Anita Roddick's entrepreneurial legacy
The Body Shop founder inspired the fast-growing social venturing movement.
FSB -- For years, Body Shop founder Anita Roddick's work has inspired Lisa Jones Christensen's students at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina. Many young MBAs want to follow the passionate and politically-minded entrepreneur's lead in building fast-growth firms that embrace ideals such as protecting the environment.
As a result, Christensen has dissected everything from the way Roddick marketed her earth-friendly products to her skills in serving as the public face of her brand. "I've relied heavily on Anita's story to get the younger generation interested in entrepreneurship," says the assistant professor. "They're fascinated by how interchangeable her name and her company are."
The death of Roddick, 64, on Monday after a brain hemorrhage marked the passing of a forerunner of social entrepreneurship, a now popular discipline embraced by the nation's top business schools. She was one of the best-known founders of a company that combined the goal of making a profit with giving back to society.
With no training in business, Roddick opened the first Body Shop store in Brighton, England in 1976 at her husband's suggestion, making her own products out of natural ingredients. She grew the outfit through franchising and took it public eight years after first opening its doors. In 2006 Roddick sold the The Body Shop to L'Oreal, so she could dedicate her time to philanthropy. Five years ago, she and her husband, Gordon, stepped down as co-chairmen, but continued to hold a stake in the company.
"There are no words to describe how inspiring she was," says Verne Harnish, founder of the The Entrepreneurs' Organization and CEO of Gazelles, a consulting firm for fast-growth companies in Ashburn, Va. "She transformed her industry by being everything at once: philanthropist, entrepreneur, and an amazing woman."
At a time when few female business owners were prominent, her work introduced new generations of women to the possibility that they could run their own ventures and thrive outside of corporate America. "She was deeply interested in speaking to women entrepreneurs, and I believe she cared about setting the right standards for the future," says Marsha Firestone, president and founder of the Women Presidents' Organization.To write a note to the editor about this article, click here.