Age 7 I committed my first criminal offence.
I was in The Body Shop. Because I was so little I was on eye level with those huge jars filled with squashy balls (I think people used to put them in the bath). They gleamed like precious stones and smelt like magical far away dream worlds. My God. Those jars were like open mouths, tempting me with treasure. They were practically waggling their tongues at me! They teased me, bewitched me, whispered to me until I could resist no longer.
I was overcome. I needed a ball. I took one and slipped it into my pocket.
However, not a natural shop-lifter, the moment we stepped onto the high street, I was wracked with guilt and shame. I also felt exceedingly frightened that I’d be arrested. There was only one option. I took the ball out of my own pocket and slipped them into my mum’s pocket. After all she was a grown up. She’d know what to say if the police stopped her.
That was the first (and last) time I shop lifted. Ever.
Age 27 I went selling.
Took armfuls of GYOG to a variety of shops. Eventually ended up in one that sold shabby chic furniture painted with old French roses, paint peeling bicycles and pretty china cups.
“This is beautiful,” said the owner, leafing through the pages of my book. “It reminds me of something. You remind me of someone like … hmmm … I know. Like Anita Roddick from The Body Shop. I love your work. I love your message.” It turned out that this woman had worked in one of the original Body Shops. She stood for a long time telling me the background of how Anita Roddick employed staff, her ethos, what she stood for, her beliefs.
That was the first time I really knew anything about this amazing entrepreneur.
Age 32 I decided to take on the world.
My first instinct took me to Amazon and found myself compulsively buying two of Anita Roddick’s books. Several days later my packages appeared. I started to read. And read and read.
It was like I had regressed to 7 and shop-lifted HER work without knowing!
Everything she was writing about from the unethical marketing of cosmetic industries to what beauty should be resonated, almost painfully-blissfully, with me.
I felt like I’d found a mentor.
A dead mentor.
But hey, a mentor nonetheless.
This woman’s passion was alive in her writing and it infected my blood.
As I continued to read memories were stirred …
Every day as kids we drove past The Body Shop on our way to school. There were traffic lights and I used to sit and gaze out at the window of the shop. In the window were huge posters showing rainforests, tribal women, people, messages and activism pouring from every image. I used to feel the grumbling of excitement and passion and inspiration in my bones as I gazed. I used to think, “I’m going to go there when I grow up. I’m going to help serve those places and people.”
It was around that time that I began writing about the rainforest and pledged that should my books be sold, I would invest the money into buying acres of jungle. When my second kids book was published, that was what happened.
Today I have been flicking through one of these books again, chewing over the value of this woman as a vital role model for women. And I found this bit that I really liked and I wanted to share it with my girls (and boys – cos I’m sure a few boys read this too) for your own inspiration. It is from the book, Business As Unusual.
“The qualities you need to be a natural entrepreneur include a combination – at least – of the following:
1. The vision of something new and a belief in it that’s so strong that it becomes a reality. Vision-making is also obsessive, a type of psychopathology. It is inherently crazy. If you see something new, your vision usually isn’t shared by others.
2. A touch of craziness. There is a fine line between an entrepreneur and a crazy person. Crazy people see and feel things that other don’t. A entrepreneur’s dream is often a kind of madness and it is almost as isolating.
3. The ability to stand out from the crowd because entrepreneurs act instinctively on what they see, think and feel. And remember there is always truth in reactions.
4. The ability to have ideas constantly bubbling and pushing up inside until they are forced out like genies from the bottle, by the pressure of creative tension. But all these ideas are nothing, of course, until someone can expedite them, which is where thank God, or the gods, or both, for people who have that skill.
5. Optimism. Everything is possible to the entrepreneur. This extraordinary level of optimism bears no relationship to any degree of planning.
6. A covert understanding that you don’t have to know how to do something. Skill or money isn’t the answer for the entrepreneur, it is knowledge; from books, learning or observing.
7. Streetwise skills. Most of the entrepreneurs I’ve met have had an innate desire for social change. They understand that business isn’t just financial science where profit is the sole arbitrator, it is as much about taking part in political and social activism, using products as conduits for social change. That gives entrepreneurs enormous freedom to experiment with what they want, but it also makes them dysfunctional in hierarchies and inert structures.
8. Creativity. Of course it’s easy to talk about creativity, but in essence it remains a mystery to me. I have never heard or read anything that explains how people behave creatively, despite the fact that we constantly glory in human creativity. Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Dali claimed, “You have to systematically create confusion, it sets creativity free.” Maybe creativity is magic, maybe it is bestowed by the gods, maybe its just polished opportunism. I just don’t know and I’ll probably go to my grave not knowing.
9. The ability to mix all these together effectively. For me becoming an entrepreneur was a consequence of simply trying to blend the skills I possessed into creating a livelihood. I learned by experience. So I don’t believe you have to go to college and study at the feet of some nutty professor of entrepreneurship. I think you have to ask questions of everyone, and never stop asking questions and knock on doors and see how many opinions exist. Then you have to make up your own mind and plough your own furrow. I have never read a book on economic theory and I don’t intend to. It’s not theories that interest and excite me – it’s the doing that keeps me going.
10. And finally, every entrepreneur is a great storyteller. It is the storytelling that defines your differences.