Keeping Body and Soul Together
Extract taken from Body and Soul by Anita Roddick
I didn't know anything about business when I opened the first Body Shop in Brighton in 1976. The vocabulary of business was part of a language I did not speak. And I certainly had no ambitions to start a big international company. I didn't want to change the world; I just wanted to survive and be able to feed my kids. The extent of my business acumen went no further than the grim knowledge that I would have to take in £300 a week to stay open. But I did know how to trade.
I started with a kind of grace which clung to the notion that in business you didn't tell lies. I didn't think of myself as an entrepreneur. My motivation for going into the cosmetics business was irritation: I was annoyed by the fact that you couldn't buy small sizes of every day cosmetics and angry with myself that I was always too intimidated to go back and exchange something if I didn't like it. I also recognised that a lot of the money that I was paying for on the product was being spent on fancy packaging which I didn't want. So I opened a small shop to sell a small range of cosmetics made from natural ingredients in five different sizes in the cheapest possible plastic containers.
I did not deliberately set out to buck the trend – how would I even know what the trend towards? – but it turned out that my instinctive trading values were diametrically opposed to the business practices of the cosmetics industry in just about every area:
- They were prepared to sell false hopes and unattainable dreams; I was not. From the start, we explained to customers in simple language everyone could understand exactly what the product would do and what it wouldn't do.
- They sold through hype; I was so innocent I didn't even know what hype was.
- They thought packaging was important; I thought it was totally irrelevant. We happily filled old lemonade bottles with our products if the customer asked.
- They tested on animals; I was repulsed by the practice and made it clear that I would never sell a product that had been tested on animals.
- They spent millions on market research; we simply said to our customers, 'Tell us what you want and we will try and get it for you.'
- They had huge marketing departments; I never fully understood what marketing was.
- They had enormous advertising budgets; we have never spent a cent on advertising. At the beginning we couldn't afford it, and by the time we could afford it, we'd got to the point where I'd be too embarrassed to do it.
- They talked about beauty products; I banished the word 'beauty'.
- They worshipped profits; we didn't. In all the time I've been in business we have never had a meeting to discuss profits – we wouldn't know how to do it.
- Finally, and most importantly, they thought it was not the business of business to get involved in wider issues, in the protection of the environment or involvement with the community; I thought there was nothing more important.
I honestly believe I would not have succeeded if I had been taught about business.
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