I found an odd source of inspiration this week – the movie “Cars“. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’ll try not to spoil it for you, but let’s just say it’s a good story of friendship, loyalty, and “doing the right thing”. It emphasized that it’s not only whether or not you win, but “how you play the game”. So how do you play the game? As a small business owner, you have the opportunity to have the business truly reflect your personality. So, will your company be thought of as that company that raked in the profits at the expense of its customers, community, and environment? Or will you be that small company that people look up to because you made a good living and gave back to your customers and community? While you think about that I’ll tell you a little about Anita Roddick who decided to have her company, The Body Shop, reflect her environmental and ethical ideals.
Anita Roddick, b. 1941, founder, entrepreneur, activist, working mother, The Body Shop
- Born into an Italian immigrant family and raised in Littlehampton, Sussex
- Grew up working in the family diner on the weekends and after school
- Studied English, history, and aesthetics at the Newton Park College of Education and Bath
- After a few years of working, she took some time to travel by herself through Tahiti, New Hebrides, New Caledonia, Reunion, Madagascar, Mauritius, Australia, and Johannesburg. On these travels she was exposed to and enlightened by all kinds of cultures.
- After getting married to Gordon Roddick, the couple owned and ran a small restaurant and hotel in Littlehampton, but it caused them to neglect the children so they sold the business to pursue other opportunities.
- While her husband was away on a two-year trip in 1976, Anita used a $6,500 loan to open a natural, environmentally conscious cosmetic store as a way to support herself while her husband was gone. She saw the business as a way to be sure that she would have time for her children every day.
- As an accomplished traveler, Anita wondered why no one sold bath products in small sample sizes. To start, she sold 15 natural cosmetic products that she created and packaged in small plastic recyclable bottles.
- To expand stores, her husband came up with idea for aspiring owners to ‘self-finance’ their own new stores, thus leading to growth through a franchise network, which to this day has mostly women owners. After much success, she took the company public in 1984.
- Anita was able to successfully create a company that reflected her concerns by putting those same goals into the company’s mission statement (from thebodyshop.com):
- To dedicate our business to the pursuit of social and environmental change.
- To creatively balance the financial and human needs of our stakeholders: employees, customers, franchisees, suppliers and shareholders.
- To courageously ensure that our business is ecologically sustainable, meeting the needs of the present without compromising the future.
- To meaningfully contribute to local, national and international communities in which we trade, by adopting a code of conduct which ensures care, honesty, fairness and respect
- The Body Shop achieved success without any paid advertising – Anita didn’t believe in it. Instead, she believed high quality items sold themselves and has since only relied on the recommendations of satisfied customers.
- Here are some notable examples illustrating the The Body Shop’s commitment to its mission:
- The company uses their window space and packaging to promote their causes. The first window display of this kind was to help Greenpeace‘s lobbying efforts against dumping hazardous waste into the North Sea. Some others: the save-the-whales campaign, Amnesty International, the rain-forest activists Survival International, the Friends of the Earth, AIDs awareness, ending animal testing, and recycling.
- Some of her international campaigns include “Stop the Burn” to save the Brazilian rainforests and “Trade not Aid.”
- The company’s actions probably speak louder than any campaign. In an effort to show that companies don’t need to exploit Third World workers to be successful, The Body Shop pays them comparable wages to those that are earned by British workers.
- “Nobody talks about entrepreneurship as survival, but that’s exactly what it is and what nurtures creative thinking. Running that first shop taught me business is not financial science; it’s about trading: buying and selling.”
- “I have always found that my view of success has been iconoclastic: success to me is not about money or status or fame, its about finding a livelihood that brings me joy and self-sufficiency and a sense of contributing to the world.”
- “I hate the beauty business. It is a monster industry selling unattainable dreams. It lies. It cheats. It exploits women”
- “How can you ennoble the spirit, when you are selling something as inconsequential as a face cream?” (when talking about Third World workers)
- The first small bottles she used were actually urine bottles!
- In the beginning, the recyclable packaging and green walls were more out of necessity than making an environmental statement, but it all came together in the end
I hope Anita’s story inspires you to do what you love and to let your small business’ goals and actions reflect the kind of person you are. Small business survival and success is often made possible by the contributions and sacrifices of many friends, family, and other kind-hearted souls, so, when you do succeed, give back to others and keep the cycle going. After all, life and business aren’t zero-sum games – the more people you can bring up with your success, the better the world will be.
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