What happens when personal values drive business success?

Posted on Oct 1st, 2014 | News and opinion

“Choose a job you love and never work a day in your life,” Confucius famously said. This may sound like a tall order, as corporate giants such as Nestle have shown us, values and successful business are not always conducive. However, there are many ways you can bring your personal and business goals together in order to make your passion pay.

Let’s look to the top at four companies that have excelled, while keeping their founders’ personal values at the core of their business plan.

The Body Shop

The Body Shop is a shining example of success built on ethics – founder Anita Roddick’s values ran through every part of The Body Shop’s business plan and helped it stand out from the competition in a time when fair trade, animal rights and environmental responsibility were not part of the corporate conversation.

Through inspiring its customers to look beyond the product, The Body Shop built a loyal following who wanted to make a difference – buying into The Body Shop brand made its customers, and employees, feel good about themselves.

How they did it:

Inspired by a shop in Berkeley California, which sold all natural products, Anita Roddick opened the first Body Shop in Brighton in 1976. She established it as both a reliable brand and a powerful voice against animal testing, giving a wider platform to human rights issues and fair trade policies. To date, over 2,500 global projects have been funded by the company to the sum of over £20 million.

Anita Roddick’s personal values remained a driving force of her business until her death in 2007, shortly after which The Body Shop was controversially sold to cosmetic giant L’Oreal. This strong sense of ethical responsibility is what The Body Shop is known for and what helped elevate it from a kitchen table startup to a multimillion pound enterprise.

Dame Anita Roddick said:

“You’ve got to be hungry – for ideas, to make things happen and to see your vision made into reality.”

Gandys flipflops

Gandys flipflops, founded by brothers Rob and Paul Forkan, is another enterprise with strong ethical backing. After losing both of their parents in the 2004 Tsunami, the brothers established the company with the aim of helping help fellow orphans in developing countries through the Gandys Foundation and their “orphans for orphans” project.

Gandys flipflops, which sells its products in global department store giants such as Liberty, has expanded quickly and is endorsed by influential leaders such as Richard Branson and David Cameron. Their values, and those of their parents, are at the forefront of every business decision the brothers make.

How they did it:

The impressive tale of passion, loss and endurance that forms the backbone of Gandys is one that people could empathise with and ultimately share. Rob and Paul’s mission to “find a positive end to the tragedy they experienced” turned the business into a social enterprise, a business that applies commercial strategies to improvements in human and environmental wellbeing. This has proven to be popular with consumers who want to feel they are making a positive contribution.


Etsy describes itself as a “new kind of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.” It offers an opportunity for small and micro businesses all around the world to sell their products and run a successful business.

Founded in 2005, Etsy now has over 1 million active sellers in 200 countries. In 2013 they supported $1.35 billion in total merchandise sales and have over 26 million handmade or vintage items listed.

How they did it:

In it’s first year, Etsy attracted a lot of attention, largely because it kept diversifying, adding new tools and functionality to the site to help sellers gain exposure and traffic.

In an interview in 2013, CEO Chad Dickerson emphasized the importance of human interaction in the company ethos and the importance of creativity and ingenuity. He described the website as “a platform that provides meaning to people, and an opportunity to validate their art and their craft.” They continue to succeed in this mission and Etsy’s success is a reflection of the success of their sellers – when Chad Dickerson did an interview recently for CBS, he focussed on the talents of the makers, demonstrating how this drives the business forward.


How it Should be (HiSbe) is a different kind of supermarket that puts happiness before profit. It was set up as a social enterprise and focuses on providing good quality, responsibly sourced produce. It was co-founded by sisters Amy and Ruth Anlow, who aimed to build “The Body Shop of food.”

HiSbe raised over £200,000 in funding, including £30,000 from a Buzzbnk crowd-sourcing campaign. They maintain a personal connection with their suppliers and work directly with local family-run farms and producers in Sussex.

How they did it:

It is not uncommon for large corporations to be criticised for lack of transparency. Just this month Apple was accused by the EU of taking over 20 years of illegal tax aid from the Irish government. HiSbe’s mission statement is to stand up for the way things should be, and to provide their customers with all the information they need to make responsible purchases.

The decision to start the social enterprise was partly inspired by Amy’s experiences working with direct trade products Aroma Coffee in Manchester and Cafe Direct in Brighton, and older sister Ruth’s years spent in sales and marketing with some of the world’s leading corporations, including Unilever and Procter & Gamble.

This approach has proven to be a success – HisBe, which only opened in 2013, has been shortlisted for The Observer Ethical Awards and Sussex Business Awards and won the SE-ASSIST award, gaining financial support for their social enterprise. They are also members of the living wage campaign.

Join Crunch Chorus:
The free community for the self-employed

You'll get access to a range of benefits, such as invoice software, jargon-free business guides, great networking opportunities, discounts, plus much more

Written by Sophie Turton

Useful tools and resources

Business guides

From understanding expenses to starting a limited company, we've a range of jargon-free business guides for you to download and keep.

Invoicing software and templates

Create, send and store sole trader invoices in a snap with our free invoice software. You can also download a selection of invoice templates for all business types.

Take-home pay calculator

Use our Take-Home Pay Calculator to work out your true earnings and see if you could save money with a different company set up.