I am so thrilled to bring you this interview with Sam Roddick. I heard Sam speak a while back and was entranced by her passion and by her feminist take on business. She runs her own business, Coco de Mer in her own inimitable and frank style. She has her late mother’s panache (Anita Roddick) as well as taking advice and inspiration from her father. As you’ll see as you read the interview. Enjoy!
Sam, thank you so much for taking the time to give an interview. Having heard you speak I am really looking forward to what you have to say! Most readers will be very familiar with the work of your parents, (Sam’s mother was Anita Roddick, was the founder of The Body Shop) and may not be so familiar with the marvellous career you have carved out for yourself (Coco de Mer). How would you describe what you do now and the philosophy behind Coco?
Sam: The Coco de Mer erotic boutique is the gate way to the realm of sensual and sexual pleasure. Exquisite, witty, warm, welcoming and wet! We embrace every orifice with beautifully ethically considered products which have been displayed in the best of our museums. We are loving and rude and hold the belief the foundation of sexual freedom is consent. Our bodies are innocent and our mind needs to be coaxed into a safe loving space in order to fully embrace a liberated expression of sexual happiness. We are the treasure trove in a world of orgasms.
What kind of boss are you? What’s your style?
Everything is quite informal at Coco de Mer, however because it is a small business, whoever works here learns a lot. They get a taste of all aspects of the business. It is a fantastic learning curve. Coco de Mer is a very person focused company, people have a real personal ownership working here. There is a lot of opportunity to put as much of yourself into whatever you do.
I am genuinely interested in the people who work for me. I want to give them an opportunity to expand themselves and be seen in what they contribute and create a space where they express themselves. People who work at Coco de Mer are very passionate about it which is fantastic!!! Somehow, even when they leave they still feel a part of the family.
Sam, you’ve been very open about having dyslexia. How has this impacted on the way you choose to do business? Did it have a huge effect on you when you were at school?
Yes, I believe dyslexia has had a huge effect on my life and the style in which I work. I am logical but not linear. I have had to do everything by creating my own route to my goal. Everything I do is through the back door.
Dyslexia caused a lot of obstacles in my life but it gave me the ability to problem solve and never believe anything is out of my reach. I just have to find an alternative route to it. It is like finding the order through the chaos. Even though I cant really operate in normal ways, more than anything now, I am dependant on having people around me that are very orderly.
School killed my confidence and made me believe I was stupid, this resulted in me becoming quite unmotivated in life. Other than my art teacher and my history teacher I felt like there was no point in trying for an A, I could only ever achieve a C. They had no patience and basically thought I was lazy.
What were your aspirations when you a schoolgirl? Did you plan to go into business?
I used to say when I was a teenager that I would never ever go into retail and here I am. I am a reluctant businesswomen as it was never an aspiration, however I love it! It has been the toughest learning curve and my greatest university after being a mother.
I must say though I am not comfortable being a boss. I would rather be a friend, so that has been a massive shift for me. It has forced me to grow. Mostly it is learning how to have healthy boundaries and balance. Its about learning the necessary details whilst letting go of control. Its about knowing what you don’t have to do and what is vital. I have made some great friends through my work and worked with some creative geniuses!
If you weren’t in the business you are, what would your dream alternative career be (you can choose anything, however mad) and why?
As a kid I wanted to save the world, be a photographer, become a writer (which was crazy as I was so dyslexic) or a film director/ documentary maker. Now I’d say full time creative activist and political irritant , alternative midwifery , and an artist of some sort.
What’s been the best piece of advice you have ever received?
My mum said “ to succeed, you have to believe in something with such a passion that it becomes a reality”
Apart from your very inspirational Mum, who else has motivated and inspired you in the past, and who does it for you now?
My dad is amazing he has been my best teacher – he is a master at business and a humorous philosopher – I believe in him
I have a course for women in which one of the exercises is to ponder how different the world of work could be if it had been designed for women and not by and to suit men. What do you think would be the most significant differences if women, not men had been in charge at the time of industrialisation?
Well, time management, job shares would be more available. I think women work better as a teams not competitively against each other, include a sense of true well being in the work place, sense of dress would change, emotional expression would be included and I truly believe that women want to have their values and ethics included in what they do, to have something to believe in .
How do you encourage and promote diversity in your company? Do you think you operate very differently from your competitors?
Coco de mer is more like a cottage industry than a company. We are all messy around the edges, passionate and emotional, but warm and loving. Actually, only women and gay men ever apply for the jobs – saying that we have our first heterosexual male, he is our minority.
There has been some recent research showing women are far less likely to ask for start up capital for business than man are, and when they do ask, they don’t ask for enough. What advice would you give to a woman who was looking to change career, maybe even considering a business venture?
You need in setting up a business is to take the risk and invest your belief into your self – I honestly believe the same skills it takes to run a house and a family to run a company –
- the only ingredients are the ability to be proactive and reactive
- change your course of action if you need to
- fire fight
- admit when you’re wrong
- fight for what you believe is right
- pay your bills and count the cash coming in
- parent staff in the same way you parent your kids, fair just with clear expectations and healthy boundaries and encourage them to grow and take responsibility
- be prepared to fail but work like your gonna succeed and don’t give up
- network like hell
- be sceptical of experts : trust your self
- ask for double, budget for half , forecast for loss
That’s a brilliant list, thank you! Next question, what’s your favourite saying or motto?
Forget all you know to do the impossible.
How do you best relax and unwind?
I’ll masturbate or watch a movie – sometimes both at the same time!
Sam, thank you so much for this. You’ve given us some great food for thought along with some wonderful tips for all aspiring business women. Long may your business thrive and flourish!
To find out more about Sam’s company, Coco de Mer and see the wide range she carries click this link.
Posted on June 13th, 2011 by Jane