On this day, October 23 in the year 1942, one of the pioneers in green entrepreneurship or capitalism with a conscience was born in Sussex, England. His name was Dame Anita Lucia Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop, a producer and retailer of natural beauty products.
Anita Roddick was one of the 4 children of Italian immigrants who owned a small café in Sussex. She was trained as a teacher at Bath Spa University. When she left college, she move to France and then to Switzerland where she worked and saved money to support her travel to different countries in Africa and Asia. When she returned home, her mother introduced her to a man whom she married in 1970. The couple travelled to the United States and she found work with the United Nations.
In 1976, Anita Roddick returned to England and started The Body Shop as a means of livelihood while her husband went to South America. Although she had no experience in actual business, her travel experiences plus her exposure to different cultural communities gave her a wide perspective on how women should take care of their bodies. At that time, cosmetic products were limited to facial and hair care. She was able to produce 15 items which were differentiated from other products by its refillable containers and that her ingredients were natural and not tested on animals.
Because she needed financing for expansion, Anita Roddick sold 50% of the business to a local garage owner. When her husband came back, he took charge of the financing and suggested that the shop be franchised. Sales increased tremendously as The Body Shop opened in many unexpected places. Much help came from her vivacious personality and media attention as she joined green groups in proclaiming the environmental gospel. She also authored several books.
In 1984, the Body Shop company went public. In the next decade, she became one of the richest women in Britain. In 1991, she published her book “Body and Soul: Profits and Principles” followed by the “Business as Unusual: The Triumph of Anita Roddick” in 2000. More books were written and published in the following years. In 2006, the company was sold to L’Oreal for £625m, of which she received £118m.
Anita Roddick died of brain hemorrhage in 2007 at the age of 64. She had a son and a daughter with husband Gordon. Two years before she died, she was diagnosed with hepatitis C which she believed was contracted when she was given a blood transfusion during her daughter’s birth in 1971. At the time of her death, there were almost two thousand branches of The Body Shop around the world. At present, there are over 3,000 branches and franchises selling more than 1,000 different products.