Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, February 20, 2009

Entrepreneurial Thinking: The Story Of Anita Roddick From The Body Shop

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Entrepreneurial thinking: what is it all about? The late Anita Roddick, a great example of female entrepreneurship, was the founder and chief executive of British cosmetics company, The Body Shop, producing and retailing beauty products that shaped what became to be known as ethical consumerism.

Photo credit: Positive Nation

The Body Shop was one of the first commercial cosmetics outlets to prohibit the use of ingredients tested on animals and one of the first to promote fair trade with third world countries. Anita Roddick was also involved in activism and campaigning for environmental and social issues including involvement with Greenpeace and The Big Issue.

If you look up the classic definitions of entrepreneurship, you will find that an entrepreneur is a person who is willing and capable of converting a new idea into a successful new product or service, while taking risks all along the way to get there. And like the Anita Roddick case, being an entrepreneur means having to deal with true uncertainty, particularly when it involves bringing something really novel to the world, in a market which never existed before.

What are then, one would ask, the key characteristics that make a true entrepreneur different from someone else who pretends to be one? Entrepreneurial thinkers are:

  • Primarily motivated by an overwhelming need for achievement and a strong urge to build something good.
  • Driven by needs of independence and achievement. They are seldom are willing to submit to authority.
  • Prone to insights, brainstorms, deceptions, ingeniousness and resourcefulness.
  • Carriers of an enthusiastic vision, supported by an interlocked collection of specific ideas not available to the marketplace.
  • Able to develop strategies to change their vision into reality.
  • Experienced at taking many and frequent prudent risks.
  • Positive thinkers and a decision makers.

In this short, inspirational video, the late Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, tells her own story as an entrepreneur: from borrowing money from a bank who didn't want to lend it to her, to her approaches to product diversification, positioning, marketing and passionate involvement with issues that really mattered to her beyond the commercial side of business.

This is indeed the story of a true passionate entrepreneur. Here her video story alongside a full text transcription:


The Story Of Anita Roddick From The Body Shop

Duration: 7

Full English Text Transcription


Anita Roddick: has really come about as a livelihood. I needed to have a livelihood to look after my two kids, for my husband when for two years riding a horse across South America.

Women are very good at mixing what they're interested in and what they're talented at and making some sort of livelihood from it.

I was a teacher, I had worked for the United Nations, International Labour Office, I traveled, and that was really for me.... wherever I traveled I was usually not in Western types civilizations, but in areas where indigenous people were tough. I lived a lot of the time in Western Africa, South Africa, lot of the Indian Ocean islands, Pacific Ocean islands, and everywhere I traveled I lived in fishing communities, and I picked up the richness of the body.

Women are good at that, men are lousy. At births and marriages women will say among themselves: "Oh, what did you put on your body then? Oh, did you get there?"

So, those became... it was like a sort of a closet of an anthropologist.


The Birth of The Body Shop


When I came back from the travels, and ten years later, in my early '30s, I decided to open up this little shop, and only going to trade water for two years and then we were going after, I think, Australia to open up a plantation.

Got the money, 4000 pounds from this miserable Barclay's bank manager who didn't actually give it to me, probably because I was dressed way too casually for him, while my two kids were destroying his office... but bank managers don't like enthusiasts, so I was going: "Oh, I got this great idea and it's going to be called The Body Shop and I've and all these knowledgeable ingredients from wise women around the world".

The guy, I think he thought I was going to open Brighton's first sex shop or something, so he didn't give me the money, so Gordon, my husband, came back with me and I looked like a man. I wore my pin-stripe suit, and we had a plastic sheet we just came in with, a plastic folder, and had a profit & loss sheet, which we didn't even know what we were doing with, and then he gave Gordon the 4000 pounds, not me.

Gordon then gave me the money and he went off to do his trip, and I opened up this little shop in Brighton.


What Entrepreneurial Thinking Is About


First day I was in trouble, because my shop was between two funeral parlors and they didn't like the coffins part in my shop, with the words "The Body Shop" over the side, so they told me to close the name down, change the name "The Body Shop", which I couldn't do because I had just spent 700 pounds doing gold leaf lettering, which nobody could see anyway.

Then I did something very smart, I did an anonymous phone call to the local newspapers saying that I had been intimidated by mafia undertakers and my husband had just deserted me so... I knew how to talk to people.

So I started with 25 products, and this is what I did - and this is what entrepreneurial thinking is about - I did five sizes of everything, so I had 100 products. Smart, eh? Hand-written labels - not so smart because of the writing done by hand and just about anybody did it.

So, we survived, but we had stories.

Every product had a story: how I made it, what mistake I made, don't worry about the black bits or the dirty footprints... Lovely anecdotes. Anecdotes that ring to the mind.

Gordon came back. I had opened up a second shop, and he sort of said: "This is interesting".


The Franchising Strategy


We came up with this idea of self-finance. We didn't even know the word franchising existed and my friends were saying: you can't do this, I can do this.

We just painted the shop green, which was the only colour that covered the damn patches - now it's a colour of the environment. And we just had friends, and sold to them, we had this alliance of friends, and then we got a bit more professional.

Then we set up a franchise system, which really meant... it was very eccentric, because nobody was allowed to be a franchise that was exclusively business-oriented, because we wanted teachers, we wanted activists, and I remember we gave them also the Proust questionnaire. "How would you like to die?" "What's your favourite colour?" "What car do you have - we added this one - and what car do you want?" We jumped from VW Golf to Mercedes.

This was so hoky-poky, I can't tell you, but what was really brilliant about it, it was community. And we were learning from the Quakers, we were learning from the corporate movement, from the Amishes, we were so excited about setting up community, of a development of the human spirit within the workplace, not just a product, and we were a very strong communications company.

We grew a real reality, it's a true thing, as we weren't a product-oriented company, we had great products thank God, otherwise we would have soon closed down, but our thing was about campaigning human rights, that's all we were really interested in doing.


The Mistake of the Stock Market


We branched out, we had over about 150 shops, and then we made the biggest mistake we ever made. We went to the stock market. Useless, don't ever do it. Don't do it.

We did it for good reasons, we wanted to control our manufacturing and have the money to build the manufacturing plant and to control our recycling. It's good, it's vertical integration, but we suddenly were measured not by how many jobs you were creating, which was our heartbeat - "oh, we are creating 100 jobs this year" - but it was about how much you were worth. And that changed everything.

We put up these obstacles for being measured by wealth, by making every shop member, the community services, which we paid them to do, we did the campaigning, but in the end it was very fascistic. The fascism in the city is about one very unimaginative bottom-line profit and loss, which does not include human rights, social justice, environmental protection, or any of that stuff. It's just as unimaginative and there was no other agenda.

Trying to change the world, the language of business, which we started to do really earlier in the 90s was phenomenal.

But it didn't stay, unfortunately, because the system changed. We all lost the plot in the progressive business movement.

We didn't see what was going on, which is the World Trade Organization. We didn't see that.

We were all just hanging out... "We're great"... "Oh Ben, you have got a great tool, I am going to do one like you... Oh you are going to Patagonia, you have the greatest development center, I am going to do one just like you too." And so on.

We were sharing best practices, but weren't keeping an eye on who controls the system.


Find Out More About Anita Roddick

Originally published by pcrowshaw on MasteryTV on December 1, 2007 as "The late, great Anita Roddick".

Photo credits:
What Entrepreneurial Thinking Is About - Pavel Muron
The Mistake of the Stock Market - Timur Nisametdinov

Anita Roddick -
Reference: MasteryTV [ Read more ]
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posted by Daniele Bazzano on Friday, February 20 2009, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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