The Body Shop founder Anita Roddick on starting up

Top advice for anyone thinking of going it alone from someone who has done it all

When starting a business, it is very easy to learn what you should do by examining the prevailing knowledge of the day – indeed, this website has all the material you will ever need on how to raise finance, come up with a killer idea, research your market and so on.

However, The Body Shop founder Anita Roddick was always known for doing things a little differently, and she offers aspiring entrepreneurs three rather more left-field – but no less sage – pieces of advice.

Her first piece of advice to entrepreneurs is “don’t deny yourself a life”. As Roddick explains, it is all too easy as an entrepreneur to become so immersed in your business and its growth that you end up cutting off those around you. “You get so boring,” Roddick says. “I’ve lost count of the times people didn’t want to invite Gordon and I out because I was always talking about the bloody Body Shop! If you get too inward-looking you cut yourself off from all these sources of inspiration and correction.”

The second piece of wisdom she offers – and “this is major” – is that you should always “tell stories” to get your business’ message across. “Storytelling is the basis of all education, wherever you go,” Roddick explains. “Every tribal and pre-industrial society uses it. Storytelling is a major component of The Body Shop.”

To put this into practical action, Roddick says you should keep a diary when you start an enterprise, recording “every day of your life”. “Gather the story – be the storyteller – be the story itself,” Roddick advises.

The final message Roddick has for aspiring entrepreneurs is to “capture your blinding flashes of the obvious”. As she readily acknowledges, inspiration can strike at the most inconvenient times, whether it be “picking up the kids from school, or on the loo”. Practically speaking, this means entrepreneurs should always keep pen and paper by the bed to record those moments of clarity when they strike – as they are often freshest in your mind just after waking. “I remember reading a story about when Samuel Taylor Coleridge was writing Kubla Khan, and he had a knock on the door,” Roddick says. “Afterwards, when he went back to write the second half of the poem, he’d forgotten all about it – so learn from him.”

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