The lady who took the lead

NO, NO, no, I did not see myself as a feminist, in some ways the feminist movement did more harm than good,” says Debbie Moore, the first woman to float a company on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). “Having a female Prime Minister improved the atmosphere, but not just for women, for everyone with entrepreneurial spirit.”

Moore laid the foundations for her global dance brand in 1979 when the dance studio she used to go to was closed. “One Monday, a notice was posted at the studio reading ‘closing on Friday.’ I couldn’t believe it, the place was a sanctuary.” It certainly was a sanctuary for Moore. Never a professional dancer, she took it on as a hobby to help her lose weight. “I had had a fantastic modelling career and married a photographer at the age of 19. But when I was 21 he ran off with a girl of 17. It broke my heart, so I put on all this weight… I was depressed because I looked and felt terrible.” Her doctor recommended it to her: “He said you’ve got to lose all this weight and get back to modelling.” The pounds soon dropped off and she enjoyed a decade of modelling before the day the dance studio closed down.

The studio was to be turned into a spa because it wasn’t making any money. “It was my moment to save the dance community, they had nowhere else to go,” Moore explains. Initially, she tried campaigning to keep the studio open with a petition. When that failed, she used the contacts she had collected to tie the original community into the plan for a new dance studio. She offered this pre-made customer base to the bank to secure a loan for the premises that Pineapple still occupies today. Through using a membership model, it didn’t take Moore long to start turning a profit. Plus, the studio’s prime location and hip vibe meant that it attracted 80s superstars such as Madonna, Cher and Bananarama.

But it was Pineapple’s clothing brand that took the business to the next level. “It revolutionised the way women dressed, bringing the studio into the street. No one wore footless tights, or pink or black fleece before Pineapple. You know hoodies? They’re my fault.” It was the demand for her clothing line and for another studio in New York that made Moore realise she needed to list on the stock exchange and expand in 1982.

“I went public because the demand was huge. I was borrowed up to the eyeballs, so floating on the LSE was the most viable option.” This meant Pineapple could open in New York’s SoHo and stock their clothing line wholesale. Despite the fame that listing brought Moore, floating didn’t work out and she bought the company back in 1988. “The trouble with having shareholders is that they’re always looking at short-term returns. I eventually bought Pineapple back because I was forced to sell the New York studio and return the profits to the investors. The SoHo area gentrified and I was offered four times what I paid for it. I tried to persuade them that it would be worth times ten later. But I got voted down. It’s such a shame I lost that space.” Still, Moore says she doesn’t regret floating because she wouldn’t have been able to expand

otherwise.

She stresses that she started Pineapple because “I was responding to a need. I didn’t see myself a businesswoman, simply opening and running dance studios was my raison d’etre.”

CV | DEBBIE MOORE

Job title: Founder and chairman of Pineapple

Born: Urmston, Manchester

Lives: Belgravia, London

Studied: Stretford Grammar School

Drinking: Veuve Clicquot and Nikken PiMag water

Reading: “I love books and dip into many – quite enjoying Suzanne Somers at the moment.”

Idol: “I don’t have idols but a long list of people who have inspired me.”

Talents: “An ability to multi-task and be flexible.”

Motto: “It’s not a rehearsal.”

First ambition: “I wanted to see the whole wide world.”

Favourite business book: “In the 80s when I was researching my book When a Woman Means Business I found inspiration from In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Growing a Business by Paul Hawken.”

Awards: Veuve Clicquot’s Businesswoman Of The Year Award 1984; Duke of Edinburgh Variety Club Award 1987; awarded an OBE in the Queen's New Year Honours List in 2009 for services to business; Special Commendation of Iconic Status at the Women of the Future Awards 2009