'Foolish' Idea: To sell cosmetics made from natural and local products of Tahitian women and others in the Polynesian Islands.
Start-up Capital: £4,000
How Idea was Launched:
Opened a shop in Brighton, called it The Body Shop.
Earnings: Even by 1991 The Body Shop was worth in excess of £280million.
The early years
Anita Roddick entered the arena of trading during her schooldays. She supplied bubble gum and American comics her father had brought back from the States. Even then she showed remarkable business acumen, pretending new exciting editions were to follow, enabling her to keep up the readers' interests and the price.
Anita attended St. Catherine's Convent School, where she witnessed the problems of poverty. This affected her so deeply, that Anita gave away her new school uniform to a pupil in worn-out clothes.
Changes and personal growth
During college, Anita won a scholarship to study in Israel for 3 months. Between living in a kibbutz and hitching around the country, Anita gained a sense of freedom and confidence.
Her next travels were to Paris. She spent a year in France, before starting a job with the International Labour Organization of Women's Rights in Geneva. Anita started meeting people in the Third World. The experiences made a major impact on her. Once back home, Anita met Gordon Roddick.
By 1971, they were married with two children, Justine and Samantha. Both Anita and Gordon were members of CND and tended towards supporting the underdog, often raising money for charities such as Freedom from Hunger and War on Want.
First real business
They bought a ramshackle eight-bedroom house and converted it into a bed-and-breakfast. Because that was too seasonal, they decided to change it into a residential hotel.
They then opened a restaurant where they served Italian-style food (Anita is half-Italian, with an Italian mother, Gilda and English father, Henry). Loud music played and a blackboard displayed political messages attacking the local council. Customers preferred steaks to Italian food and after three years they sold the restaurant.
The winning idea is born
Life was about to change. Gordon had a long time ambition to ride a horse from Buenos Aires to New York. It was a dangerous 5,700 mile trek through remote country and he needed to go completely alone. It meant Anita would be looking after their two children on her own. She needed money for that time, so Anita decided to open a shop selling cosmetics. They would be the natural and local products of Tahitian women and others in the Polynesian Islands. Anita already knew it was to be called The Body Shop, a name she'd seen in America used by a garage who repaired dented cars.
Obtaining the finance
Anita and Rodney calculated it would take £4,000 using the hotel as collateral. Dressed in her best jeans and Bob Dylan tee-shirt, Anita went to see the bank manager. He turned her down.
So, an accountant friend of Gordon's drew up a small business plan and Anita bought a smart business suit. Returning to the bank manager's office wearing the business suit, accompanied by Gordon and the business plan, it took two minutes for the loan to be agreed.
From kitchen to manufacturing chemist
Using her own kitchen, Anita made the products, using small plastic bottles she'd bought. But she still didn't have enough bottles and offered to fill customers' own bottles - the start of recycling. Friends helped her, writing labels which gave details of the preparation and origins of the ingredients.
It soon became impractical to make up the products in the kitchen and so Anita found a small manufacturing chemist.
The first shop
She chose Brighton as the place for opening the first shop. A small scruffy shop in a pedestrian precinct called Kensington Gardens was in a good position. After Anita had painted the walls dark green to hide damp patches and hung larch lap fencing to hide water running down the walls, the shop was ready. A friend designed the logo for £25.
Anita's first Body Shop was up and running, with students her main customers. However, two undertakers, who also had premises in Kensington Gardens, sent Anita a solicitor's letter because they thought her 'body' shop was bad for their trade (i.e. as in 'dead body'). Anita told the local paper how a defenceless woman was being harassed and a centre-page newspaper story resulted. The problem was solved and she'd gained free advertising.
The Body Shop's first day's takings were £130. Anita knew she had a winner. Her enthusiasm spilled over to others and local art students happily made posters for her.
Finance for the second shop
Anita was keen to open a second shop, but once again the bank turned her down. Gordon was in Buenos Aires. Aidre, a girl who helped in the shop came to the rescue. She said her boyfriend, Ian McGlinn would lend her the £4,000 in exchange for a half-share in the business. When The Body Shop went public that £4,000 loan grew into £4million and by 1991 it was worth in excess of £140million. Anita does not regret her decision to use his money though, because it was there when she needed it.
The second shop opened in Chichester. It was a large shop and staff had uniforms.
Franchising provides expansion
When Gordon returned they decided to expand further, but once again the banks would not lend them any money. So they opened other branches of The Body Shop by making an informal arrangement; the Roddicks supplied all the products. Gordon called the idea 'self financing.'
By 1980 such shops were opening up in Europe, with a premium payment in return for full management assistance and providing the products - franchising.
The Body Shop floated in 1984. Shares reached £1.65 each, making Anita and Gordon millionaires.
Present marketing strategies
Anita has now set up The Body Shop Tour. It explains the company's reasons for campaigning for environmental and human rights issues. It's a detailed journey through the products.
Anita's success recipe is certainly unique. Her tour brochure explains, 'The people, the places and the experiences that have shaped our company are kept alive through the stories attached to them. You'll hear those stories - tales of trading with indigenous peoples, anecdotes from Anita Roddick's trips in search of new ingredients, nuggets of wisdom passed down from ancient tribal storytellers. And you'll engage in conversations about our campaigns for environment and social change, and animal protection.
Find out how, in 1976, one woman began to challenge the way business was done and how her ideas have grown and flown so that thousands of people, working in stores of The Body Shop worldwide, are now inspired by a common purpose. Every day that The Body Shop opens its doors for business, all around the world, we are trying to show that there is a gentler, kinder way of doing business. At the same time, we are passionate about campaigning for change whenever we see something that insults our soul.'
In 2006 they sold up to L'Oreal for over £150 million.