Me And My Partner

Mark Constantine, 47, was the Body Shop's biggest supplier, then set up Cosmetics To Go. Andrew Gerrie, 36, wanted to get involved, but before he could, the firm went bust. The pair eventually joined up five years ago to launch Lush; today their cosmetics are found in 65 shops worldwide.
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MARK CONSTANTINE: When I was young, I went to the movies with my mum and saw a movie where rat poison got into some bread, and I got really frightened - the idea of something nasty getting into something nice. I think I started making my own cosmetics because I had a lack of trust in other people's.

MARK CONSTANTINE: When I was young, I went to the movies with my mum and saw a movie where rat poison got into some bread, and I got really frightened - the idea of something nasty getting into something nice. I think I started making my own cosmetics because I had a lack of trust in other people's.

I've been involved in cosmetics since I was 16, and used to do theatrical make-up. At 22, I was fortunate enough to meet Anita Roddick. I sent her some of my products and she liked them and bought them. She used to phone me from call boxes; her shops were in back streets, and we met in a pub.

I became her biggest supplier. I was unemployable - opinionated, over-passionate - and had to be with people who could cope with that. If you've been obsessed with cosmetics and then you're in the fastest-growing cosmetics company in the world and your opinion is valued, it's a big deal.

I began working with my own group of people, including my wife Mo; we started Cosmetics To Go (CTG), and had our own factory in Poole. It was phenomenally successful but we couldn't get into profit. Every extra order we got, we lost a little more money, but we kept thinking that if we got to a certain size, it would flip over.

At that point, Andrew called me and said he wanted to do CTG in Australia - he and some mates came over. I remember Andrew had a twinkle in his eye. He kept phoning up; did I want to do something? I liked him, but we were petrified of doing anything financially without thoroughly sorting it out. When I knew CTG wasgoing bust, I went out with Gordon Roddick and got rat-arsed. There was a lot of sadness, not understanding what happened, trying to analyse, and going over it.

I had a mortgage on a shop in Poole with two others, and Helen, one of the people I'd worked with, started doing a few things and said, why don't you come in? Another colleague, Rowena, said: "If you make the stuff, I'll sell it for you." We opened a small part of the shop and everyone was doing it for nothing. It was just called Cosmetic House, then we had a competition to name it. Everything about "Lush" worked: it's an inebriated woman, it's an addiction, it's green and verdant.

Andrew phoned again and said, "What are you up to?" I met him a couple of times, and he liked our shaving cream. He sees something he likes and keeps going for it. After that, I pestered him to work for us. There are few finance guys who can work with a group of creative people. He has a light touch. He's also cosmopolitan and well-travelled, and has an objectivity most people lack, with very clear ideas. I didn't want to grow the business without someone like that.

I am much more confident than I was - Andrew gives me confidence. I find he tends to look after me, and I look after him, although I have to try and guess what he wants; if I guess right, he grunts or nods. He doesn't ask anything of me. I believe in working hard and then getting a result, and he's the same. He worked for nothing when he came; it wasn't a big package, he just got in there.

I use intuition a lot. But I am much, much slower than Andrew. It's like the tortoise and the hare - he's a classic hare, and stops before he finishes. He's always got a gleam in his eye. We were trying to fix up a time to do something, and it eventually emerged that he couldn't because he was meeting someone from Estée Lauder for coffee - he wasn't going to mention it, but he'd have surprised me with it. I might get bogged down and worry about something, but he will come up with a solution and move on to something else.

He's mean, too. Landlords call us "rent-sensitive". Andrew's language is colourful; his favourite expression is, "How much?" It's personal to him. He hates the rates imposed in Britain - he's done stuff in Spain and elsewhere, and it annoys him. He finds it an insult to his intellect.

The biggest challenge Andrew and I face now is that he is going back to Australia to run the Asian operation. He and his wife Ali are very interested in the Japanese market. It's a nightmare for him, because I'm saying, "I don't like this at all" - I feel like a nagging wife. We have 15 shops in Asia, including three in Japan, and we've started manufacturing fresh product there. Andrew and Ali speak Japanese.

My ambition is to be successful in France, because they use more cosmetics there than anywhere else in the world; they're fussy and quite mean, but I think they really appreciate lovely products. I've got a strategy and some ideas, and I'm slightly excited. Since the collapse of CTG, I've tried not to get excited - I try and keep my feet on the ground. You have to be realistic.

 

A NDREW GERRIE: I was in Japan before coming to Europe, and then spent four years working for a company which bought properties as an investment. I was looking for other things to do and I had seen Cosmetics To Go. I really liked the brand and loved the products and the way they were presented. I started talking to Mark and his team about doing something outside the UK, asking, could I get the rights to Asia-Pacific? But it wasn't the right time.

I was interested in owning or having equity in a business, so I chased up Mark two or three years later. CTG had gone bust and Mark had had a year off, but the group was drifting back together and putting out some ideas. I think they were hurt, and only wanted to do stuff on a fairly small basis. I said, I'll come down and have a look.

Once you get Mark going, he's larger than life. He's got presence, he's got experience and he's very opinionated. I liked him - it wasn't all this dancing around like you get in a lot of relationships. It wasn't "let's do lunch" - it was, "let's do business".

I got my previous employer, Peter Blacker, to invest and we then started working together, though I was part-time. I loved the products, especially being there with the team putting them out and talking you through them. The concept was exciting; you can definitely see the fun in it.

We had a little shop in Covent Garden which was a big success, and then one in the Kings Road in London. We worried about the shop opening, but then I was on the phone all week to people who said, "We've seen the shop, we want to do it in the States".

Mark and I do a lot of talking about what margin we can get; we do a lot of financial models. My view is, what's the downside - can I limit it or reduce it? And what's the upside - can I make sure it's not capped in any way? People look at Lush shops and say, "What is it? Is it a pizza place, a cheese delicatessen?" It's intriguing and people are drawn in when they smell the products. It has a novelty and a visual impact.

The product and the concept fall to Mark - he's very interested in people - whereas the financial systems and property falls to me. We do the strategy work together.

Japan has been a tough market to get into because of the costs of operating and obtaining licences for importing and manufacturing. There's a long history of bathing in Japan, possibly the longest in the world, and a very vibrant market - people love the product.

My move to Australia is causing a lot of worry and debate, but I personally love the sound of it. It's going to be a lot easier for me to be based in Sydney because of the time zones and the access, but on the other hand, we want to keep our partnership going. It's going to be tough, but good for the growth of the business.

Mark has a lot of experience which I don't have and a very long-term view. Often he will be two or three years ahead when perhaps I am a little more impatient and would like to see what's going to be achieved next month. I like to push Mark in different directions and try different things. He worries more than me, whereas I can identify the downsides and then other stuff comes up.

There are usually lots of jokes between us; some of them have been going on for years. Mark sees me as someone who's good fun to mess around with. It's been exciting for me - I've learnt so much from him, it's like a free business school.

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