £56,281 but the following year reported a £70,089 loss.
FUTURE PROSPECTS: The firm has been bolstered by wealthy investors including fund managers and executives from Unilever, brought on board by Trinny’s boyfriend, advertising mogul Charles Saatchi, 74. Together they have poured £2.7 million into the company, boosting its assets to £1.83 million and proving it helps to have friends in high places.
F1 SISTERS DABBLE IN BAGS AND HAIRCARE
WHO: Petra and Tamara Ecclestone, daughters of Formula 1 tycoon Bernie, who has made billions from motorsport (£2.5 billion, to be precise).
BACKGROUND CHECK: Petra, 29, and Tamara, 33, grew up in a multi-million-pound Chelsea mansion and attended Francis Holland School in Sloane Square, where alumni include model Cara Delevingne and actresses Sienna Miller and Joan Collins.
SALES PITCH: In 2010, sister Tamara set up Tamara Ecclestone Brands, a company marketing Show Beauty, her range of pricey haircare products which sell for up to £199 (for a Swarovski crystal-encrusted bottle of treatment oil) at Harrods.
Tamara set up Tamara Ecclestone Brands, a company marketing Show Beauty, her range of pricey haircare products which sell for up to £199 (for a Swarovski crystal-encrusted bottle of treatment oil) at Harrods
When Bernie heard that Petra was setting up her own fashion line in 2011, he called her ‘stark raving mad’ — so she named the company ‘Stark’. Her handbags and purses, made from crocodile and snakeskin, cost anywhere between £400 and £3,000.
PROFIT OR LOSS? The sisters don’t appear to have inherited their father’s business accumen. In 2015, Stark was put on hold ‘to allow Petra to focus on being a mother of three young children’, according to a spokesman. The company’s losses crept upwards, from £706,005 to £1.4 million — and by last year it was £4.23 million in debt.
From the start, Tamara’s business made losses, which grew steadily from £102,547 in its first year to £8.23 million. She invested £15 million but the losses kept coming —and in 2015 she resigned as director and transferred 75 per cent to an investment company in the Seychelles, a move described as a ‘corporate restructure’.
FUTURE PROSPECTS: Accounts show that Companies House made four attempts to dissolve Petra’s firm, but each time the heiress — who recently divorced metals dealer James Stunt in a £5.5 billion settlement — convinced them it should continue. In January, she called it quits and applied to wind it up.
Tamara, who lives in a £70 million London mansion with her husband, Jay, and four-year-old daughter Sophia, is described as creative director of her company, renamed ‘SBD International’. But the latest accounts, filed last month, show a £4 million loss.
‘IT’ GIRL FANCIED OWN FASHION LINE
The youngest of four children brought up in an idyllic Hampshire village, Alexa Chung won a place to study English at King’s College London, but was scouted by a modelling agency before she started her first term
WHO: Model and TV presenter Alexa Chung, 34.
BACKGROUND CHECK: The youngest of four children brought up in an idyllic Hampshire village, Alexa won a place to study English at King’s College London, but was scouted by a modelling agency before she started her first term.
SALES PITCH: Alexa has collaborated on collections with M&S, but she is nothing if not ambitious — and in 2015 she launched a fashion company called Alpha Charlie (the ‘A’ and ‘C’ represent her initials), through which she sells clothes online under her label, Alexachung.
‘I feel like I need to get it up and running while I’m still young enough to have the energy, and in touch with pop culture enough to make something that is actually relevant,’ she explained.
PROFIT OR LOSS? Loss. In its first year the business lost £65,248; then £75,000 the following year — and last year losses ran to £1.5 million. Accounts show the company owes creditors more than £260,000, including a £25,000 tax bill.
FUTURE PROSPECTS: Helpfully, the style mogul, who split from Hollywood star Alexander Skarsgard last year, has some wealthy friends — among them entrepreneur Peter Dubens, who took over as director; film producer Eric Fellner and his model partner Laura Bailey; and Lady Dunstone, the wife of Carphone Warehouse founder Sir Charles.
The friends have pumped nearly £3 million into the company, leaving £1.4 million in the bank. Alexa’s other business, The Last Battalion, a TV production company into which she channelled her earnings, was put into voluntary liquidation last year, leaving her with a surplus of £3.4 million.
SOCIETY REBEL WHO SPUN INTO RECORDS
Kate Rothschild’s father, Amschel, was a scion of the Rothschild dynasty — with an estimated net worth of £1.5 trillion — while her mother Anita is a member of the Guinness family
WHO: Banking heiress and society darling Kate Rothschild, 35.
BACKGROUND CHECK: As blue-blooded as they come. Kate’s father, Amschel, was a scion of the Rothschild dynasty — with an estimated net worth of £1.5 trillion — while her mother Anita is a member of the Guinness family.
She left her Old Etonian husband Ben Goldsmith in 2012 after he found racy text messages on her phone from the American rapper Jay Electronica, with whom Kate admitted having an affair.
The pair had an acrimonious divorce in April 2013.
SALES PITCH: Music producer Kate signed Jay to her record label, Roundtable Records, which she had set up in 2010. But when their relationship hit the rocks, so did the company.
PROFIT OR LOSS? Her financial affairs are almost as tempestuous as her love life. In 2014, shortly after Jay went back to America, accounts revealed that Round-table Records owed its founder £365,606 in ‘loans and other debts’. It had assets of just £6,826 and £761 in cash, and its website was unceremoniously shut down.
FUTURE PROSPECTS: In 2015, Kate was seen visiting a money exchange and pawn shop in Central London, where she was photographed putting wads of cash in her rucksack. The following year, she wound up the company.
ACTRESS WHO TURNED HER HAND TO LINGERIE
Nineties actress Sadie Frost, part of the party-loving Primrose Hill set, which also includes model Kate Moss, actress Patsy Kensit and heiress Davinia Taylor
WHO: Nineties actress Sadie Frost, part of the party-loving Primrose Hill set, which also includes model Kate Moss, actress Patsy Kensit and heiress Davinia Taylor.
BACKGROUND CHECK: Sadie, 52, was born in North London to a psychedelic artist who worked for the Beatles and his muse wife. She has been married twice — to Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp from 1988 to 1995, and to actor Jude Law from 1997 to 2003.
SALES PITCH: She co-founded the lingerie label Frost French, featuring frilly knickers and colourful swimwear, with her friend Jemima French in 1999.
PROFIT OR LOSS? The duo enjoyed initial success with their foray into fashion design. The company reported only modest losses in its first year (£556), and in 2004 they won the prestigious Elle Designers of the Year Award.
This was short-lived, however, and despite glossy magazine shoots and a chi-chi flagship store on King’s Road, London, the losses kept mounting.
By 2008, Frost French had debts of £4.2 million, including £3 million owed to a single creditor. The pair’s wealthy friends rushed to their aid and a last-minute investment from a Norwegian film producer bailed them out.
Renamed ‘FrostFrench London Retail’, the company struggled on — but they could no longer stem the haemorrhaging losses. In 2011, the flagship store closed, and last year the business was finally dissolved.
FUTURE PROSPECTS: Three years later, Sadie and Jemima announced plans to re-launch the company, but this never materialised. Their swimwear brand, Floozie, is still on sale at Debenhams.