Anita Roddick was born in Littlehampton, England, in 1942, the daughter of Italian immigrants. She developed her social sensitivity from an early age, had a diverse career, and traveled widely: she was a teacher, a hotel owner, a waitress, and worked at the United Nations. She lived in Paris and Genoa and traveled extensively in Australia, Tahiti, Madagascar, Mauritius, New Caledonia, and South Africa, where she rebelled against the apartheid system.
She married the Scotsman Gordon Roddick. When they were running a restaurant in a hotel, he decided to travel the American continent on horseback, from Buenos Aires to New York. It was then that she had to manage to support her daughters. For Anita, going into business was a way of survival. She started her cosmetics company – The Body Shop – as a way to survive, inspired by her travels, where she had learned the body rituals of women around the world. Also, the frugality, which characterized her mother during the war years, led her to question the conventions linked to product distribution. Why waste when they could refill the same containers? It irritated her that she couldn’t buy conventional cosmetics in small packages, considering that much of the charged price went to pay for the containers. It also irritated her to see fake ads promising miraculous changes with pictures of sixteen-year-old girls advertising anti-wrinkle products for women in their fifties.
The Body Shop, founded in 1976, had an innovative strategy that reflected the experiences and worldview of its founder. While most cosmetics companies sold in department stores, spent heavily on advertising and invested in their packaging, The Body Shop sold in its stores and spent little on either advertising or packaging. They are “socially responsible cosmetics,” using ingredients from developing countries. In addition, it communicates the fact that buying its products supports workers in those countries and thus contributes to their development. The Body Shop’s values are similar to those of its founder: it is against animals in experiments and supports community trade. In addition, it seeks to activate women’s self-esteem, protect our planet, and defend human rights. Anita Roddick believed that business had the power to do good. She defined The Body Shop’s mission as, “To dedicate our business to achieving social and environmental change.” Her vision was to “build a values-based organization.”
Anita Roddick and her husband used their chain of stores to promote social development. They coined the term enlightened capitalism and became much more than cosmetics, gaining their customers and employees’ loyalty and generating the equivalent of a ninety-six million-dollar advertising investment through media coverage. In addition, they actively collaborated with various NGOs around the world. The Body Shop is now part of the Brazilian company Natura & Co, the fourth-largest beauty group globally. The group and the brands it represents are committed to sustainable and ethical business practices.
Anita Roddick advised new entrepreneurs to ask themselves three questions: (1) What do you like to do? (2) What are you good at? and (3) What sets you apart from the rest?
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** This article has been adapted from the book The Great Leap to Innovate by Jacqueline Saettone, available in Spanish on Amazon
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