Remembering Dame Anita Roddick

As entrepreneurs go, they didnt come much bigger or better than Dame Anita Roddick


As entrepreneurs go, they didn’t come much bigger or better than Dame Anita Roddick. She is quite possibly one of the reasons some of you are reading this magazine now. With the likes of Branson,Dyson and Sugar, she helped inspire a generation of people who want to run their own businesses.

More people are starting up a business each year than ever, with more than 400,000 doing so last year alone. But like you Dame Anita Roddick was about far more than merely starting. Her business practice was decades ahead of its time. The green, sustainable, socially responsible ethos that is now becoming common was the core founding tenet of the Body Shop, responsible for much of its success.

She once told Growing Business: “People use the excuse of business and leave their morals at the front door and I don’t know how they get away with it.”

Here, some of those who knew her best, or learned from her example, share their memories and pay tribute to a true business legend.

An inspiration to women 

“I know I am speaking on behalf of millions of people – especially women – around the world when I say: Anita, thank you for your inspiration, you have been the catalyst in our lives to trigger off our passion for business – or should I say ethical business.

You have taught us a new  way to look at the world of business. Your passion for our planet and for people has stimulated many like me to lead our businesses in a different, unique, non-conventional way. You have taught us how to be different, to be brave and to follow our beliefs. You have been my personal inspiration. Like you, I have set up a global business that now operates in 40 countries and it is you that has given me the inner strength and determination to succeed.

I believe you have been the driving force behind the environmental revolution that is taking place today. Thank you for waking up the corporate world to the issues that won’t cost us the Earth. I am so proud that our Veuve Clicquot vines stand side by side in the vineyard in Reims, France. Long may they continue blossom and grow together. Vivre Veuve Clicquot, Vivre La Grande Dame, Vivre Anita Roddick. We will miss you, your name and your memory will live on.”

Dawn Gibbins, MBE ,founder and chairman, Flowcrete Group Plc (Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year 2003)

The social entrepreneur 

“Anita Roddick was an irrepressible, irreverent and irreplaceable business visionary who dedicated The Body Shop to “social and environmental change”. For her, barriers were there to be overcome, as the bank manager who turned down her loan application to open the second store found out as ‘guest of honour’ at the company’s 21st birthday celebrations.

Anita always reminded us that the company’s success was in the hands of the ‘Saturday shop girls’. If we returned from anywhere in the world and could not report on how the shops were doing, then watch out – and yes, she would check whether you had been in!

She believed in open, direct, personal communications. The Body Shop brand was built by word of mouth. Ahead of its time in so many things, The Body Shop pioneered weekly news videos sent to each shop. These updated staff not only on products and promotions, but on the company’s commitment to fair trade and its famous campaigns – for the environment, for human rights and against animal testing.

In the early days of The Big Issue magazine, homeless vendors stood outside The Body Shop. That was no coincidence. The Big Issue idea came from the Roddicks, and its core funding from The Body Shop Foundation. There wasn’t any self-promotion when this act of social entrepreneurialism took off.

Anita loved people – their lives, hopes and dreams. As she said: ‘We looked for franchisees and employees, but people turned up.’ 

I watched her spend as much time helping a grandmother in the Bath store pick a gift as she did in the same week with Prince Charles, placing Cocoa Butter on his hand and explaining that it was edible.

Of course she had her mad ideas – like selling hand-made Nepalese paper. And sometimes she could be just plain ‘bad’ – the ‘pinstriped dinosaurs’ description of the City did not play well with investors. But the spark of entrepreneurial, creative genius was there – 24/7/365.

We’ll miss her terribly. But the world of business is all the better for her – thanks Anita!”

Gavin Grant, UK chairman of Burson-Marsteller  (head of corporate communications and public affairs, The Body Shop International, 1992-1999)
Daring to be different 

“Anita Roddick was the most visionary of women, with a truly global perspective. She saw the future, spent time with everyone from the warehouse staff through to the board of directors and the public. 

Anita knew the customer was right, she had met so many. She would walk out of many a board meeting, stroll down to The Body Shop tour, get a group of 20 or so visitors who would have probably just arrived on a coach from across the country. She would then march them all up to the boardroom and present them all to the board members.

This was normally to emphasise a point she was trying to make on behalf of the customer, and rather than labour the point, she would bring the customer to the meeting. We would all laugh!

She was like a whirlwind every day; starting with Australia and the South Pacific in the morning and ending with the west coast of America in the evening. She made you feel part of something huge, because she knew every individual could make a difference, and together we could create lasting change.

She did just that, and created a business that did things differently – and her DNA flowed through it. She consciously took the opposite direction to conventional plans and strategies, and always made sure that what she did worked. 

Nothing was straightforward – when she developed an idea it would always continually evolve. She knew what would activate change, and that sometimes you have to be disliked to make it happen.

She used to say that she walked around with a bullseye on her back because of the stance she took. But you only have to look at the business now to see the magnitude of what she achieved. She invented corporate responsibility and made it work; she invented a different way of running a business and made it work; she consistently proved every doubter wrong.

I studied business and management for six years and have worked in stakeholder communications for 20. I knew Anita and The Body Shop were my destiny then. Anita Roddick Plc –  an entity in her own right – taught me I could run something differently. I hope always to carry forward some of the vision that she started.”

Sara Tye, founder and managing director, Red Head PR (PR manager for Anita Roddick, 1995-1997)

 

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