Body Shop founder Anita Roddick believed that business should offer a form of moral leadership, being a more powerful force in society than religion or government.
This morning when I read this, a warm feeling came over me. I thought back to the early 1990s, the day when Body Shop contacted my company and made an inquiry. They wanted us to make face paints as part of their children’s cosmetic range.
My husband was wary, thinking that dealing with such a huge brand could be difficult to cope with. I disagreed, loving her concept of business style of which I wanted to be a part of.
Ahead of her time
Looking back, I can say without a doubt that Anita Roddick’s way of thinking was well before her time. Was she aware of what was to come from market demand or was she instrumental in putting out a message with a desire to change attitudes?
She founded the firm in 1976 along with her husband Gordon, opening their first store in Brighton at only 34 years of age. Reading that her original motivation for the firm was simply to make a living for herself and her two daughters while her husband was away travelling, I questioned, could this be what drove her to create what became a global network of retail stores. I believe she saw change coming and perhaps she wanted to be part of that change.
Eager to approach things differently, she listened to a new customer base who was concerned about environmental issues, particularly on animal testings. She searched for natural ingredients and kept packaging simple and basic. Sales became product-based and fancy packaging went out the window.
Similar to our Daadi concept of producing organic clothing, Anita Roddick looked back to her mother’s values of re-fill, re-use, and re-cycle which ultimately became the foundations of The Body Shop. Since 1976, we have seen this approach in marketing cosmetics, health and organic food products as well as clothing and textiles.
Today’s consumer is no longer a convenient shopper but a conscious one where concerns over environmental issues are a decisive factor in whether to purchase or not. The last three decades have tried to turn us into price warriors fuelled by the internet, price comparison sites creating their wars of their own and bringing down prices to unsustainable low levels. Sadly, quality suffers in this deluge powering the desire to bring us cheap products, leading us to throw away and replace. Many consumers still believe in this false economy.
Sadly, Anita Roddick is no longer with us, however, her ideas undoubtedly educated and inspired a generation of conscious consumers. The fight continues to educate consumers, especially today when we have evidence of the amount that we are buying is having such a detrimental effect on the environment. We need more Anita Roddick’s, heading companies to shout even louder.
‘WEAR’ TO START.
JUMPING INTO SLOW FASHION.
Starting any new business takes a certain amount of courage and a lot of ‘What If’s? to battle with. Slow Fashion is growing fast. As I pencil out a quick business plan, I wonder what Anita would be telling me now. In my mind, I am telling myself to go slow and be patient. I want to write about the subject I’m passionate about, selling the story becomes primary to selling a product. This is my driving force.
Body Shop was bought out by L’Oréal and my company, Snazaroo, was bought by Colart. Both much bigger companies to be swallowed up by. I am older now and maybe my ambition has been on mute. However, entrepreneurs build on a passion which is usually the driving force.
Reminiscing back a few years to when I was young and building our empire. Sadly, we gave way to larger corporations hoping we were doing the right thing for our businesses as we handed them over in exchange for a fat cheque. All around us, advisors dangle pound signs and somehow, we lost focus of why and what we created. Take the driving force out of an enterprise like Body Shop and you are left with a store without a purpose, becoming reactionary, trying to bob up and down in an ocean slowly sinking as many jump on board to copy an idea which used to be revolutionary but is now in demand making everyone to want to sail with it.
Our nature is to go full steam ahead, tucked neatly in the back of our minds, is the small niggly negative stuff though. For me, this certainly is the case. I do not want to overload myself with work that takes the fun out of enterprise. By fun, I mean this;
Creating something new.
Making a difference,
Incorporating it into my lifestyle as a benefit.
‘But, really you do it for the money’ I am told. Well, nobody likes to work for nothing but this depends on whether you equate money as a reward. Of course, we all need to live, eat and pay bills. However, sometimes there are greater rewards than money- usually different for us all, otherwise, we would all be working for an hourly rate. For Anita Roddick, she wanted to make a living whilst her husband was away travelling. Well, if that is all why did she not go and get a job in Tesco. Remember, no business you build from scratch will give you an instant wage. Building a living wage takes time. My first business took 6 years until I saw some profit. Well worth the wait though. I’m certain Anita would agree more with the three reasons I have posted above and not object.
Therefore, to achieve my fun, I want to create something new. To be involved in the type of industry that serves people. I am passionate about health and receive my rewards by helping people achieve health goals. I also want to help make organic clothing more affordable. I want to make a difference to families living on a slum in India by finding them customers that can make them feel empowered and be educated. I want to incorporate my business into my lifestyle by trundling through airports to dusty far off lands, seeking cotton farmers, natural dyes, block printers, sustainable products and meet likewise people. This will be my reward.
Pioneer – Profit – Good Causes, £652ml.
Anita Roddick died a year after she sold The Body Shop to L’Oréal for £652 ml. The millions from her estate all went to charity. Perhaps she already knew what was coming. Regardless of the bad press sometimes businesses have to endure, they are usually started for good reason and we should never forget the pioneers who ventured into territories unknown. We cannot allow her passion and her legacy to be forgotten.
Body Shop has faced criticism, successful companies always do, along with success comes money, power and outside influences. Now it faces competition for its place in the market as it has to squeeze and make room for the similar type of brands that follow in their footsteps and chant the same song. Businesses constantly change, grow and merge with others. Behind every passionate pioneer, there is a bottom line that needs to be addressed. I have learned that the two essentially need to work together for the brand to stay on track to focus on what it originally set out to do.