When Anita Roddick launched the first Body Shop, she didn’t expect the response or riches that came with it. Born in Littlehampton, an English seaside town, on 23rd October 1942 she steered from her mother’s teacher profession to something more adventurous. Her plan was simple; she would create natural cosmetics and rely on the consumers concern for the environment to sell her products.

Her ‘hippy trail’ through Europe, the South Pacific and Africa inspired her views on traditional and cultural forms of health and body care. Her bohemian spirit did not launch The Body Shop shortly after her journey but led her to other business adventures with her husband. She and Gordon Roddick opened a bed and breakfast and later a restaurant to support their growing family.

Once her husband decided to complete a long-life personal goal: to ride a horse from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to New York. She decided to sell the restaurant to fund the trip but that left her with the complication of supporting not just herself but two daughters too. Roddick decided to open a small shop to sell natural cosmetics with the knowledge from her travelling heydays. With her husband’s help, a loan of $6,500 was obtained, a contract between a local herbalist was joined, a Brighton seaside location found and voilà! Her hippy trail inspired Body Shop was launched.

She stated that at that time no one spoke of entrepreneurship as survival, but she knew it was exactly that and what nurtured her creative thinking. On a shoestring budget she persevered towards her goal and kept on surviving. The shop was painted green, she offered discounts to customers who recycled their containers, and used the least amount of packaging as possible. The shop would have been very different to the ones that you see today. All of Roddick’s lotions and potions were fragrance-free and customers could add an array of perfumed oils to complete their purchase. With environmental concerns and personalised products it was no wonder why Roddick’s little green shop took off!

Word of mouth spread the buzz of this new cosmetic phenomenon and within in a year, Roddick’s business had grown so large that she had to open another shop. In the spring of 1977, The Body Shop had become so popular that shops were popping up at the rate of two per month! The franchise had begun. In 1984, the Roddick’s took The Body Shop public causing stocks to double in just one day. This continued to soar throughout the years with expansion overseas to Europe and America.

Why all the buzz-buzz buzz?

Well, Anita Roddick didn’t just implement a change in one of the most lucrative industries, but her social activism with Greenpeace, Amnesty International and banning animal testing not only gained her respect, but was a key ingredient to her success. The public felt good about buying from The Body Shop and wanted to be a part of the positive action that Roddick stood for. She joined many other organizations to campaign and raise awareness of global warming and the alternate renewable sources available.

Unfortunately, with a wave of negative press sales dropped and a company restructure was announced. Anita stepped down as CEO to Patrick Gourney who would now focus on retail rather than manufacturing. Even with the company’s reorganisation and different focuses, The Body Shop, was purchased by L’Oreal in 2006. Shortly after this, it transpired that Roddick had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C and sadly passed away a year later.

Her story still remains as one of the great and inspiring entrepreneurial stories of our generation. She grew a little shop into an international empire and showed how the loyalty of customers can drive your success rather than high powered advertising.

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