St Helena musings: on entrepreneurship

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What makes an entrepreneur? When we lived on St Helena in the late 1980s, we were friends with a young American couple. They, like us, were starting off in life. One day they came round for coffee, and spotted my wife's Body Shop products. Our friends were intrigued: what was The Body Shop? Who was behind the idea? They wrote down the address from one of the bottles and wrote to Anita Roddick, the founder and then owner. Was she thinking of opening in the US and if so, could they purchase a franchise?

Correspondence to and from St Helena was a slow business then: this was long before email, and fax machines had not reached the island. You wrote a letter, sent it on the ship, and waited for an answer to come 6 -8 weeks later when the ship next came. Amazingly, Anita Roddick wrote back and said yes, she was about to open up in the States. Our friends borrowed some money from their parents and bought the franchise for one of the first Body Shops in the US. Today they own several businesses.

The lesson I take from this experience is that entrepreneurs are somehow different from many of us: they spot opportunities and take risks. Can one "learn" to be an entrepreneur? I don't know.


Laurence Carter

Senior Director, Public-Private Partnerships Group

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