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Putting a New Face on Business - The Creation of a Caring Corporation

By Cynthia Kersey
Motivational Expert
Updated: December 10, 2008
No one, who has ever followed a dream, has taken a direct, unobstructed path and arrived at his or her destination effortlessly and on time. Following a dream is not a direct highway but a bumpy road full of twists and turns and occasional roadblocks. The journey requires modifications and adjustments in both thought and action, not just once, but over and over.

Anita Roddick, the founder of the Body Shop, used creativity to overcome challenges that would have stopped the vast majority of new business owners. She broke just about every rule in the book when she started The Body Shop and she's still breaking the rules today. Of course, such irreverence has its consequences. In Anita's case, the consequences read like this: The Body Shop now has more than 1,500 stores throughout the world, is worth over $500 million, and has influenced the products and marketing of all its chief competitors. And those are just the consequences in the business arena. The Body Shop is also a powerfully effective vehicle for social and environmental awareness and change; as far as Anita is concerned, that is the most important consequence of all.

From the moment in 1976 when Anita first conceived the idea of opening a shop to sell naturally based cosmetics, she was thinking in a most unbusinesslike manner. Most entrepreneurs set out to establish a company with growth potential that will make them wealthy someday. Anita was just looking for a way to feed herself and her two children, while her husband, also a maverick, was away on a two-year adventure, riding a horse from Argentina to New York.

Her first challenge was to find a cosmetics manufacturer to produce her products. No one she approached had ever heard of jojoba oil or aloe vera gel, and they all thought that cocoa butter had something to do with chocolate. Although she didn't realize it at the time, Anita had discovered a market just about to explode: young female consumers who would prefer their cosmetics to be produced in a cruelty-free and environmentally responsible manner. When manufacturers failed to have the same foresight, Anita found a small herbalist who could do the work she required.
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Since Anita was not the typical entrepreneur, she saw no drawbacks in starting her company with almost no capital. To save money, she bottled her cosmetics in the same inexpensive plastic containers hospitals use for urine samples, encouraging her customers to bring the containers back for refills. Because Anita couldn't afford to have labels printed, she and some friends hand printed every one. Her packaging couldn't have turned out better if she'd planned it that way. With the improvised packaging, her product now had the same natural, earthy image as the cosmetics themselves.

Anita opened the first branch of The Body Shop in her hometown of Brighton, England. When she first opened, neighboring proprietors made bets on how long the store would last. Less amused were the owners of local funeral parlors who insisted she change the shop's name. No one, they complained, would hire a funeral director located near a place called "The Body Shop." She stuck to her guns and the name stayed.

The first store was only minimally successful. Nevertheless, Anita decided to move ahead with a second one. The bank questioned the wisdom of her plan and refused a loan. So she found a friend of a friend who was willing to lend her the equivalent of $6,400 in exchange for 50 percent ownership of The Body Shop. Today that person is worth $140 million. Signing over half of her business was the only real mistake Anita ever made. But it wasn't the only decision that looked like a mistake. Here are three more:

• She has never advertised even when she opened shops in the United States. People told her it was suicide to enter a new market without massive advertising support.

• She doesn't sell in any outlet other than The Body Shop stores. (Some of her Asian stores are the only exception and are located within department stores.)

• She resolved early on that her shops would be a catalyst for change, not just in the business world, but in the world at large.

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