It’s a big step that lots of us dream of. The idea of creating something that’s yours, of not having a boss to answer to, of carving out a life you’ve dreamed of.
Have you ever thought about it?
I’ve thought about it for years. And years. And 2013 was the year I finally decided to do it. I left a well paid job, put everything on the line and created the business I’d always dreamed about.
And now after five months going it alone on my own personal roller coaster I find myself thinking of the hero who inspired me all the time I was dreaming my dream.
You’re probably too young to remember the long hot summer of 1976 when Anita Roddick opened her first Body Shop. Her husband Gordon was jetting off to do a two year horse trek from Buenos Aires to Washington, leaving Anita with two young girls to look after. She had no experience of running a shop or of making cosmetics. What she did have was an idea, and a lot of passion.
1970’s Britain was a place where most people thought that women weren’t capable of running a successful business. Anita couldn’t get a bank loan approved until she took Gordon along with her and he wasn’t even going to be there! But she was about to prove everyone wrong. In the space of just 14 years she built up a business worth £800 Million.
And while she was doing it she took on some famous eco crusades and perhaps more famously made some big mistakes along the way (I’ll save that story for another day). She blazed the trail when it comes to how business thinks about fair trade and recycling. We live in a different society because of that. All impressive stuff and anyone with that kind of impact is always worth looking at. But it’s not the business size or the eco capitalism that I most admire her for. It’s not the scale of what she achieved. For me, it’s about her creativity and self belief.
It was the early 80s when I first walked into a Body Shop. Those were the days when we didn’t expect much of shops. They were uninspiring places rammed full of products. And I think my teenage self longed for something more. The Body Shop was different. I felt like I’d entered a magical world full of sensuous potions with hand written secrets. I felt like it had been created just for me. And that was the moment I fell in love with shops.
That feeling has always stayed with me. Throughout my years of creating ranges I’ve always held onto it as the ultimate customer experience. And it’s what I want to create now that I’m making Blue Marmalade.
But Roddick did even more than create a new kind of shopping experience. She was one of the first to prove to everyone that you don’t have to become a female version of a man to succeed. She harnessed her feminine qualities to achieve everything she did. And that’s the thing about trailblazers. All it takes sometimes is someone doing it first.
She had an impact on the landscape of retail and she did it her way. She knew that if you inspired people then the rest would fall into place. She knew that there was more to focus on than the bottom line – and she was well ahead of her time on that one.
She still inspires me today and as I get ready to launch Marmalade I’ll say a little thank you to her. Thank you Anita for blazing that trail.