Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dear reader,

there's another article to share....

Inspirational Stories X : Anita Roddick & The Body Shop – By Ellesse Chow

I’m going to end our inspirational stories series with this feature on Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop. Most of you should be very familiar with this environmental-friendly cosmetic and beauty products provider and I’m not surprised if you’ve ever purchase anything from it. In fact, some of my earlier facial products were from The Body Shop

But how many of you know about the making of this brand name and the heroine behind it?

Against Expectations

Anita Roddick was a woman of a different breed. After all, who would have that kind of magnanimity to send her husband off to a 2 year expedition while slogging on a new business and taking care of 2 young kids?

Born to an Italian couple who had migrated to England , Anita started working at a very young age at her parent’s cafe in Littlehampton. She would work through the weekends at the cafe and then cramping in one of the rooms with both her parents and grandparents, while the other rooms in their house were rented out.

Around the World

It was nevertheless a short stint as young Anita was later sacked for allegedly taking part in a prank. Although it tainted her teaching career, the issue saw her taking up a bohemian lifestyle, traveling around Israel on a shoestring and then living in Paris and Switzerland for a few months. All that while, she was supporting herself through short term teaching assignments.

She eventually decided that there was more to life than that and left teaching for good, traveling to various countries such as Tahiti , New Caledonia , Australia , Madagascar and South Africa . Her expatriation from South Africa for patronizing a jazz club on “black night” culminated a year’s of travel and made her so broke and homesick that she finally decided to call it quits.

All It Takes Is … An Idea & Some Creativity

Anita eventually had an idea. She decided to set up a shop selling environmental-friendly cosmetics that used natural ingredients. Though it was a good concept, she had a hard time convincing the bank because of her rock star like image. It was only when Gordon forced her to revisit the bank wearing a power suit with a well written business plan before her loan request was approved.

Anita’s ability to inject creativity into her limitations was unquestionably her recipe for success. With the money, she set up the first The Body Shop outlet in artsy Brighton in 1976 and began with 15 products, 5 different sizes for each. She later admitted that the different sizes stemmed from the need to stack up the store shelves so that it wouldn’t look so empty. Ingenious, isn’t it?

Even when she didn’t have funds to purchase enough of those inexpensive bottles (similar to the ones used by hospitals for urine samples), she was creative enough to bank on the go green movement and started the refill-the-used-bottles concept. Not only was the concept well received by the environmental enthusiasts, it struck a chord with the thrifty crowd.

Her creativity was also extended to the interior design and publicity of The Body Shop outlet. Who would have expected that the signature dark green colour used on the walls, which came to symbolize the company’s recycling and sustainability efforts, was a bid to hide the shop’s unsightly water marks? And who would have known that a lawsuit threat by 2 nearby funeral parlors for using the brand name “The Body Shop” would turn out to be a no cost newspaper publicity campaign? In fact, the free publicity was so sensational that she made £130 on the grand opening day, way exceeding Gordon’s target of £300 a week.

Husband & Wife Synergy

When Gordon came home, not only was he excited that Anita had opened a second outlet in another town nearby, he also worked with her subsequently to develop The Body Shop into a franchise, using whatever additional funds they generated into product research. That business model allowed them to open at least 2 stores each month by 1982. 2 years later, the group was publicly listed.

Today, The Body Shop can be found in more than 50 countries with over 2,000 outlets. The product range has increased to 600 different types. The heroine behind this brand was also roped in to setup a college business degree course and knighted with the title DBE (Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire ). Isn’t this amazing?

What Did I Learn From This Story?

That everyone deserves a life of no regrets! The choice of making that decision lies in no one but yourself.

(1) A Soul Mate… Someone to Share or Sell Your Soul to?

Everyone would admit that Anita’s an extraordinary wife. Although I’m still single, I can still understand the anxiety some wives would feel having their husbands leave them behind if they were in the same situation. In fact, an user that I’ve worked with in my last job used to tell me how his wife would call him every other hour (sometimes crying in exasperation) when he was out in another state for business.

That left me wondering. Is a soul mate someone whom you share your aspirations, decisions, happiness and troubles with or someone whom you account to for every single movement, action that you make to the extent of suppressing your own individuality?

If getting married is equivalent to losing your soul to someone else, doesn’t it make sense to stay single?

That’s an open question that I myself am still pondering.

Your decision to pursue the dream of your lifetime may not be popular with the people you love, but you don’t exist in this world just to be popular. You are in this world because you’ve got a mission to accomplish. You could be in this world to show the world how to be a better philanthropist. Or an adventurer. Or whatever you’ve chosen to do.

But if you decide to disregard that and settle for less than what you deserve, you’ll sense a tinge of uneasiness even when you’re on your death bed. That, is the feeling of regretfulness.

Don’t wait for that to happen. Aspire.

Aspire to live a life where you’ve done what you should have done, tried what you should have tried.

Update : It came to my understanding that Anita Roddick died of a major accute brain haemorrhage on September 10, 2007, sometime after the writing of this article. I hereby dedicate this article to her and her family. She might have left the world. But her spirit lives on. Thank you, Anita Roddick for being an inspiration!

Have a great day.


1 comment: