• jacquelinebruce

The biggest story of our lifetime - Magda

She sat on the deck, one leg dangling over the side like a smooth length of rope, her other leg bent, knee raised to greet the last moments of the daylight. She sipped slowly from a triangular cocktail glass. A French Martini at sunset should have been the perfect way to end the day. But for Magda, that perfect feeling had been swallowed long ago. Sure, when she made her first million and bought her first small boat (it wasn’t that small, it was, however, smaller than the one she had now), it felt like she’d made it. It was exhilarating to invite her close friends onto the boat for parties. To work from anywhere she chose to go.

But it wasn’t long before her friends evaporated. Aside from her dad, she only really had business associates and a string of puddle like acquaintances from her work circle. Acquaintances disguised as friendships using filters on her phone. By the time she made it onto the Forbes Top 10 Richest Women in the World List, the feeling she’d made it was replaced with an unfamiliar sense of loss for the life she’d given up. As she stared out over the crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean, the warm glow of the sun touching the water’s edge, she couldn’t stop wondering how she’d allowed her life to become so empty. In that moment, as the sun plopped behind the horizon, she drained her glass, and decided to make the call. She lifted her dangling leg and walked downstairs to the lower deck to make another drink. For the first time in a long time she felt exhilarated. She picked up her mobile and went into her contacts.

“Hi, it’s Magda. Where are you?”

Magda had grown up in a family home in London’s East End. She is the classic rags to riches story. An only child, her parents divorced when she was too young to remember. She lived with her father and didn’t have a great relationship with her mother who she only really saw on birthdays, Christmas and when she was dragged along to family gatherings. Her mother passed when Magda was in her twenties. She was still in touch with her dad and when she made her first million, had bought him a nice house and made sure he had everything he needed. Their relationship wasn't the elusive Instagram perfect father/daughter one, but they spoke every week and she made sure she popped in to see him when she was home.

The first ‘business’ Magda started was through necessity rather than an urge to become an entrepreneur. It was the 80’s. Individualism was the becoming the default setting and everyone was being fed stories of working hard and being self reliant. If you didn’t you were classed as lazy, undeserving and being poor was your own fault. When her mum died, her father sunk into a depression. Even though they weren’t together, he had loved her and always would. Magda was now having to fend for herself at the age of 21. The wages from her part time job in a local fruit shop weren’t enough. She needed to make more money to support herself. Little did she know where it would take her.

She enjoyed cleaning as it gave her a sense of pride in her humble home. She also enjoyed making sure the fruit shop was spotless, cleaning every shelf, the floors and the counter each shift she worked. Of course, she was going over and above her duties by being so meticulous until one day she decided to ask for more money and more time to take on cleaning duties in the shop. After a few weeks of earning a little more, she found she wanted more. Magda walked along the tree lined street to ask the other shop owners if she could clean for them too. One by one, shop owners agreed. As the months went by she was picking up more and more hours in more and more shops in the area. Then a small hotel opened up.

Magda splurged on a power suit. Oh how she loved that shoulder padded suit! A grey pinstripe knee length skirt and suit jacket that brought her shoulders up to her ears. She took photos of her work, before and after cleaning, and made up a portfolio. Then, one sweaty Saturday afternoon she strolled confidently into the hotel the week before it was due to open and asked if the manager was available. She was already speaking to him. She introduced herself, her business and presented him with her portfolio of perfect cleanliness. She won the job to clean the hotel and she found herself having to get help.

One by one, Magda went on to win cleaning contracts for more hotels in London. She became known as 'the queen of clean'. In the 90’s, after learning and seeing what it took to run a successful hotel, she opened her own boutique spa hotel in London’s Chelsea area. It was a brave move but she did it. And it would be the first in her global chain. She had it all.

And nothing. Here she was. 2021 making a phone call that would change everything. How did she get here?

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