Anita Roddick – Redefining Business As We Know It
Anita Roddick was the founder of The Body Shop, one of the world’s most successful retailers of cosmetics and related products. She is also known as one of the most outspoken social activists in the business world. The Body Shop still adheres to the core values laid out by Roddick.
Born Anita Perella in 1942 in Littlehampton, England, she was the third of four children and grew up working in her parents’ café, to which she attributes her intense work ethic. At eight, her parents divorced and her mother remarried to her husband’s first cousin. At a young age, she read a book about the holocaust that included photographs of those who suffered in concentration camps. “This kick-started me into a sense of outrage and a sense of empathy for the human condition,” she recalls.
Studies and Travels:
Following Maude Allen Secondary, she started tertiary education to become a teacher. In 1962 she received a scholarship to study in a Kibbutz in Israel, but after a pranking incident, she was expelled and sent home. Anita held several jobs and saved money for her travels to Tahiti, New Hebrides, New Caledonia, Australia and South Africa. She stayed and went to school in South Africa until she was expelled there as well after going to a jazz club on black night, violating apartheid laws.
She returned home where she was introduced to her husband Gordon Roddick and married in 1971. The two of them made a living running a restaurant and an eight room hotel. They felt overworked and wanted a change. With Anita’s approval, Gordon Roddick went trekking on horse from Buenos Aries to New York leaving her to support her self and two girls.
Birth of The Body Shop:
While her husband was away, Roddick gave birth to The Body Shop. 0ut of desperation, she created cosmetics out of every ingredient that she stored in her garage. She opened her first shop in Brighton, England, with only fifteen products and was able to finance the store using her hotel as collateral. Her products contained ingredients that women used in cleansing rituals that she had witnessed in her travels. She describes a woman’s body as a canvas to paint stories on.
Growth and Success:
With its strong environmental flare and popular demand of the products, Roddick had already opened a second shop before her husband’s return of being gone 10 months. Customers wanted to sell the products, and in 1984 the company went public and spread franchises all over England. Today The Body Shop has over 1,980 stores and more than 77 million customers in 50 different markets serving customers in over 25 different languages. Its success put Roddick’s net worth at more than $200 million. In 2006, the company became an independently managed subsidiary of the L’Oréal Group.
The Body Shop has a reputation for supporting social and environmental causes, thanks to Roddick’s strong personal sense of social responsibility. After stepping down in 2002 from co-chairman, she spent 80 days of the year working as a consultant in her stores and used the rest her time to advance causes in campaigns against human rights abuses and exploitation of the underprivileged. She recently donated $1.8 million donation to Amnesty International’s School for Activism.
Outspoken Blogger and Speaker:
In addition to her extensive travels and speaking engagements, Roddick was one of the first celebrity entrepreneurs to take to blogging with a passion. Her site, AnitaRoddick.com, includes extensive commentary from Roddick on activism, politics, women and entrepreneurship.
Health Problems and Death:
In February 2007, Roddick revealed that she had contracted Hepatitis C from a blood transfusion in 1971 during the birth of her youngest daughter, Sam, and was additionally suffering from cirrhosis of the liver as a result. She had unknowingly lived with the virus for thirty years and only found out about it after a blood test. In addition to her many other causes, she began campaigning for Hepatitis C to be taken more seriously as a public health issue. On September 10, 2007, Roddick passed away due to a massive brain hemorrhage, apparently unrelated to her other health issues.
Quotes on Entrepreneurship:
“Dysfunction is the essence of entrepreneurship. I’ve had dozens of requests from places like Harvard and Yale to talk about the subject. It makes me laugh that ivy leaguers are so keen to “learn” how to be entrepreneurs, because I’m not convinced it’s a subject you can teach. I mean, how do you teach obsession? Because it is obsession that drives the entrepreneur’s commitment to a vision of something new.”
“We entrepreneurs are loners, vagabonds, troublemakers. Success is simply a matter of finding and surrounding ourselves with those open-minded and clever souls who can take our insanity and put it to good use.”
“I want to define success by redefining it. For me it isn’t that solely mythical definition – glamour, allure, power of wealth, and the privilege from care. Any definition of success should be personal because it’s so transitory. It’s about shaping my own destiny.”
“An entrepreneur is very enthusiastic and dances to a different drum beat, but never considers success as something which equates to personally wealth. That never enters our consciousness. We have incredible enthusiasm, and I think part of the success of any entrepreneur is energy. If one has that energy one can create a wonderful enthusiasm. Entrepreneurs have this real belief that their lives are about services and leadership.”